What Girl Scouts Means to Me: Susan Matz
Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.
I became a Girl Scout in the 4th grade, as it took several years to find a leader for our troop in my small town of Wooster, Ohio. That year I met a tiny girl in my troop whose family had escaped Indonesia as the communists took over the country. Gwen became one of my dearest friends and still is. We shared cultures and traditions. We laughed and worked together, had adventures in Girl Scouts, learned to be leaders and earned our First Class together.
I also discovered through Girl Scouts that being a studious, math- and science-loving girl was not only okay, but was exactly what what I was meant to be.
Gwen’s mom was a PhD chemist, and my troop leader was a biologist. Through both strong women I was able to visualize myself as a scientist. It wasn’t until I arrived at Purdue for my undergraduate work that I realized that I was vastly outnumbered by male students, and this carried through my graduate career, post doc and entire career in industry.
My Girl Scout experience taught me to be confident in my capabilities and to be courageous enough to be comfortable often being the only female in the room.
One experience that I had as a Senior Girl Scout was to attend a wider opportunity titled “Rap, Rock, Reach.” Yes, it was the early 1970s! I met girls from all over the country and from many types of backgrounds, learned first hand about diversity, including talking with women active in woman’s lib and the Black Panthers, and my eyes were opened to my prejudices.
I took my first trip on an airplane to Baltimore, stayed in my first dorm room at a college, and heard my first live rock concerts. Lots of firsts! This was one of many Girl Scout experiences that opened my mind and heart and I will always be grateful for the opportunities given me and that I was often brave enough to say “yes” to them.
Because of my experiences in Girl Scouts, I wanted to help make sure that other girls had these same opportunities. I became an assistant Brownie leader while a college student. I finally got to experience being a Brownie!
When my own daughter became old enough to be a Girl Scout, I became the troop leader, and as a troop leader for 12 years I watched all the girls in the troop grow into confident young ladies. Jessie loved scouting, especially camping and the leadership opportunities. She earned her Gold Award designing educational tools and a program about the Underground Railroad in our area that the park personnel continued to share with students after Jessie left for college. After earning a degree in design, she opened her own business.
If you ever get to Juliette Low’s birthplace, I hope you enjoy the hands on activities in the library. Jessie led the design team that turned the library into a fun, hands-on learning experience for the girls who visit. She is now in graduate school finishing a master’s degree in education.
While a Cadette and Senior Girl Scout and then as a camp counselor at Camp Butterworth, she discovered a love of teaching and then rekindled this love in the last few years teaching at a middle school in Savannah, where she lives. I know that Girl Scouting played a significant role in her development into a strong woman of courage, confidence and character with a huge heart for service and education, and it will be fun to see where her passions lead her in life.
Dr. Susan Gantz Matz is a retired research manager who now shares her love of science and gardening with children at Taft Elementary in downtown Cincinnati. She is a lifetime member of Girl Scouts and currently sits on the Girl Scouts of Western Ohio Board.