Right now, nine Newark Girl Scouts are taking the trip of their young lifetimes–in Paris
Published July 2, 2018 | Teanna Owens
Paris, France by Soroush Karimi.
By now, members of Girl Scout troop 20134 of Newark should be en route to Wagram station – the first stop on their week-long adventure in Paris, France, where they will be hosted by Girl Scout families overseas. Troop 20134’s journey began after midnight on Saturday, June 30 when they departed Newark Airport and, by the looks of their itinerary, their fun and enlightenment is just beginning.
For many of the young girls, this trip to the “city of lights” is their first time flying. While troop leader Erin Sweeney is more familiar with traveling internationally and with schools groups, she said that this group is the youngest she’s ever taken.
“I’m really excited,” said Sweeney. “I’m also nervous. I’m used to traveling, but when you’re taking nine kids, and only one of them has traveled internationally before, it’s a lot of responsibility.”
Sweeney isn’t the only chaperone though. A parent of two of her troop members has also volunteered to join in on the fun.
Despite being nervous, Sweeney said that she’s looking forward to being on the plane with the girls and seeing how they adjust to a being in a foreign country.
“I’m excited for them more than anything,” said Sweeney. “I can’t wait to see how they adjust to life in a country where you don’t speak the language, and the food is different, and you don’t understand how to get around.”
Sweeney, who grew up in Sussex County and is a former Girl Scout, has been on a mission to improve and increase the number of Girl Scouts in Newark ever since she moved to the city seven years ago. While her Girl Scouts initiatives were initially behind the scenes, Sweeney explained how the opportunity to have a troop came along in January of 2016.
“Chancellor Avenue School was looking for more after school programming, and they had reached out to the Girl Scouts to see if Girl Scouts wanted to start a troop there,” said Sweeney. “They needed someone to lead it, so I volunteered to lead it just as an after school program.”
While the Girl Scouts after school program at Chancellor Avenue was initially planned to last for ten weeks, Sweeney explained how the girls wanted to extend the program and asked Sweeney to stay on as their leader.
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Now the troop, which consists of 5th– through 10th– grade girls, meet one Sunday a month at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center’s Reverend Dr. Ronald B. Christian Community Health & Wellness Center. By following the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, a model which is designed to help girls develop leadership skills, the members in troop 20134 have been able to complete various badges and journeys about bullying, archery, and women’s portrayal in the media. The Newark Girl Scouts also participate in other trips and programs, including a camping trip every April.
Troop 20134’s current trip abroad, however, happened rather spontaneously. While traveling in France in November, Sweeney met Rachel Walton, who is Oversees Committee Chair for the USA Girl Scouts Overseas program in Paris. It was then that Walton suggested that Sweeney and her troop visit. Not only did Walton invite Sweeney and her troop to France, Walton and other Girl Scouts have also volunteered to host Sweeney and her troop at their homes.
While a ton of planning, fundraisers, donations and, of course, cookie sales followed Walton’s invitation, Troop 20134’s schedule suggests it’s going to be worth it in the end.
“We have a really exciting trip planned,” said Sweeney, who explained the intention and significance of planning the trip to overlap with the Fourth of July holiday in the U.S.
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“We’re going to be spending the Fourth of July participating in several programs commemorating American soldiers who lost their life in France during World War I,” said Sweeney. The girls will also participate, in full uniforms, in a number of ceremonies commemorating the holiday.
In addition to taking part in ceremonies and memorials, troop 20134 also designed their itinerary to align with the Girl Scouts’ philosophy, G.I.R.L., which stands for “Go Getter, “Innovator,” “Risk Taker,” and “Leader.” Their “Go Getter” day will be spent learning about painter Vincent Van Gogh, paying a visit to the Louvre, participating in a painting workshop, and having dinner at Château d’Auvers-sur-Oise.
Activities for the troop’s “Risk Taker” day include zip lining, visiting the top of the Eiffel Tower, and taking a boat cruise along the Seine River.
The “Leader” and “Innovator” days consist of visits to Versailles and the Joan of Arc statue at Place des Pyramides, plus a visit to a local pharmaceutical company to learn about STEM careers, and a trip to the U.S. Embassy to meet diplomats and learn about careers in the foreign Service.
Sweeney, who is currently the Executive Director of Schools That Can in Newark, credits the Girl Scouts for her success in life, and is confident that this trip overseas is an opportunity for the girls in her troop to grow and continue on their path to develop leadership skills.