Tara Lagasse mentors homeschooled Girl Scouts
DERRY, NH – The Girl Scouts who have been part of Tara Lagasse’s troop for years love the experience so much that even when their families have moved as far as Keene or Plymouth, the girls continue to participate both online and in person, traveling back to be with their friends and caring leader.
Lagasse, 49, of Derry, has been named the Volunteer of the Month for May by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, the council serving Girl Scouts across New Hampshire and Vermont.
Girl Scout troops come in a variety of forms – traditional community and school groups, travel troops, robotics troops, even virtual troops. Troop 10370 is a troop of 11 Girl Scouts in grades 4-8 who are all homeschooled.
“It’s wonderful for them,” said Lagasse. “Between COVID and homeschooling, they need the Girl Scouts to get that outside connection.” She explained that while homeschool families are “into everything,” and that music lessons and sports are great, “It doesn’t give them the same opportunity to work with other girls and grow that courage, confidence and character.”
Lagasse and co-leader Janet Whatmough worked hard to keep the troop involved and busy online, outdoors, and at special events they created. When the pandemic began, they met on Zoom, offered summer challenges outdoors, and participated in virtual escape rooms. They even enjoyed a winter Christmas party at Camp Kettleford, complete with hot cocoa in the cold.
“We’ve been having a ball!” Lagasse said. She met Whatmough “in fourth grade in our Junior Girl Scout troop! Her mother was the troop leader, and that’s how we met! And we’ve been friends ever since.”
She also stepped up from co-leader to leader just as the pandemic got started. But it wasn’t Lagasse’s first time leading – she led a troop when her daughter was little, and came back to it a few years later. She’s been with this troop for seven years, meeting at the Derry VFW twice a month. Now her daughter has completed the Girl Scout program, and is in college, but she returns to work with the troop as an adult.
“Janet and I both have only children who went to college this year,” she said. “So it’s been a wonderful ‘empty nest’ picture for us. We have 11 girls! I’ve known many of these girls since they were 5 years old.”
The troop plans to take some trips and do an overnight trip soon, and has participated in the Girl Scout cookie program.
“One of my goals is to help these girls become a little more independent,” she said. ”Even though they’re Juniors and Cadettes, we haven’t had many opportunities to be out in the world over the past couple years, so we’re going to start with a one-night overnight. We had planned to do that in 2020, but have to start where they’re at.”
One thing her Girl Scouts have loved is the escape rooms she and Whatmough design themselves, both virtual and in person.
“It is a lot of work, but it’s something Janet and I love to do,” she said, explaining that she’d learned how to do physical escape rooms for the Academy for Science and Design in Nashua, which Whatmough’s son attended. “The most recent one we created was an in-person one -- we had a meeting place! It was wonderful. And it was a Girl Scout mystery! We had a villain who broke into the Girl Scout cookie factory and stole a cookie recipe. Their job was to figure out who the crook was, what recipe was stolen.”
Cookie sales went pretty well for the troop this year, and one Girl Scout became a “rock star” seller, according to Lagasse. “She’s 12 now. She started doing this a couple years ago. She sits down with that cookie sheet, the cookie rewards, and she figures out exactly what she needs to sell in each category to get the awards she wants. She’s going to be the salesperson in my troop. She maps it out, she does the marketing, she balances where she wants her cookies, how many she has to sell before the initial order. She met her goals! She does a great job.”
Lagasse simply loves working with the girls, watching them grow and become “real people.” She’s made new friends herself, and said she and Janet love going to the council’s retreat for adults called Farnsworth Weekend, at Camp Farnsworth in Vermont.
She encourages anyone thinking of putting their child into Girl Scouts or volunteering themselves to go ahead.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” she said. “Every time I’ve called council, everybody is so willing to help! Everybody is so nice. They always find answers for me. So don’t be afraid of it. Being a Girl Scout with your daughter gives you built-in ways to do fun things together, built-in friends. And other families with kids your daughter’s age. It gives you that built-in play group when they’re little.”
Find out more about joining Girl Scouts at www.girlscoutsgwm.org.
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Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains serves girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont through volunteer-run troops, events, and virtual programs. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org to learn more.