Awesome Woman: Carolyn Swords

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At a height of 6’6”, former Girl Scout and Silver Award earner Carolyn Swords seemed destined to play basketball.

Carolyn Swords has been a pro basketball player for six years. Currently playing center for the Seattle Storm, she was drafted into the WNBA by the Chicago Sky upon her graduation from Boston College in 2011. Carolyn has also played for the New York Liberty and spends her winters playing in Europe. But before all this, she was a young girl with a creative spirit who wasn’t afraid to dream big.

Creativity and Inspiration

Carolyn has played basketball since she was a kid, but it wasn’t until her freshman year in college that she thought about it as a career.

“I was interested in teaching, art and writing,” she says. “I still keep a sketchbook nearby in case I get the urge to draw.” Also still a writer, Carolyn recently served as guest blogger for Visit Seattle, documenting her favorite things to do around the city.

Traveling during the winter basketball season to places like Spain, Turkey and Poland has brought out the shutterbug in her, too. “I love taking photos. I enjoy taking walks and capturing what I see. I’m so fortunate to have such exciting places to photograph!”

The third child of five, Carolyn grew up in “one big, happy family”. But there were some challenges along the way, and she credits her strong family connections and one pretty powerful role model with giving her the support and courage to overcome them.

“My aunt, who I now call my mom, took us all in after my parents died. We really were one big, happy family together. We always see failure as a chance to grow. Our family motto is ‘keep moving forward’ and we help each other push through the tough times.

“My mom embodies love and strength. She encouraged all of us to dream big, work hard and learn to step out of our comfort zones. And she is tall, which helped me to embrace my height with confidence.”

Teamwork and Dedication

Carolyn also credits her time as a Girl Scout with teaching her life lessons that she still values today.

“Being a Girl Scout taught me how to set and achieve my goals,” she says. “That time in my life holds a special place in my heart. I learned the importance of teamwork, which is a huge part of basketball!” She remembers working with her fellow troop members to earn badges and complete projects, recalling that she always gravitated to the ones that required creativity, including sewing and crocheting.

Leadership was also a big part of Carolyn’s time in Girl Scouts. “The leadership badge was my favorite one to earn. I gained some valuable skills,” she says. Carolyn’s troop leader also encouraged her to leverage her basketball experience to earn the badge.

A Girl Scout through twelfth grade, Carolyn earned a Silver award with a project that demonstrates her commitments to service and community. “Our troop visited girls at detention centers. These girls were our age, which had a big impact on us.” Working with these girls, spending time with them, learning and laughing, left a lifelong impression on Carolyn.

“Confidence, service and teamwork are Girl Scout values that I still use as an adult,” she says. “These are what give us the courage to achieve our goals and keep growing, and the desire to help our communities. They teach us to appreciate the importance of working together to achieve a common goal.”

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Discovery and Connection

Those lessons certainly translate well to a career in professional basketball. Carolyn values her time in the WNBA, the places she has traveled and especially her teammates and the friends she has made.

“I love having the opportunity to travel the world, meet different people and discover new cultures. I have grown so much through my travels and have made friends all over the world. These friendships and experiences are so important to me!”

Of all the places she has traveled, Carolyn says Italy is her favorite. “I loved meeting the people, seeing the country, soaking up the history and studying the language. Although,” she concedes, “the beaches in Australia are spectacular!”

The time she spent in Italy is also close to Carolyn’s heart because it was her first season back after recovering from a significant knee injury. After two surgeries and over a year of recovery time and physical therapy, her return to the basketball court in Italy was very special. And she was able to return stronger than ever.

A message of empowerment

Carolyn has an important message for today’s girls. “I tell girls to dream big and have courage – the same thing my mom always tells me. My most valuable memories and lessons have come from moments when I stepped out of my comfort zone and worked hard to reach my goals.”

She also feels strongly about embracing what makes you unique. “I looked up to the basketball players at Boston College who were as tall, or even taller, than me. I was always taller than everyone in my class growing up, so it really impressed me to see these women using their height in such a powerful way. Embracing our differences can be very empowering!”


Awesome Woman: Patty Lent

Lent Headshot Cropped


When Patty Lent was a Girl Scout, she never thought about a career in politics.

Patty started out as a Brownie in Tacoma, wearing her cousin’s hand-me-down uniforms. Though her cousin eventually quit, Patty was a Girl Scout into high school. She was the one in her troop who could always be counted on to help the troop leader, volunteer for activities or sit beside the shy girl – all leadership qualities that came to her naturally. But she didn’t envision a career in politics. She wanted to be a ballerina.

