Sisters and Scouts: Making New Friends

When Omega Phi Alpha was founded in 1967, membership was limited to university women who had been Girl Scouts or Camp Fire Girls.

Although this requirement is no longer in place, the values of the two organizations continue to coincide, and it is no surprise that many former Girl Scouts have found a home in OPA.

For Katelyn Snover, member of the Gamma Chapter at Eastern Michigan University and a member of the Girl Scouts from second grade through high school, learning about OPA’s history with Girl Scouts was a huge encouragement.

“While pledging with OPA, I was excited to see that the original members were Girl Scouts. While reading the constitution and purpose, I noticed that OPA and Girl Scouts share the same values, such as sisterhood, service and leadership,” she said. “I see the same values in the purpose as well. As members of OPA, we want to help others in the community. As in Girl Scouts, they also strive to create community projects.”

GS_AAFor many girls, getting involved in Girl Scouting early on played a prominent role in instilling a service-oriented view on life.

“I really enjoyed being a Girl Scout. I felt like it was a great place to make friends and do service,” said Pooja Patel, a member of the Omega Chapter at Rutgers University and a recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award—the highest achievement a scout can earn, with only 5.6 percent of eligible girls successfully earning the award. “It also helped me become the person I am today. When you are young and you learn to help the community, you carry that with you as you get older. Girl Scouts is the reason why I love service and actively try to do my part for the community.”

Many future members of OPA participated in their very first service projects as scouts, which is part of the reason why the organization is so special to many of its former members.

“The experiences were eye opening and impactful, especially considering how young we were,” said Kripa Patel, also of Omega Chapter at Rutgers and a recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award. “I still vividly remember volunteering at the local food pantry when I was in the fifth grade. I will never forget that experience.”

Maria (Hinkle) Price was inspired to join the organization by her mother, who was her Girl Scout troop leader. Maria is a 1998 alumna of the Epsilon Chapter at Tennessee Technological University, a recipient of the Girl Scouts Gold Award, a member of Girl Scouts for 36 years, and a former troop leader. Her passion for Girl Scouts stems in part from the confidence the organization gave her growing up.

“Through Girl Scouting, I gained the confidence to be my own person and had opportunities outside of my school and community to broaden my horizons and gain exposure to resources I normally would not have had access to in my small mountain town,” Maria said. “I wasn’t popular in elementary school, but I was a tomboy who loved to catch frogs and sing songs and play games, which made me popular at Girl Scout camp. That gave me the confidence which has served me well throughout my life and allowed me to keep a positive attitude in most situations.”

Katelyn has had a similar experience with the organization, and has been able to achieve many goals because of the support of her fellow Girl Scouts.

“I’ve continued with Girl Scouts for so long, because I enjoy the values they encourage. I loved helping people in our community. While working for Girl Scouts I’ve found a group of people who support me and help me succeed,” she said. I’ve done things this year that I’ve never thought I’d do, such as becoming a lifeguard. I used to be scared of the water, but now I’m comfortable.”

Maria also believes that Girl Scouts gave her many of the valuable skills that she still uses in her daily life.

“I have excellent sales and customer service skills, many of which I learned through Girl Scout cookie sales and product sales,” she said. “Scouting also taught me invaluable people skills and basic business knowledge.”

With her strong connection to Girl Scouts, it makes sense that Maria’s favorite service projects as an OPA active were Brownie Half Day and Girl Scouts Badge Day, in which the chapter invites Girl Scouts from all around for a day of badge work and fun.

Elizabeth McMahan, a member of Alpha Nu at Texas State University and a recipient of the Girl Scout Gold Award, also served with both Girl Scouts and OPA. She has worked at Camp Greenhill, a Girl Scout camp in Mathis, Texas, for the past seven years, and she recruited her sisters to volunteer at a few of the camp’s events.

“Omega Phi Alpha is about service, and Girl Scouts is about helping girls build character, so I thought that was a really good connection,” Elizabeth said. “They are basically my second family, which is another reason I thought they would go together. The girls have basically become another family for me as well, so it was a good fit.”

Aly Inglish, a 2010 Alpha Kappa Chapter alumna, was a Girl Scout—from Brownie to Cadette—while growing up in Arizona. She first developed her love of service and still keeps in touch with the amazing people she met during that time.

“My Girl Scout troop leaders helped me have the voice to be an OPA leader, and my OPA alumna mentors taught me how to use that voice to be a successful adult woman,” said Aly.

Last summer, Aly was hired by the Girl Scouts of Northeast Kansas and Northwest Missouri Council to work with their brand and marketing team. She loves contributing to an organization so focused on female empowerment. She considers OPA as the next phase of a life of service for girls who have loved their Girl Scout experience.

“It’s the sisterhood through a common love of giving. Both benefit from having the power to make their own decisions, but with mentors to guide them if they are willing to listen and learn. I don’t know where else in college I would have found a group of women who would trust me to serve as a leader, but who also were there to guide me,” she added.

For the women who have been involved in both Girl Scouts and Omega Phi Alpha, there is an undeniable continuity between the missions of the two organizations that makes transitioning between the two groups so natural.

“Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. This lines up nicely with OPA’s purpose: develop friendship, leadership, and cooperation by promoting service,” Maria said. “OPA and Girl Scouts are both organizations geared toward helping girls be all they can be.”

Natalie Pita (Chi), Chevron writer

While researching this story, nearly 40 OPA members’ names were randomly identified with ties to the Girl Scouts. If you were also a Girl Scout, please let us know by emailing us at chevron@omegaphialpha.org. Photos collected through the years from various chapters.