Back-to-school means back-to-scouting for Troop 22044

Gretchen CrawleyKarns/Hardin Valley, Our Town Youth

As summer draws to a close and the bell tolls for a new academic year, the choices for extracurricular activities are aplenty. For Carrie McCulley, one stands out for its century-long legacy of building character, leadership and camaraderie: the Girl Scouts.

A former Girl Scout herself, McCulley returned to the fold when her older daughter, Kailyn, brought home a flyer promoting the program just shy of three years ago. Not only did she sing its praises – “You get to do fun activities, make new friends, serve the community and learn new skills you’ll use your whole life” – she ended up starting Troop 22044 for her younger daughter, Kendall, who is now 8 years old and entering the third grade.

At a time when children are discovering their voices, Girl Scouts offers an environment conducive to fostering friendships and skills beyond the classroom. “It creates a sense of community,” McCulley said.

Troop 22044 comprises 11 Brownies, all in the second or third grade. With members from different schools and even some who are homeschooled, it presents a melting pot of experiences that helps the girls bond with peers they might not interact with in their daily lives.

Some of the girls joined the troop as Daisies, a formative age. “When they start in kindergarten or first grade, school is still fairly new, and they’re still learning how to be social with other children that have different behaviors and skill sets and ways to communicate,” McCulley said. “I’ve tried to keep it very simple for them and just help them build confidence in themselves. My biggest thing is making them feel valued and seen and beautiful, and to teach them to be kind.”

McCulley noted the transformations she has seen in the girls throughout the school year, as timid hellos develop into boisterous laughter and deep friendships. “I definitely see their confidence growing as they become more comfortable with each other,” she said.

She has observed them coming out of their shell through activities such as selling cookies together at cookie booths; initially hesitant, by the end of their shifts the girls are glowing, interacting with customers and proud of their sales.

From the first overnight camp at Camp Tanasi to back-to-school pool parties and participating in the Karns Fair Christmas Parade, the girls have had plenty of adventures. Crafts are a favorite activity, as well as community service. The troop has collected food for Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee, made pet toys for a local animal shelter and created mini-Christmas trees and cards for hospice care. A favorite memory was delivering Girl Scout cookies to coach Kellie Harper and the Lady Vols basketball team.

For parents and guardians deliberating about the benefits of joining the Girl Scouts, especially during the busy back-to-school period, McCulley shared words of encouragement. “Classroom time is not always set up for getting to know one another,” she said. “Girl Scouts is a great opportunity for girls to have some time set aside just to meet new friends and build those relationships.”

Learn about volunteering with Girl Scouts at If you know a girl who would love to sink her roots into the Girl Scout experience, find a nearby troop at, by texting “JOIN” to 59618 or sending an email to You may register your girl or become a volunteer anytime during the calendar year!

Gretchen Crawley is vice president of communications for Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians. 


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