A Half-Century of Leadership and Innovation with the Girl Scouts

Daily Point of Light # 7778 Mar 28, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Carol Obler. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light.

Carol Obler’s dedication to the Girl Scouts spans over six decades, showcases an unwavering commitment to mentorship, education and community building. Her journey as a Girl Scout leader, volunteer trainer and advocate for STEM education stands as a testament to her passion for empowering young girls and women through a diverse array of programs and initiatives.

Personally leading a group of girls from third through 7th grade, she fosters an environment of learning and growth, leveraging technology to maintain connections and facilitate activities. As a camp trainer, Carol extends her influence beyond her troop, preparing other Girl Scout adult leaders to lead their own camping adventures. Carol’s expertise ensures that Girl Scout leaders are well-equipped to provide meaningful camping experiences for their troops.

Chairing the heritage committee, Carol plays a crucial role in preserving the rich traditions of the Girl Scouts. Carol’s leadership also extends to coordinating meetings and activities as a Service Unit manager for two Staten Island Service Units. Her initiative to set up a yearly recognition event for volunteers and staff members is her way of helping build a supportive and appreciative community within the Girl Scouts.

Find out more about Carol’s roles, responsibilities and most rewarding moments with the Girl Scouts.

Tell us about your volunteer role.

I do Girl Scouts. I’ve been doing it for 65 years. I’m a trainer too, training Girl Scout leaders to take their girls to camp. I train in outdoor skills. I’m chairman of three committees and I participate in a few others. Most of the committees are with adults, but we plan the events that the girls go to. We try to plan events for different age levels, which in Girl Scouts we call Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadets, Seniors and Ambassadors.

The global committee does an event to teach about the globalness of Girl Scouts, as we’re a global organization. We’re also part of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. If we’re doing an event like that, it’s open to all age levels to teach them about properties we have across the globe.

Sometimes I do activities with other councils, not just my area. I’m in charge of one quarter of Staten Island’s troops, keeping them informed of what’s going on in the world of girl scouting. I’m also a cookie cupboard, so I accept 300 cases of cookies a year that troops come and pick up from my home, and I lead a troop as well. The troop I have right now is a virtual troop. We meet on Zoom and have girls from all five boroughs.

Why is Girl Scouts so important to you?

Girl Scouts is a place for girls to grow. We say we want them to be girls of courage, character and confidence, who make the world a better place. Each week, we encourage the girls to do service, to meet with other troops. There are people who have made lifelong friends that they met when they were 10 years old.

The big skills we teach are financial literacy and entrepreneurship – of course everyone knows the cookie sale. There are outdoor living skills. We teach STEM. In New York City, we have a winning robotics team. And everything depends on the girls’ age level. If they’re young, maybe they’re learning table manners. If they’re older, maybe they’re interviewing their government officials. Then there are the extreme sports, like skiing and rock climbing.

I think Girl Scouts is something everyone should do. Other extracurriculars are great, but they’re focused on one skill. If you’re in Girl Scouts, you can do lots of things and decide what’s going to be the most important skill set for you. Plus, we’re a global community.

What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?

That’s a tough question to answer. Every time I open a box, that’s my favorite one.

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work?

The most rewarding parts are seeing girls you had as Brownies or Daisies who are grown up and taking on troops of their own or taking on the role of motherhood. Saying, “she was in my troop and now she has a daughter!”

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer?

One of the lessons I’ve learned that I’ve learned that I impart to all adults is “don’t teach a craft until you’ve done it yourself.” It’s like Pinterest. It looks easy, but if you haven’t done it yourself, try it out first. And if you’re going to teach a skill, make sure you understand the skill enough to teach it to the girls.

I’m a retired teacher, and I’m really into teaching people and teaching them how to teach children. Before I even got my master’s degree, I’d already learned a lot of the concepts in Girl Scouts. For instance, the idea of working together in a group, which is called cooperative learning – that’s the patrol system. When I learned that, I said, I’ve been teaching that for 20 years!

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about?

Those causes need to grow, and the only way they can grow is with people. The more people you have, the more brains you have, the more hands you have… and that’s how you get things done.

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering?

I would say, if you volunteer, the people you’re working with will train you. If you like it, you’ll make time to keep doing it. Not every organization is for everyone. But if you volunteer with one you think you’re going to like, you might find it’s a great fit. You won’t know if you don’t go out and try it.

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Carol? Find local volunteer opportunities.

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