Black Mountain Girl Scouts take a bite out of the Big Apple
There were times where the senses of the 10 Cadettes and Seniors of Girl Scout Troop 02498 were overwhelmed as they took in the sights, sounds and smells of The City That Never Sleeps.
While the bright lights and fast pace of New York City presented a jarring contrast to the relaxed pace of their Swannanoa Valley hometown, the four-day trip to the City of Dreams is one the girls will always remember.
The group, which consists of Cadettes, grades 6 - 8, and Seniors, grades 9 - 10, is led by Bethany Boyle. The girls set their sights on a trip to the Big Apple 18 months ago, she said.
“Girl Scouts has a rule that you can’t go on extended trips longer than three days until you’re in the sixth grade,” Boyle said. “So this was our troop’s first big trip, which was a really big deal for us.”
Some of the members of the troop have been with Boyle since they were in kindergarten.
“I’ve gotten to know these girls so well over the years that I felt safe taking them out of state to a busy city, because I know them so well,” said Boyle, a former New Jersey resident who once worked in New York City. She was joined by Kiersten Hall, who leads the troop’s Brownies and Juniors leader Jade Baker. Baker and Hall had each spent time in New York City, as well.
The majority of the girls had never been on an airplane, according to Boyle.
“I had them come up with ideas of things they wanted to do while there,” she said. “If they wanted to a certain activity, like a museum or a restaurant, I had them research what there was to do there, or what the menu was like and how much it costs and other relevant information.”
Boyle, Baker, Hall and the girls departed from Charlotte on the morning of Aug. 1, and boarded a shuttle after landing at LaGuardia Airport
“Their eyes were so big as they came into the city,” Boyle said. “We came in on garbage day, so the smell was pretty strong and I explained to them how big the city was and how all of the people generated a lot of trash and this was one of the many smells of the city. You could tell they were overwhelmed by everything at first.”
The trip, which earned each of the ten girls a Traveler badge, was organized entirely by Boyle and the girls.
“To earn the badge, the girls need to plan the whole thing,” Boyle said. “They had to do the budgeting and pick their destination. The entire trip took a year and a half to plan.”
Each scout picked a potential destination and presented them to the group.
“We settled on either riding donkeys through the Grand Canyon, Comic-Con in California or New York City,” Boyle said. “The majority of the girls voted for New York. They liked the idea of going to a big city, and the big thing was they wanted to see a Broadway musical.”
Scouts offered their ideas during one of the group’s two monthly meetings and the girls voted for the top four. The group chose to stay at the Crowne Plaza in Times Square.
Each girl raised $1,200 for the trip, earning Funding My Dreams badges as they held cookie sales, a garage sale and a breakfast with Santa to support it.
“That included food, badges, every activity, flights, subways and shuttles,” Boyle said. “It covered everything besides spending money.”
Boyle wanted to provide the girls with “an experience unique to New York.”
The trip was a whirlwind that started as soon as the group got to the city.
“As soon as we got into the city we went to the hotel, didn't even have a chance to get into our rooms because we had to get over to the Girl Scouts headquarters to see the CEO of Girl Scouts,” Hall said. "She was there to speak and sign her book."
Each member of the Black Mountain troop received an autographed copy of Sylvia Acevedo's "Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist."
The experience was the result of fortunate timing on the part of troop 02498, according to Boyle.
“Well, if a Girl Scout troop visits Manhattan they have to go visit the headquarters,” she said. “It just so happened that the CEO was there the day we were set to arrive. I reached out and asked if we could still come tour the office, and they were so generous they offered to squeeze us in.”
The first day was exhausting and exciting, according to Sienna Boyle and her younger sister RubyRose, but the second day of the trip was a highlight for many of the girls.
"We went to a Broadway workshop in the morning, then lunch at Ellen's Stardust Diner, which is a Broadway-themed cafe and then we went to a show," said 14-year-old Sienna, who has been in her mother's troop since it began. "It was an amazing experience."
Broadway was a unanimous selection of the group during the early stages of planning, according to Bethany.
"I found a program called Students Live, where they gave us a morning workshop with the actors and choreographers from the play," she said. "I took their Broadway idea and made a day around it."
The final two days of the trip included a visit to the Museum of Natural History and the Statue of Liberty.
"I've been to New York several times," Hall said. "But having the opportunity to see them experience the things they experienced and see everything there for the first time made this trip special."
Planning for the trip together and spending five days together in the Big Apple strengthened the bond between the girls, according to 12-year-old RubyRose.
"We got super close throughout all of this," she said. "I don't always get a chance to talk to the older scouts, but we all spent time together during this trip. I think it really brought us all together."
Spending time in New York also reinforced the girls' love of their hometown, Bethany said.
"I think it was eye-opening for them," she said. "They wanted to experience what it was like in the big city, and they learned that everything moves at a different pace and how much different things can be. We used nearly every mode of transportation on this trip — airplane, shuttle, bus, subway and ferry to Ellis Island. But, by the time it was over, they were all ready to come back home to the mountains."
Trips like this, according to Baker, are a big part of what makes being a part of the Girl Scouts fulfilling.
"I went on many trips with a traveling troop as a teenager," she said. "It really opened my eyes in a lot of ways. It was really nice to get to be a part of this with these girls."
Baker's daughter Avni said the trip made her proud to be a member of the organization.
"Girl Scouts gives us so many great opportunities and gives a chance to socialize and meet different people," she said. "It also opens up chances to do things I might not do in my normal life, like traveling."
Avni isn't the only one "bitten by the travel bug," according to Bethany.
"All of the girls are already saying they want to do another trip," she said. "Alaska seems to be a popular choice right now. I think this experience really showed them how Girl Scouts can accomplish anything if they set their minds to it."