Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Girl Scout Destinations: Taking Leadership to the Next Level at Space Academy,
as Told by Josephine D.

Wow—talk about the highlight of my summer! Space Academy, held at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama, was an incredible experience. I didn't just learn a lot, I went on the adventure of a lifetime.

First of all, I met Girl Scouts and Girl Guides not only from across the United States but also from around the world. We learned about one another’s customs, languages, and so much more. I roomed with a girl from China and another one from Guam. There were even three girls on my team from New Zealand. One of the highlights of our week at Space Camp was a special Girl Scout ceremony where we traded SWAPs, exchanged flags, and learned how to sing “Taps” in Maori (the native language of New Zealand)—it was so much fun!

One of the most interesting seminars I attended was one where we learned about all of the different kinds of opportunities there are at NASA. I was surprised to learn that it doesn’t just need scientists and astronauts. It also needs teachers, graphic designers, computer programmers, engineers, fashion designers, and so much more. I also learned that you don't have to be STEM-oriented in order to help put a person on Mars. There are lots of different ways to contribute.

During my trip, I had the incredible opportunity to meet astronaut Jerry Ross, who gave a lecture and later flipped my wings, signifying my graduation from Space Academy! During his lecture, Mr. Ross had a very important message for all of the Space Academy students: you should never stop trying. Then he gave an example. While he didn't pass the tests required to become an astronaut the first time, he kept trying, until, after several attempts, he did it. Now he's gone on more shuttle missions than any other astronaut in history—wow!

In addition to meeting Mr. Ross, the missions were probably the most memorable and educational part of Space Academy. Through these, I learned a lot about working as a team. For example, in order to successfully complete your mission, sometimes you had to offer help and sometimes you had to accept it. On our second mission I was given the job of flight director. This job was harder and more stressful than any job I have ever done before. And unlike our previous mission, during this one, various anomalies were introduced and we had to solve unexpected problems. As the head at Mission Control, I had to lead my team through possible solutions, evaluate the pros and cons of each one, and ultimately make a decision. I learned a lot about sharing the successes with my team while also taking sole responsibility for the failures—talk about leadership!

I really learned so much during my week at Space Academy, including about career opportunities and the power of determination, but I think the most important thing I took away from the experience is that a team is a unit—you succeed and you fail together. And as part of a team, you also have to learn how to balance your strengths and weaknesses with the strengths and weaknesses of others in order to be successful.

Josie, age 13, is a Girl Scout Cadette from Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania. She is a longtime figure skater and even teaches lessons at her local ice rink. She also plays the French horn and percussion and participates in her schools’ Winter Guard. On top of all that, she enjoys participating in Academic Games and has competed at the national level around the country. 

Girl Scouts is also one of Josie's favorite activities—she especially loves camping with her troop andworking with younger Girl Scouts. Her favorite subjects in school are math and science, which she plans to put to good use when she studies aerospace engineering in college. Someday she hopes to be part of the team that sends a person to Mars, and she’s already off to a great start. At Space Academy, Josie was honored with the Right Stuff Award, which is given to one trainee per session who goes above and beyond and demonstrates exceptional leadership, teamwork skills, and technological savvy. It is the highest award a space camper can earn, and Josie was chosen from hundreds of campers. Way to show ‘em that G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ spirit!

Check out Girl Scout Destinations, the ultimate adventure for girls ages 11 and older. With a ton of different trips to choose from every year—from surfing camp on the east coast to breathtaking hikes out west to the crazy-cool wonder of new cultures abroad—there’s something amazing for everyone to experience. The deadline to apply for a 2018 trip is coming up soon. Please check with your council for the specific date, and apply today!