BAKERSFIELD, VERMONT | When it comes to making the world a better place, Erin Paquette gives it her all. This fifth- and sixth-grade teacher also leads a multi-age Girl Scout troop and embraces the Girl Scout philosophy of building girls of courage, confidence and character, and living the G.I.R.L. (Go-Getter, Risk-Taker, Innovator, Leader)™ experience. Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains has chosen Paquette as October’s Volunteer of the Month.
Paquette, of Bakersfield, Vermont, teaches at Waterville Elementary School. She’s taught for 14 years, the last four with the middle-school-age students. She and her husband have a girl and two boys. Her troop encompasses Brownie through Senior Girl Scouts (grades 2-12).
“I am blessed with amazing co-leaders Beth Jessiman and Kellianne Sutton-Bosely. Together, we do things as a whole troop or as levels,” said Paquette, describing the troop meetings.
Paquette first got involved four years ago when her daughter’s friend wanted to join, and was asked to help with cookie sales. The next year, they needed a troop leader. “I think that my background in education helped make the transition to leader a little easier,” she said.
Girls in Paquette’s troop are planning to go on a weekend trip to Washington, D.C. shortly, where they will work toward a badge by visiting six landmarks, including the Lincoln Memorial, Library of Congress, and the National Air and Space Museum, and wrap it up with a visit to the National Zoo.
Camping is a regular part of her troop’s activities, too. She said they usually plan a short overnight trip in the fall, complete with dinner cooked over a campfire, and a longer trip in the spring. “We’ve gone quite a few places,” she said. “We’ve been to Camp Twin Hills a couple of times. Lately we’ve been using Brewster River and the park is very accommodating to our troop.” The girls learn to cook outdoors, plan meals, learn knife safety, go on hikes, and more.
With two boys in Boy Scouts, Paquette has found that each organization offers its own benefit. “I want my daughter to make her own decisions, which is why I love Girl Scouts,” she said. “I know my daughter’s experience in Girl Scouts has given her many chances to be a leader.” Paquette said that when the decision was made for Boy Scouts to admit girls, “my mantra has been that there’s a place for everybody. But I hope girls will give Girl Scouts a look first.”
Several of her girls have already earned the Bronze Award, the highest achievement for a Girl Scout Junior. Silver is the highest award for Girl Scout Cadettes, and Gold the highest for Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts.
“Erin is planting the seeds for the highest awards,” said Cheryl Heneveld, a Girl Scout adult member who nominated Paquette. “She embraces the goals of (Girl Scout) activities.”
Paquette’s Girl Scouts celebrate traditions like World Thinking Day, which is when girls around the globe develop Take Action projects that focus on making an impact and changing the world—and celebrate being part of the global sisterhood that is Girl Scouts and Girl Guides. She also organized a celebration of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday, which falls on Halloween. Each year, they mark when girls move up to the next Girl Scout level with an annual bridging ceremony. This year her troop has added keys to represent the Gold and Silver Awards her Girl Scouts will work toward.
Paquette has found that volunteering for Girl Scouts has been as beneficial for her as for the girls. “It’s like an addiction for me now! I’ve enjoyed it so much!” she said. “It’s time consuming and tiring, but once we’re there, we can’t imagine ever not wanting to go, the work is so exciting and empowering. Half the trips I’ve taken, I never would have gone on. I’ve done things through Girl Scouts that just wouldn’t have happened.”
She tells anyone thinking of giving their time to do so. “I always say we would love to have you for whatever you can give us. There are plenty of opportunities.”
Delivering a proven, one-of-a-kind leadership development program, and the largest in the world for girls, Girl Scouts provides girls with unlimited girl-led adventures and a lifetime of skills found nowhere else. Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is proud to call Erin Paquette our October Volunteer of the Month.