Girl Scouts offers adventure, leadership, sisterhood

Lucy BranamEast Knox, Our Town Youth

Melissa Hansen-Petrik, leader of Girl Scouts Troop 20596 in East Knox, knows what she’s up against. Between jobs, the freedom of having a driver’s license and other high school happenings, many Girl Scouts leave their troops as they age. But Petrik has successfully kept her Seniors (grades 9-10) in Girl Scouts.

“When they enter high school, there are a lot of competing interests, and it’s hard to schedule time for Girl Scouts,” Petrik said. “You can’t continue to do the same things they liked when they were 10. You have to ask for their input and let them take the lead.”

World Thinking Day: Girl Scouts from Troop 20596 celebrate World Thinking Day in February 2022. Senior Girl Scouts (grades 9-10) planned the event, which taught local troops about countries around the world. Pictured are (front) Savannah Fasnacht, Abi Kinsey; (back) Savannah Payne, Emma Kinsey, Megan Lambdin, Ivy Donaldson, Ellen Petrik and Bella Sampson.

Troop 20596 also includes Cadettes (grades 6-8). The Seniors enjoy leading activities for the younger Girl Scouts and exploring new interests on field trips. As the Seniors age, Petrik can see a positive change in their confidence and bond.

“Their confidence has grown through their Girl Scout experiences, especially those that played a part in planning,” Petrik said. “And the sisterhood that they have developed helped a lot with the transition into high school because they still had each other and Girl Scouts in common.”

The Girl Scouts in the troop have exciting plans for the future. Two of the Seniors will start working on their Gold Award projects this summer – Gold Awards are the highest honor in Girl Scouting and are earned by developing and carrying out lasting solutions to local issues. They also are looking forward to paddling on Watauga Lake, traveling to Chattanooga landmarks, sleeping with the sharks at Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and other exciting excursions.

“If you like adventure, want to be a leader and build a close relationship with other girls your age in a positive environment, that’s what Girl Scouts has to give,” Petrik said. “It’s never too late to get involved.”

Troop 20596 and others across East Tennessee always are accepting new members. Learn more about Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians at and find a troop by texting the word “JOIN” to 59618 or sending an email to

Lucy Branam is creative manager for Girl Scouts of the Southern Appalachians.

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