As one of the largest service units in Girl Scouts San Diego, San Marcos Girl Scouts (GS) provides opportunities for local girls from kindergarten to high school to learn and lead. Unit projects and activities are driven by the girls’ talent and interests. There are opportunities for recreation, community service, and lifelong friendships. We spoke with Service Unit Manager Justine Panian to learn more about how San Marcos GS is empowering the next generation of leaders in 92078 and beyond.
Q&A with Service Unit Manager, Justine Panian
Can you give us an overview of the history of Girl Scouts?
Juliette Gordon Low founded Girl Scouts on March 2, 1912 in Savannah, GA, when she started a small troop of 18 culturally and ethnically diverse girls. She wanted to provide a place for all girls to grow and develop their leadership skills.
What is the history of the San Marcos Girl Scouts? When was it started?
Girl Scouts San Diego was started in 1917. It was headquartered in Balboa Park and it was the first council to open west of the Rockies. Troop 1 was known as the Oak Troop and was based in Coronado. After that, various service units, including San Marcos GS, were established throughout the county.
What is the overall mission of Girl Scouts?
The official mission of Girl Scouts is, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”
What is your role within the service unit? What is the most rewarding aspect of your role?
I am the service unit manager. The most rewarding aspect of my role is to support the other leaders so that they feel valued within the Girl Scout community, which will trickle down to the girl experience. Our ultimate goal is to build strong female leaders, and the foundation of that is having strong and confident troop leaders to execute that mission.
What was your motivation for becoming involved with Girl Scouts?
I started as a Daisy Girl Scout and eventually became a Gold Awardee. Ever since I bridged to adulthood from Girl Scouts, I always felt a need to give back to the organization that developed my leadership skills and confidence. I then was very involved with Girl Scouts as a college student, as I ran a student organization that initiated educational events for local Girl Scouts in Alabama. Especially since I grew up as a Girl Scout in San Marcos, I felt inclined to step up to the role as service unit manager to give back to my direct Girl Scout community. I truly believe in investing in girls through Girl Scouts, because
I believe that it provides a safe place for girls to express their true personality, develop healthy relationships, and acknowledge their value as a person.
What are some of the exciting plans this year for the Girl Scouts involved with the San Marcos Service Unit?
We have recently partnered with the Service Learning and internship program at Cal State San Marcos to try to recruit college-aged volunteers. This demographic brings potential to the adult volunteer community because it bridges the gap between adult leaders and girls, in addition to providing relatable role models for the girls. We currently have two Cal State students who are running a “super troop,” which takes in girls who are on the waitlist for a troop. This ensures that all girls who are interested in Girl Scouting have access to programs.
How does one go about joining a troop? Are there any restrictions as to when someone can join?
You can go to www.sdgirlscouts.org/join and there are no restrictions on when you can join.
Tell us about the various types of Girl Scout badges.
There are more traditional badges that Girl Scouts can earn, which are listed in the handbooks. These include topics that range from environmental friendliness to financial literacy. There are also various patch programs that girls can participate in. A new one that was just recently developed was the “Texas Girl Scout Hurricane Relief Patch,” which serves to increase awareness of the hurricane relief efforts in Houston as well as donate supplies to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
Tell us about some of the recent achievements of your service unit’s members.
We recently had our Volunteer Conference and Celebration, where various service unit members were recognized with awards from Girl Scouts San Diego. We had six volunteers that were awarded with the Appreciation Pin and one volunteer with the Honor Pin. Our service unit also won the President’s Award last year.
Are there any annual or upcoming events in which San Marcos Girl Scouts takes part? How can the local community contribute?
We participate in the annual holiday parade and conduct a cleanup at Kit Carson Park. We do our annual fall and cookie product sales that allow girls to fundraise money to travel and participate in Girl Scout programs with their troops. A way that the local community can contribute is to buy cookies and other Girl Scout products.
Does San Marcos Girl Scouts need volunteers? What is the process for getting involved?
Yes! San Marcos GS is always in need of volunteers. You can log on to www.sdgirlscouts.org/join to become a member of Girl Scouts or you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org for any questions about volunteering.
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
San Marcos is one of the largest service units in Girl Scouts San Diego, and we are considered a model for other service units because we function primarily through girl-planned and girl-led activities.
At-A-Glance | Service Unit Manager
Name: Justine Panian
Community: San Marcos
Education: B.S. Chemical Engineering, Minor in Mathematics (The University of Alabama). Currently employed at UC San Diego as a clinical research coordinator.
Hobbies and Interests: Swimming, running, comic books, camping, hiking, singing Girl Scout songs
Favorite Girl Scouting Memory: When I was a Girl Scout here in San Marcos, my troop fundraised for five years through almost primarily girl-planned and girl-lead events for a trip to Europe. For our trip, we went to the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) world centers in London, England and Adelboden, Switzerland, as well as Paris. It was a trip of a lifetime with best friends, who I always reminisce with when we reunite.
At-A-Glance | San Marcos Girl Scouts
Service Unit Name: San Marcos GS
Number of Girl Scouts: 700
Number of Troop Leaders: 90
Zip Codes Served: 92069, 92078, 92009, 92081
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