Monday, August 19, 2019

Being a Girl Scout Taught me a Lot About the Type of Person I Want to Be

Meet Ashley! This go-getter and a Gold Award Girl Scout developed a high school-level biology curriculum that provides an overview of genetic engineering. Ashley's goal is to inspire students to think critically, consider issues from multiple points of view, and enjoy science. She has posted her curriculum on two popular websites for professional teachers and homeschoolers as well as discussed it on social media. Her curriculum has hundreds of downloads—BRAVO!

We recently caught up with Ashley to see how she’s doing in college. She talked about her recent successes and challenges and how being a Girl Scout has impacted her college experience.

What have you been up to and how are your college studies going?

I’m a genetics major at the University of Georgia and have added a minor in ecology, since I find that subject fascinating. Starting in August, I will be studying wildlife biology and bioinformatics for a semester at the University of Sydney. I’m really excited about this! Australia is a place I always wanted to visit!

Outside of classes, I have been receiving credit for research in engineering thermophilic bacteria for biofuel production. I have learned applications for principles of genetics, common lab techniques, and how to understand scientific papers from this research. I am also a member of G.E.N.E.S, a club for genetics students focusing primarily on career preparation and facilitating faculty-student interaction.

I’m also a member of LGBTQ advocacy club Lambda Alliance, including being on the Pride Prom organizing committee this year.

What challenges have you faced as a college student, and how did you overcome them?

I have struggled in classes, especially organic chemistry. I had to learn how to interpret several new ways to represent molecules, along with memorizing and understanding dozens of new reactions and mechanisms that follow rules unlike those seen in general chemistry. In facing this problem, I was lucky to have a roommate in the same class. I could easily coordinate study groups before tests. I also figured out which study methods worked best for me and implemented them. Since I’d often use outside resources such as videos, I’d keep track of which ones helped me understand a concept and send them to friends who were struggling with that same problem. Overall, I think these methods paid off.

In addition, going to school out of state meant having to do things like managing money, dealing with apartment maintenance, and even filling out a visa application with minimal oversight and help from my parents. I learned to ask for help when needed, pay close attention to problems, and teach myself certain household skills. While I am still not perfect at any of these and I have a lot to learn, I feel more confident in my ability to thrive away from home.
Ashley and her friends from the study group.

Looking back, how have Girl Scouts and the Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship impacted your college experience?

The Arconic Chuck McLane scholarship has been instrumental in my college experience. This year, much of the funding allowing me to study in Australia will come from this scholarship! Because of it, I will be able to explore the Great Barrier Reef and the outback before the term starts. I’m so thankful for this amazing opportunity!

Being a Juliette (working independently of a troop) in Girl Scouts also taught me how to learn on my own, by gaining badges and skills. I still enjoy teaching myself, and this summer, I am learning computer programming and statistics to prepare for more intensive study in bioinformatics.

Girl Scouts has given me opportunities to volunteer and try things I would never be able to do on my own, like spending the night in a science museum. My favorite part was making signs and selling cookies every year. As I got older, I started taking on more of a leadership and mentor role, helping my little sister’s troop whenever I could. Being a Girl Scout taught me a lot about the type of person I want to be.

How is your passion for STEM allowing you to take the lead?

I take the lead in many ways. In my research, I help plan out the next steps in experiments, especially when looking for causes of unexpected results. In my classes, especially in classes I struggle with, I organize study groups and find times to meet with others before tests. I also introduce friends taking certain classes to friends who have already completed them, so they can share notes and advice.

I also take the lead in the clubs I’m in, though I haven’t yet been able to run for an elected position since I’ll be off campus in the fall. I volunteer for planning and setup of events, as with this year’s Pride Prom, and offer my help when I notice a problem.

Do you have a story you’d like to share with your Girl Scout sisters? We want to hear it. Contact us at

About the Arconic Foundation Chuck McLane Scholarship:

From 2013 to 2017, Girl Scouts of the USA partnered with Arconic Foundation to provide ten Gold Award Girl Scouts with the Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship in recognition of their cutting-edge projects related to science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

Girl Scouts offers the best leadership development experience for girls in the world. Because everything a Girl Scout does centers around STEM, the outdoors, life skills, or entrepreneurship and is designed to meet her where she is now and then grow along with her. Explore what the other Arconic Chuck McLane Scholarship recipients have accomplished as part of Girl Scouts and learn more about the Girl Scout difference.