After her parents divorced, Patty’s dancing lessons came to an end. So when she went to college, she focused on teaching. Again, the future held an unexpected turn for Patty. She left college to help her father through the loss of her stepmother. “I paid my dad $50 a month in rent, even though I was there to help him,” Patty remembers. “And when I left, he gave me all that money back. It was his way of helping me get started and teaching me financial responsibility.”

Breaking New Ground for Women

A short few years later, Patty had married, had a son and divorced. It was 1972 and single mothers didn’t have a lot of options. She interviewed with Holiday Inn and soon became the company’s first female sales director.

Not afraid to be a groundbreaker, Patty joined the Kiwanis club as the first female member of her chapter in 1987. “When I joined, they said, ‘If we have to have a woman, we’re going to have a woman president,’” says Patty. “So I was the first female president of Kiwanis in the country. I would go into meetings and the men would say, ‘You’re in the wrong place, the secretaries are over there. When I stood up to speak at the national convention, the men resented my boldness. But they also took my suggestions,’” she says.

Patty’s second husband brought her to Bremerton in 1988. She immediately joined organizations like the American Red Cross, American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association – groups that make a difference in people’s lives. But still she did not see herself in politics.

Entering the Political Arena

Finally, someone suggested that she run for County Commissioner. She won and served her term, but lost her reelection campaign. “That was a huge disappointment, and a huge lesson for me,” she says. She went to work with her sister and put politics out of her mind…until the then-mayor retired. Suddenly, she saw an opportunity to make a difference in her community on a more local scale.

“It is so rewarding to be an agent of change and then see how what you do affects the people around you,” says Patty. And she has certainly brought a lot of positive change to the residents of Bremerton over the years.

Making a Difference

YOUNG MAYOR 3As mayor, Patty’s list of achievements is diverse and far-reaching. She worked with the YMCA to begin free swimming lessons to all third-graders in the Bremerton school district, organized local landlords to provide housing to unsheltered veterans in the community, and created job shadowing programs for high school students to learn about skill-based careers at West Sound Tech.

“Finding people’s strengths is the key to opening someone’s exposure to success,” says Patty. “If you can recognize and develop their unique talents, they will shine.”

This philosophy has certainly proven true in Bremerton, which now has zero unsheltered veterans, among many other improvements achieved under Mayor Lent’s direction.

“I talk to kids about what they want to do with their futures,” she says. “I remember one little boy who didn’t know what he wanted to be as an adult. I suggested becoming a welder and explained what that was. He said, ‘Yeah, I want to be a welder!’ I told his teacher, ‘If he still thinks that next year, let’s take him to shadow a welder and let him really see it.’ It just takes a spark to ignite passion.”

When she became mayor, Patty knew that she wanted to do more with Girl Scouts. “They treat all girls the same and teach lifelong lessons,” she says. “I learned so many valuable life lessons as a Girl Scout that I still carry with me – things like compassion, respect, diversity. A Girl Scout could be anyone, from anywhere, with any sort of family or background. But when she joins a troop, none of that matters because suddenly you are all brought together in this wonderful common ground. Growing up, I was exposed to more diversity in Girl Scouts than I was at school, which really broadened my view of the larger world. We are living through some tough times today. In our community, we try to teach our kids values, pride and togetherness. We try not to give our time or attention to issues that divide our nation, but focus on the positive.”

Advice for Future Generations

Girl Scout Troop 1955_1Patty also has some sage words for today’s children. “When I speak to kids, I tell them anyone can be a mayor. It’s not a career job. A mayor is someone who wants to make a difference. You campaign to tell people what you want to change, and when you finish the changes, then you go back to your regular job. But in that moment, you stand up and make the changes you feel are needed.”

“I tell girls they really can do anything,” adds Patty. “And the skills they learn in Girl Scouts will serve them their entire lives. They can go on to be lawyers, teachers, anything, and the things they learn now, like courage and respect, will stay with them.”

For someone who never thought of herself as a politician, Mayor Lent is an example of how to gracefully navigate this challenging role and leave an admirable legacy of her time in office. Her focus on making positive change in her community never wavers and her list of achievements continues to grow.

“You have to have enthusiasm, passion and energy to be successful in any endeavor,” she says. “Without those things, nothing you do in life will be as rewarding as it could be. A job is just a job…unless you love it.”

And it’s obvious that Patty does.


Girl Scouts Take Flight at Aviation Day Events!

The sky is the limit for Girl Scouts who get to embark on a big adventure during FOUR awesome opportunities throughout western Washington in July and August that involve airplanes – including flying an actual plane!

