Farmington Girl Scout trio reaches the top together
"Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.” Those are the opening lyrics to the “Make New Friends” song, a popular ditty sung by Girl Scouts across America.
There are three Farmington High School seniors whose friendships are a testament not only to the song, but to the Girl Scout program itself. After more than a decade in one of Farmington’s troops, each of them has earned the highest award given to Girl Scouts — the Girl Scout Gold Award.
It’s easy to get lost in the conversations between Jennifer Elfering, Maggie Kielaf and Ahna Wilson. They’ve lived through years of meetings, activities, fundraisers and outings together. Their memories collide with their laughter, particularly when they start talking “remember when” and “remember that time” kinds of talk.
That’s the kind of relationship these three girls have after spending most of their lives in Girl Scouts. They didn’t start out together in the same troop, but now, as seniors, they’re happy they wound up together.
Wilson and Kielaf both joined the Daisy program when they were in kindergarten, but belonged to different troops. Elfering joined Kielaf’s Brownie troop a couple of years later. Wilson transferred to the same troop as Elfering and Kielaf when her troop disbanded.
They joined at different times, different ages and for different reasons. And honestly, all these years later, they don’t necessarily remember why they joined Girl Scouts. They’re just glad that they did.
“I think I joined because everyone else was in Girl Scouts,” Wilson said, “but I found out I really liked it. I still love it and enjoy it even though some people think it’s not cool anymore.”
They finished Brownies together, then bridged into Juniors. In fifth grade, they earned the Bronze Award together, along with the rest of the girls in their troop. The Bronze Award is the first of the three major awards for Girl Scouts, and it’s one that is completed as a full troop. Because helping others is a core trait for the Girl Scout program, the troop collected clothing for Dakota Woodlands, a homeless women’s and family shelter in Dakota County.
It was in the late grade school, early middle school years that membership in their Girl Scout troop began to drop off. Some got involved in sports or other extra-curricular activities, and others lost interest.
In seventh grade, the girls began work on their Silver Award. That award can be completed as a small group, so the three of them — and a fourth girl who later dropped out — came up with a plan to volunteer at Trinity Terrace and work with the senior citizens there. They played Bingo with the residents and sang songs with them.
They were Girl Scout Cadettes back then. As the next years went by, they bridged into Girl Scout Seniors, and then Girl Scout Ambassadors.
As Ambassadors, they had just the Gold Award to complete. This time, though, each of the girls had to organize her project on her own. They could open the actual work of the project to others, but they had to do all of the planning. They had to submit their project ideas to the Girl Scouts for approval before they could begin.
Elfering chose a project to help Dakota Woodlands again, this time cleaning and reorganizing clothing and sundry rooms. She raised funds to repaint a bedroom, and to purchase new, matching bedsheets and rugs for the room. As she got going, she came across another Girl Scout working on s project to update the kids playroom at the site, so she helped out on that project, too.
She organized a garage sale to raise the $500 she needed for her project.
“We got so many donations, I was up until 2 or 3 a.m. sorting,” Elfering said. “But it’s definitely worth it in the end. I’d do it all over if I could.”
Kielaf’s passion is music, and one day she hopes to become a music teacher. That dream inspired her project, which was to start a children’s choir at St. Michael’s Catholic Church. The group was small — only four or five girls — but they performed several times at the church and at Trinity Care Center.
Wilson also had a garage sale to fund her project, which was to clean out the toy room at Farmington Lutheran Church. With the help of a few volunteers, she sorted through toys, threw out broken ones, then washed the ones that were left. With the $300 she made, she bought containers to organize the toys by type, then made labels that were easy to read for each bin. She also made new games for kids, and bought more crayons and books for the room.
Now that all three have completed their projects, their troop has a 100 percent completion rate for the Gold Award. It’s something they’re pretty proud of.
“Our troop wanted to get our Gold Award, so we did. We’re here to kind of go on to the Gold Award, and then lead ourselves to go on to bigger and better things,” Wilson said.
Their moms have been behind them all along, too. Wilson’s and Kielaf’s mothers are co-advisors for the troop, and Elfering’s mother is the troop’s “cookie mom.” The girls are quick to credit their mothers, and each other’s mothers, for their success in the program.
“I wouldn’t have gotten through this process without my mom,” Kielaf said. “She pushed me through it. She really pushed me.”
As Ambassadors, their goals now are to encourage younger girls in Girl Scouts to stay with the program. Now that they have earned their Gold Award the girls qualify for scholarships, and the accomplishment looks good on college applications. Moreover, the girls all found confidence in themselves by going through the entire process.
And, they’ve made lifelong friends.