The sky’s (not) the limit for Girl Scouts, volunteers

Trumbull resident Claudine Phaire, center, receives a national appreciation award from state President Trish Bowen and CEO Mary Barnaby. — Submitted
Trumbull resident Claudine Phaire, center, receives a national appreciation award from state President Trish Bowen and CEO Mary Barnaby. — Submitted

Claudine Phaire figures out ways around problems. So when the Trumbull resident wanted to sign her daughter up for Girl Scouts, she wasn’t going to let the fact that there was no local troop stop her.

“Six years ago, my daughter Akilah was old enough to be a Daisy Scout, but I couldn’t find a troop, so I decided to volunteer and start one,” Phaire said.

Phaire co-founded the troop at Frenchtown School. That since has since merged with another troop, and now includes about 20 middle school-aged Girl Scouts. Phaire and Andrea Swan share leadership roles. In addition Phaire has taken on the role of overall manager for Trumbull Girl Scouts, coordinating activities among the various troops and organizing events for more than 500 girls, plus the other adult volunteers. Her efforts recently earned her the Appreciation Pin from the national Girl Scout organization.

Kassondra Mangione, a spokesman for the Girl Scouts of Connecticut, said under Phaire the numbers of Girl Scouts in Trumbull has been growing.

“Her volunteer recruitment team brought in 128 new Girl Scouts last year,” Mangione said. The troops are also retaining their members, with more than 80% of the new girls sticking with scouting.

Mangione credited Phaire’s passion for STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) activities with igniting the girls’ interest. Phaire said her passion for engineering kept the girls interested and made scouting more relevant.

“When they see me, all of a sudden, it doesn’t seem that far-fetched that they can do this,” Phaire said.

For all of her enthusiasm for Girl Scouts, Phaire herself was never one. In fact the Bronx, N.Y., native never gave scouting much thought until she learned of their connection to a very select group that she admired: astronauts.

“I graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering, and one of the things I thought about was trying to become an astronaut,” Phaire said. “When I started investigating everything I needed to know, I saw that they all had one thing in common.”

Phaire learned that every single American woman that has ever flown in space, 45 in all, was a Girl Scout. So when Phaire signed her daughter up for scouting, it was because she wanted Akilah to know that when it comes to her dreams and aspirations, the sky is literally not the limit.

“When I signed her up, all I knew about Girl Scouts was that it was a good organization that produces women leaders,” Phaire said. “Now I know how important it is from a very early age the girls do projects that hone their leadership and community service skills so when they get going with their lives, it already second nature.”

And it’s not just the girls that benefit from Girl Scouts, Phaire said. Since she began volunteering with the organization, Phaire has received the Women In Science Leadership Award and the Connecticut Technology Center’s Women in Innovation Award, both as a result of the work she does with scouting, she said.

“It really goes both ways,” she said. “It’s great to see the girls grow, but as an adult, I’m continually growing and being challenged too.”