Discover Aviation Day – Bremerton Airport

Girl Scouts will be participating in a one-day program at the Bremerton Airport where they will spend the day rotating through three sessions: 1) A building tour where they will get their hands dirty learning about the parts of a plane, how airplanes are designed, and what makes them fly. Aviation2

2) A digital flight simulator and a paper airplane challenge where girls will experiment with different wing designs learning how the shape and style of an airplane’s wing can affect flight.

3) They actually get to fly a plane! Each girl will have the opportunity to sit in the front seat and control the aircraft. During their flight, the girls will also be able to experience both Zero Gravity and 2Gs.

“This is now a career option for me” said Bainbridge Island Girl Scout, Syna, after participating in this program. “I am interested in the mechanical parts of airplanes and after today I’m interested in flying them, too. It was amazing!”

Girl Scout, Alexia from Montesano had never flown in an aircraft before and said that she “absolutely LOVED it!” Her favorite part of the day was taking control of the aircraft and “flying the plane!”

The first Discover Aviation Day event was held on July 17, 2017, and there will be two more events in the near future.

Fun fact: Virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout! Through Girl Scouting, girls learn they can be and do anything they set their minds to.

North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum – Concrete, WA

Vintage MuseumGirls are invited to the North Cascades area to experience Aviation Day on August 26, 2017, at the North Cascades Vintage Aircraft Museum.  Girls will learn the four forces of flight: thrust, gravity, drag and lift through hands-on interactive activities. At this Aviation Day event, each force will be introduced at a station inside a real airplane hangar at the museum. Girls will be surrounded by airplanes from the 1930s-60s as they rotate through the stations, and at the end of the day they’ll have the opportunity to sign up for a future free flight through the Young Eagles Program.

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Plus girls will be able to earn their Women in Aviation patch! The Women in Aviation International Fun Patch program was introduced in March 2016 – it’s a brand new program to inspire girls to learn about and pursue careers in aviation.

Girl Scouts of the USA recently announced the addition of 23 new badges in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields – including aviation! This new Girl Scout programming builds girls’ skills and encourages their interest in STEM and environmental conservation from an early age.

Registration accepted until August 8. Contact Ann Maroney at for information.

My Girl Scout Story: Carla Corkern

Carla Corkern, CEO of Talyst and Girl Scouts of Western Washington board member, has a compelling Girl Scout story, and we’re so excited she is sharing it with us!

carla-corken“Girl Scouts of Western Washington is investing in our communities to build girls of courage, confidence and character, and I watch Girl Scouts every day who are paying it forward by giving back to the communities in which they live. As a transplant to this region, I am amazed at the resources and opportunities this beautiful state has to offer – and amazed at the commitment to girls from those in our community.

I grew up in a time and an area where the resources for girls were much different. A few years ago, when I would meet people and they would ask, ‘Girl, where are you from?’ I would say, ‘Lou-ee-see-ana,’ pronouncing it like I knew they expected to hear it, not Lou-see-ana like every true native knows is right. And, always people would say, ‘Oh, I love New Orleans!’ Well, I grew up about as far from New Orleans as you can get in Louisiana and still be inside the boot. Luckily, or unluckily, now I can tell people where I am actually from – and most of them – although they hate to admit it, have seen my hometown on reality TV. Yes, I grew up in the land of Duck Dynasty. So, if you’ve seen the show, you know the men are all grungy and outdoorsy and for some odd reason the women are all beautifully made up and ready to go to town all the time (and trust me, there isn’t much there to actually go do in the town that you need to get dressed up for except church on  Sundays).

Anyway, I tell you this story to give you a backdrop of a place and a time for my Girl Scout journey. My mama was (and still is) a woman like those duck dynasty women, a beautiful, poised, well-dressed woman who earned her beauty school license to help put my Dad through college. When I was born, she was overjoyed to have a life-sized doll to dress and mold into her image.  Unfortunately for her, by the time I’d started school, it was pretty clear – that wasn’t gonna be the way it was going to go. Every chance I could get I was sneaking out of the house to catch bugs in a jar or trap crawfish in the ditch or crawl around the construction sites in our neighborhood picking up coke bottles (for money, not environmental reasons).

However, my mama held out hope for me. She signed me up for all kinds of things to make me a lady. First up was baton twirling! After I had blackened my eye and broken several treasured knick knacks in the living room, I came home one day to find my baton had mysteriously been run over in the driveway, although I distinctly remember leaving it in the laundry room when I left for school that day. Next up was ballet, then acrobatics and tap dancing.  All of these required dressing up and going to town which I fought tooth and nail. After school, I  just wanted to run wild outside in the woods.

