Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From Camp to Corps: An Interview with Teach for America's Anna Mahle


It’s not every day that two organizations fit together as well as Girl Scouts of the USA and Teach For America, and yet it’s no surprise that we've found quite a few women who have spent time supporting both great organizations! We've decided to start regularly sharing their stories about their time in Girl Scouts and with the corps, as well as the lessons they learned. Read on to learn more about what it takes to join the corps.

We recently spoke with Anna Mahle, Senior Vice President of Recruitment at TFA and former Girl Scout to talk about her time in Girl Scouting and Teach For America. Hailing from Golden Valley Minnesota, Anne was a member of Troop 580 for nine years, moving on to the corps in 1992 in the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. She describes herself as an avid cookie buyer and contributor to her local council, she hopes to become a troop leader when her daughters get older.

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When and why did you decide to join TFA? 


I decided to join TFA during the winter break of my senior year in college.  I was looking for something to do where I could have an immediate impact, work to make the United States a more just and equitable country, and I wanted to do it with other people – to be part of something bigger than myself. 


Both Girl Scouts and TFA are about leadership and change. How did your Girl Scout experience translate into your corps and/or staff experience at TFA? 


I often tell people that it was Girl Scout camp that made me who I am today.  I spent every summer from entering fifth grade through entering high school attending summer camp at Camp Northwoods in Northern Wisconsin.  At Northwoods, I was always in the “tripping” units, meaning that we were in camp for a few days and then headed out on a canoe or backpack trip for the remainder of our two weeks there.  For three years in a row, I was honored to participate in the Superior Hike – a hike around the circumference of Lake Superior, where each year’s hike picked up where the previous year’s hike left off.   This hike was historic, it was hard, and as an early teen it taught leadership and perseverance.  At the end of the day, I think that the cumulative experiences at Camp Northwoods taught me about self-awareness, which I now know is critical to leadership. I learned how to listen to others and to nature, how to be comfortable with myself (which is hard when you are in middle school), and how to have perspective and appreciate just how lucky and privileged I was growing up.  I also learned that it was okay to a girl and be tough and physically strong – indeed, it was a valued commodity out on the trail!  


What unexpected skills and/or characteristics did you learn as a Girl Scout that you still use today?  

There are so many!  As I noted above, I don’t think that I fully realized just how critical Girl Scouts was to my development until later in life; I started to appreciate it when I was a counselor at Girl Scout Camp Runels after my freshman year in college. Later, as I was facing various challenges later in my life I realized just how resilient I was and I connected that back to the values I learned and the experiences that developed me as a young woman at Camp Northwoods.  

On a much more practical note, I can build a fire anywhere in just about any conditions – including the rain – thanks to Girl Scouts.  In the last four years, I have revived a bevy of camp songs to sing my girls to sleep at night – from Moon on the Meadow to Life of a Voyager to Isle Au Haut, my girls are learning all of the great songs as they fall to sleep.


In your opinion, why do you think a Girl Scout would make a good TFA candidate? 

I think that the core values of the Girl Scouts are really aligned with Teach For America’s core values – transformational change, diversity, leadership, team, respect and humility.  Teaching is incredibly hard work and I think that Girl Scouts prepares girls and young women to persevere, to be confident and resilient – all of which you need to be the kind of teacher that the students that we teach need you to be.  I also think that because the Girl Scouts is committed to developing girls and young women who have a strong sense not only of themselves but also a strong sense of justice and equity, it is preparing girls to live in the world that we currently occupy – a world that is not equitable, a world that needs strong people to take action and work hard to create positive change.  These are the same qualities and sense of passion for change that TFA looks for in our candidates.  


What advice do you have for current Girl Scouts?  

Try as many new things as possible, particularly things that you don’t think that you can do.  Push yourself outside of your comfort zone both physically and intellectually.  Relish the campfires and the songs, as well as the friendships.  Be yourself.  Find something that you are passionate about – that fuels you and drives you to want to learn more and do more and then do that thing – with passion, with excellence, and with love. 


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Girl Scouts is proud to be a national partner of Teach For America.

Teach For America corps members commit to teach for two years in 46 regions across the country.  They work relentlessly to lead their students to the academic success that can put them on a dramatically different life path. You can be one of the thousands of leaders committed to achieving educational excellence for all. You can shape our future. Learn more about why you should join the corps.

Join the movement and apply to the 2013 Teach For America corps.


Next Application Deadline: Friday, November 2nd, 2012.


This piece has been edited for length.