Five Girl Scout Juniors from Troop 20173 had the experience of a lifetime as they joined 7,000 of their Girl Scouting sisters on San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge for the Girl Scouts of Northern California’s Golden Gate Bridging Event.
The girls, Westfield fifth
graders Brooke Luce, Lilly Teeter, Desiree Bowen and Grace Graham and
Cassadaga’s Lily Hafner, joined leaders Patricia
Bowen and Wendy Graham on a whirlwind trip across the country. The four-day
adventure was a time of firsts: for many, it was the first time they had flown;
for some, it was their first time away from family; and for all it was their
first time amid so many of their Girl Scout peers.
“In Girl Scouting, when a girl moves up to a new level they call it bridging,” Patty Bowen said. “We’ve had bridging ceremonies over small local bridges before. When we found out girls on the west coast bridged over one of the Engineering Wonders of the World, we were in.”
The ceremony was only for 5th graders bridging from Juniors to Cadettes, which means all of Troop 20173 was eligible.
“Then we just had to
find funds,” Wendy Graham said.
The catch: the event was just
over 4 weeks away when the leaders found out about it.
“Our small community just came together to make sure we could afford it. It gives me goosebumps to think of everyone who helped to make this happen. We received donations from our local American Legion, Legion Auxiliary, VFW, VFW Auxiliary, Women of the Moose, and Westfield Fisheries along with many personal donations people made when they heard about what we wanted to do and the opportunity we wanted to give these girls. We even had most of the money for our seven flights paid for by one individual donor. It was that one anonymous donation that got the ball rolling!” Bowen said.
In the end, the girls were
able to see redwoods in Muir Woods, tour San Francisco by bus, visit Sausalito,
take a ferry ride past Alcatraz, ride a cable car, and see the sea lions on
“And that’s all besides
the main event!” Graham said. “Bridging day included walking across
the Golden Gate Bridge, various Girl Scout stations set up in Chrissy Field,
and our girls got to meet the CEO of Girl Scouts of Northern California and
earned her special CEO patch. The ceremonies closed with the largest
friendship circle in the world, which was truly awesome to see and
A real bonus was that the
girls got to meet the pilot on their return trip- herself a woman in a largely
Despite a few bouts of homesickness, all of the girls say they are eager to travel again. They are already looking toward their next scouting adventure, which was truly awesome to see.”
Bridging is one of our most beloved Girl Scout traditions and celebrates our girls’ achievements as they “cross the bridge” to the next level in Girl Scouts. This year, GSUSA planned a National Bridging Week for all councils to celebrate together.
Part of the idea is to hold bridging events throughout council this week, but it’s also about the education behind why we bridge and the resources available to you.
Many troops hold their bridging ceremony in May or June, and some tie it to the end of the girls’ current school year. You may also choose to deepen your girls’ connection with their Girl Scout sisters by holding your ceremony during National Bridging Week, which will be celebrated May 4–11, 2019.
Depending on your girls’ ages, you might find yourself doing a good chunk of the planning, as troop leader Lara Cordeiro of Girl Scouts of Western Ohio did when her girls were young. Still, says Lara, “As with everything, progression is key! The girls plan the ceremony—they pick any readings, poems, or songs that they want to say or sing. The girls cross the bridge and if they are [bridging to the next level], they get their new uniform right there. The girls also tell everyone their favorite Girl Scout memory from that level. It’s great to hear what they really enjoyed and recap those few years at that age level!”
As with other Girl Scout activities, a bridging ceremony doesn’t need to be perfect. “Weather is the only thing that’s gotten in our way, because we bridge outdoors,” says Lindsay Hayden, who leads a Senior and Ambassador troop at Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. “We’ve learned to always book a picnic shelter and forgo the actual bridge if necessary. As long as girls move from one area to the other to get the Girl Scout handshake, we feel they get the effect.”
Get families and your community involved
Share this important moment with your girls’ caregivers and other family members, and anyone else the girls wish to invite! Could be a favorite teacher, coach, or someone they volunteered with this year—and be sure to recognize these individuals at the ceremony! Even a simple thank-you from you or your troop committee and the girls goes a long way in showing troop families how much their girls appreciate their involvement and how important they are to the troop.
And don’t forget to ask for help when you need it! “In order to minimize costs and free up some of our time as troop leaders, we asked parents to sign up to bring certain food items and decorations,” says Denise Montgomery, a Junior troop leader at Girl Scouts of San Diego. “Our troop purchased two things for bridging—a cake and pizzas—and we asked for parent volunteers to pick up those items while we were rehearsing the bridging ceremony with the troop.”
Our Volunteer Experts’ Top Girl Scout Bridging Ceremony Tips:
Set your girls up for success. “When our troop bridged from Brownies to Juniors we invited the families to come a half hour after we gathered as a troop, so that we had a chance to rehearse our ceremony,” says Denise. “We try to set the girls up for success and help them feel comfortable by knowing what to expect.”
Amplify your girls’ voices…literally. “We borrowed a mobile amplifier system and microphone from a troop family to ensure that the girls would be heard by everyone when they spoke,” shares Denise. “Because we hold our bridging in the courtyard at our school there can be ambient noise in the background, and we want the families in our audience and the girls to be able to hear the ceremony. The microphone seemed to be a draw for the girls, and passing it made it clear whose turn it was to speak, so it helped us to have a smoother ceremony.”
Know who’s covering what. “We did a couple of our bridging ceremonies with another troop that’s the same grade as ours,” says Lara. “It was wonderful getting a large group together, but since [members] didn’t know one another really well, it was difficult to do the planning—no one wanted to make any decisions! In hindsight, it might have been better to split the jobs between the troops/groups and let them each run with their part.”
Outline exactly what you need from ceremony volunteers. “One thing that didn’t quite go [the best] was that we wrote a volunteer description for a Bridging Coordinator position, and we think it might have sounded like too much responsibility for one person to take on—no one stepped up to take on the role,” says Denise. “So now we have spread the responsibilities among more volunteers and have renamed the role Bridging Designer to make it sound more appealing—and there’s a creative component—while remaining clear that the person will be working with our troop members to determine theme and come up with ideas for decorations and food and to set [that part] up.”
Consider some surprises. “Each year we ask the girls who are bridging to plan a special surprise for the girls who are staying and vice versa,” says Lindsay. “Last year, our younger girls made personalized bulletin boards for our bridging girls to take to their college dorm rooms. They included personalized notes and a photograph of the troop on each.”
Check in with your council or service unit. Lara discovered that her council had a printable resource to help her girls plan their ceremony. You might also ask your service unit if it hosts a unit-wide bridging ceremony or if there are other opportunities for your girls to connect with their Girl Scout sisters at this time of year.
Need more support? Check out the Volunteer Toolkit, where you’ll find a bridging guide for Daisy, Brownie, and Junior troops in the Closing Celebrations section; for older girl and multi-level troops, you’ll find it in the Resources tab under Girl Scout Traditions and Awards.