Finally my mother (probably because it was an after-school activity and didn’t require a trip to town) signed me up for Brownies. She even got excited when she saw the cute little dress and beanie that I’d have to wear on meeting day.  Although I hated wearing dresses more than anything, I was willing to give Girl Scouts a chance because some older tough girls from the playground I knew were in the troop and I looked up to them. From that first day, I was hooked. The classroom was filled with energy and unlike what usually happens in school classrooms, the girls were in charge. The older girls ran most of the meeting and before long I was swept up in the songs and the games and when we went outside to play a game of Red Rover I knew I had found my tribe. I loved the fact that no one shushed me or told me to sit down and be quiet (unless it was one of those older tough girls and you can bet I did it, too!).

When cookie selling season came around, I really found my place. I loved to sell cookies! Seems I had a knack for asking people for money! I loved to fill up my little red wagon and walk from house to house and knock on doors. I started going to my mom’s beauty shop after school and setting up a little card table during cookie season to sell cookies.

 Carla Corkern featured at the podium, as she was named Girl Scout of the Year in 1976 for the Silver Waters Council.

Carla featured at the podium, as she was named Girl Scout of the Year in 1976.

I pestered people at my church, I pestered people at my dance lessons (you thought I got out of that, didn’t you?) and I sold so many cookies I was named Girl Scout of the Year in 1976 for the Silver Waters Council! It was a little council and in a small rural area but I was on top of the world!

I have no doubt that my love for selling cookies and the lessons I learned there led me to my current career. Girl Scouts took me to President of my Middle School Student Council and to the state championships in Speech and Debate. My Girl Scout selling skills came into play when I started my first company at 26 had called every bank on an SBA approved lenders list and set up meetings with people twice my age (most of whom laughed me out of the room, but hey, it only took one to say yes!).

The skills I learned in Girl Scouts helped me in my role as CEO today!”

My Girl Scout Story: Dee Cheng

We’re thrilled to launch our new series, “My Girl Scout Story,” with Dee Cheng, a recent alumna, who still has wonderful Girl Scout memories to share! Take it away, Dee!

My Girl Scout Story

Have you ever been in a situation where you didn’t want it to end?

deeThen perhaps you understand just how I felt my senior year of high school. It was my last year of Girl Scouts and I was apprehensive to be leaving a community I considered my home. For 10 years of my life, I was a part of an organization that supported me and provided me with a platform to grow, to explore, and to lead.

I was not afraid to take charge. I was not afraid to voice my opinions and follow my heart. I had the passion and motivation to make a change, but it wasn’t always that way. As a little girl I dreamed of making a difference in this world, and having an impact in my own, unique way, but I constantly found myself thinking, how? What is my purpose and will I be successful? Can I actually do it?

That’s what I was thinking my first cookie season as a Brownie, ready to go deecookiedoor-to-door. I was nervous; I did not know how to approach people or what to say. We were partnered up girls only a few years older than us, and they were so poised and confident, energized and outgoing,. Their charisma was so captivating and I loved how they encouraged us and took us under their wing. These were also the same girls I saw at camp, who taught me girl scout traditions and encouraged me to become a leader. I wasn’t sure about a lot of things back then, but I knew I wanted to follow in their footsteps. But how? Could I really possibly become a leader like them?

Throughout the years, Girl Scouts did not fail to deliver opportunity after opportunity, and the more I experienced, the more confidence I gained. I grew as a daughter, a student, a friend, and a scout. Before I knew it, I was showing younger girls how to sell cookies. I was the one leading songs at camp. I was the one completing large scale projects and taking action within the community. I was the one being asked to speak at events, to share my experience, and to tell younger girls that yes, they can do it too.  And I was very convincing because I finally knew the answer to the questions I had asked myself so many times as a young girl. I can do it, too! I can be a leader, and I can make a difference.

dee1I know it because I have actual proof!

One day I was at the grocery store, when I suddenly heard a little girl yelling, “Taffy, taffy!” My camp name is Taffy, but I didn’t make the connection and just thought that girl wanted some candy. Next thing I knew she was running up to me a gave me a big hug. She started talking all at once, out of breath, telling me how much she loved camp and thanking me for teaching her songs and campfire safety. “Thank you so much Taffy, I had so much fun!” she said. “I loved learning and I hope one day I can be like you.” I stood there in shock, not realizing how my actions have really made a difference. When I became an older girl scout, I was constantly looking for avenues where I can make an impact, and yet it was happening right before my eyes.

dee2At the time, I didn’t understand the impact this organization would have on me, but looking back I would not even be half the person I am today without it. Now, trying to figure out the next stage of my life, I constantly question, can I do it? Can I really make a difference? I find my head and my heart pulling me in the direction of technology. I want to make a difference globally, and  create equal accessibility and opportunity for those who need it most.  The path to get there feels daunting at times, just like it was daunting for 8-year-old me to sell cookies and be a leader at camp. I sometimes doubt I won’t be good enough to make a change, but then I remember the last ten years, and I remember the girl at the grocery store.

