- Associated Press - Sunday, May 25, 2014

GREENFIELD, Mass. (AP) - As a young girl, Molly Robinson was not a Girl Scout - but she’s more than made up for that as an adult, with a lifetime of leading Girl Scouts.

This is Robinson’s 55th year as a Girl Scout leader, and she still projects a vitality and sense of leadership that is not diminished by her use of a walker or wheelchair.

Although Robinson, 77, is a mother of four and a grandmother of seven, she has been a “second mother” to at least another 130 girls - and even to the daughters or those girls - during her later years of scout-leading.

Robinson was a junior at Pomona College in Claremont, California, when she saw an ad for a Girl Scout assistant leader. “I was looking for a volunteer activity, and a Girl Scout troop was advertising for an assistant leader,” said Robinson. “I applied. I got hooked. I was in California at the time,” she said. “There was a wonderful woman who was my mentor for several years, and I took over her troop.”

Robinson’s first Girl Scout troop was in California, and she remembers taking them on a trip to a Girl Scout facility called “Our Cabana,” in Mexico. “I didn’t speak any Spanish, but I’d heard you should always bargain the price of everything,” she said. And so, in sketchy Spanish, she accidentally bargained with a taxi driver to raise -not lower - his fare. She laughs, as she remembers his puzzled expression and his ready agreement to accept her bargained-for price.

Robinson taught statistics at Smith College for 31 years before retiring. She is also the author of a fictionalized memoir, “Rachel’s War,” about growing up during World War II. It was published by Xlibris in 2007.

Robinson and her family moved to Ashfield in 1983 - the same year that Nell Todd became part of her Girl Scout troop.

Today, Todd is the interim head of school for the Academy at Charlemont, from which she graduated in 1993. As a Girl Scout, Todd earned The Gold Award, which is the equivalent honor for Girl Scouts that an Eagle Scout award is for Boy Scouts.

Like a proud mother, Robinson has a few scouting scrapbooks that include newspaper clippings and photographs of her troop trips and the special achievements of her Scouts throughout the years. An announcement of Todd’s award is there, so is an essay called “What can I do for My Country,” by Cassie Nylan Gray, which was published in a national magazine. There are photographs for simple camping trips and the more exotic trips in which Robinson took her troop to the Grand Canyon, to St. John’s in the Caribbean. And mostly, there are tons of children’s drawings. Another of Robinson’s former scouts, Lisa Blackmer, is currently city council president in North Adams.

“I was in (Robinson‘s) Girl Scout Troop from the third grade until the 12th grade,” Todd said. “The summer before my senior year in high school, we took a train from Massachusetts to Montana. We rented a van and went to the Glacier National Park, the Teton and to Yellowstone (National Parks). It was a small but wonderful trip,” she recalled. “The summer after eighth grade, we went to St. John’s Island in the Caribbean, with the whole troop.”

“One of the things (Robinson) was able to do was to keep a really large group of girls together all those years,” said Todd. “A lot of girls leave Girl Scouting in the 6th- and 7th grades, but she was able to keep us together through high school. We went to three to four different schools, but we still had that connection.”

“She had an amazing influence,” said Todd. “For me, specifically, she gave me two things: the confidence to lead and an appreciation of the importance of leadership. She really made me feel confident as a female and as a female leader.”

“Another thing she did was teach the importance of community, to understand the importance of our town and of our place in it. Also, the importance of friendship: She helped us nurture not only our friendship with her, but our friendships with others.”

“When I was getting ready to graduate from high school, Mrs. Robinson was really helpful in getting me an internship in Washington, D.C. I owe that experience to her - it got me into Washington, D.C.”

Todd became an intern to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. She went on to serve in the Peace Corps., and spent several years afterward doing international development work in Eastern Europe and Africa. Todd also works as a consultant for Deloitte Management Consulting.

“She’s a remarkable mentor and a remarkable role model,” said Todd. “She has shaped so many girls.”

“We’re all connected to her,” added Todd. “She’s been such a constant in our lives, 20 years on.”

The website Scoutingweb.com says: “Girl Scouting has always been in the forefront of encouraging girls to explore the world beyond their doorstep.” For instance, in the 1920s, Girl Scouts could get a Telegrapher Badge if they were able to send 22 words per minute, using a sounder and American Morse code. In that decade, they could also earn a Cyclist Badge if they owned their own bicycle and “pledge yourself to offer it to the government in case of need. Know how to fix a flat tire and read a map,” the badge says. Now, there are badges for “computer smarts,” adventure sports, money-managing, and fair play.

“I think Girl Scouts is really good at keeping up with the needs of girls over time,” said Robinson. “It has increasingly looked at career potential for girls. It does more and more with getting girls to think about what their values are and about how to live their values.”

“There’s recently been a big emphasis on thinking about bullying and on how to stop it before it starts,” she said. “There have been changes in the Girl Scout laws. A new part of it is to be ‘courageous and strong.’ The uniforms have changed over the years,” she said.

Robinson said she thinks that fewer girls and young women are in Girl Scouts now than there were in 1959, when she started. “I think it’s less than it used to be, in part because more mothers work. It’s harder to get leaders and to get assistants because parents either have young kids at home or are working.”

Also, Robinson said there is less emphasis on earning badges and more emphasis on critical thinking. She said a new series of publications, called “Journeys,” invite discussion on such topics as leadership, physical fitness, sisterhood, changing the world, and honoring the environment.

Among Robinson’s Girl Scouts were her own daughter and granddaughter. “My daughter and granddaughter were part of my reason for doing this,” she said.

One of the current Brownies that Robinson leads is the daughter of another of Robinson’s Scouts.

“Over the last six years, I’ve been less able to walk, so I camped with them until about the last six years,” she said. “I was going to retire after last year - but I missed them.”

Robinson said she was talking to Stacy Adams of Ashfield about her Scout work and learned that Adams was interested in helping. Now Adams is her co-leader.

“Since I’m not mobile, I do the planning and lots of loving,” says Robinson. “She does the active stuff - taking them on hikes and sitting on the floor with the second-and third-grade Brownies.

For Robinson, the reward has been “just knowing these people over the years. Some of them are my best friends. For me, that’s been a pleasure. Some of them are in their 30s and 40s now.”

Dana Carnegie, a spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts, says participation in Girl Scouting has a proven track record for future success as well. The Girl Scout Research Institute’s study, “Girl Scouting Works: The Alumnae Impact Study,” reports women who were Girl Scouts have higher self-esteem, volunteerism, civic engagement and even income levels.

“Flexible volunteer models are one way Girl Scouts hopes to increase community involvement,” she said. Other creative ways for parents and others to volunteer with Girl Scouts include: offseason troops, when sports teams are not active for daughters or teammates, shared troop leadership, or specialty troops for older girls that focus on a specific topic, such as health and wellness, high adventure or STEM (science, technology, engineering or math).

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