And I remember because I’m writing this story now, all because I am a product of an organization that changes lives, including mine. And it gave me the confidence to go out into the world and do the same. So whether it’s using technology to create something that will make people’s lives better, or continuing to be a mentor to others, I know that I can do anything. Girl Scouts taught me that.

This is What Getting Back Up After A Setback Looks Like!

Meet Erin Bailey, a Girl Scout volunteer in Cowlitz County who has learned a lot by serving as a troop leader for Kindergarten and first grade girls.

She has modeled to her girls, through her own actions, that sometimes things won’t go as planned, and you have to keep trying, but half the fun is getting messy while you figure it out!

Lessons in Trying Again After Defeat Colors Your Confidence

ErinBailey2 “Being a Girl Scout troop leader doesn’t come naturally for me. I constantly battle doubt and my fear that I’m falling short of my duties to my Daisy troop. That being said, I’m reminded of a quote from Juliette Gordon Low, who founded Girl Scouts in 1912: ‘Scouting rises in you and inspires you to put fourth your best.’ So true!

Last year was my first year as a Daisy leader (girls in Kindergarten and 1st grade). I didn’t have any experience leading–not only a troop of little girls, but anyone…EVER! I was nervous, but I became comfortable in my new role rather quickly. I had a lot of support from my fellow leaders and a co-leader who encouraged my creative thinking and planning.

One such creative plan I had involved introducing the Daisies to the wonderful world of art journaling. I had it all laid out in my head. It was going to be the most magical of meetings–a meeting that would change the world! My Daisies would create such wondrous expressions of their inner beings and an army of artists would be born! It was quite beautiful…in my mind.

The day of the art journal meeting came and I was practically bursting with excitement. My co-leader and I had all our supplies at the ready. I even made simple smocks for each girl (you can’t be too careful, right?), and briefly explained what art journaling was and showed examples of some of my own artwork. Every Daisy was all ears. I had their full attention. This was going to be epic! ErinBailey

My co-leader, parent helper and I began to pass out the various supplies–journals, scrap paper, glue, markers, brushes—and you could feel their excitement grow. The room vibrated with energy. Then we passed out the student grade acrylic paint.

When Life Doesn’t Go According to Plan…

I’d love to tell you that the meeting went according to plan, that my dreams became reality, that tears weren’t shed. But I can’t. Within just moments of passing out the acrylic paint, pure chaos ensued. The noise level tripled. Girls abandoned their brushes and self-control. Paint was flying to and fro, getting everywhere. Tables! Carpets! Chairs! Nowhere was safe! At one point I witnessed a girl smear paint all over her face as if it were moisturizer. It was total mayhem.

I can’t remember too much after that. I was in a daze. I do know that messes were cleaned up, supplies were organized and hands were washed. The meeting was over and I survived.

That was the one and only meeting that year that we did anything with paint. Until last week. Now, I know what you’re thinking. I must be out of my mind to even think of allowing paint back into our meetings! Believe me, I cringe every time I think about those art journals. But I also think about the lessons I learned. Lesson 1: Split into smaller groups. Lesson 2: Use washable paint. Lesson 3: Discuss and be clear about the ground rules. And last, but not least: Don’t be afraid to try again!

Face-Their-Fears_GSWWPutting Forth Your Best

So getting back to Juliette Gordon Low’s quote: ‘Scouting rises in you and inspires you to put fourth you best.’ Well, that paint-splattered meeting, chock full of failure, was my best! It was what inspired by my desire for adventure. To open up a whole new world of possibilities to young and impressionable minds, and ultimately, to have fun–that’s exactly what that meeting was! It was epic!

Going forward, I could take the safe and easy approach, providing activities that are mess-free and lackluster. Allowing my fear of failure to dictate my choices and my creativity. Trying to completely avoid stress and chaos. But that’s not me. That’s not my best! I am full of creative and sometimes fanciful ideas. What scares me more than failing is the thought of being too afraid to put forth my best.

Nowadays, when I’m mulling over the plethora of ideas that come to me, I spend more time improving them, using the lessons I have learned, all while learning to lead. To me, that’s success, which is the real art.”

Read an awesome ParentMap story, Embracing Failure, which talks about many of the same things Erin mentions above. Plus, Girl Scouts of Western Washington is referenced in the story, and we are pretty excited!