ST. HELENA — For 13 of the last 16 years, Norma Ferriz has been a Girl Scout leader, first in her native Mexico and for the last eight in St. Helena where she has won the admiration and love of her young charges.
She and two others, Lucero Guzman and Vivian Pirchner, are co-leaders of Troop 10688. In the early part of December, Ferriz and Pirchner brought four Girl Scouts to the Rianda House Senior Activity Center to join a group of adults from Vineyard Valley and a Daisy Troop in singing Christmas carols.
Mia Amezcua, 8, said she likes Ferriz because “she’s a very nice leader who takes us places. She’s the best leader I’ve ever had.” Amezcua has been a part of the Troop for the past two years.
Carolina Cuaxilo and Daniela Ortiz are both 9 years old. Both say their leader is a jolly person who likes to have fun with the girls and likes to take them places – like Disneyland, to the Santa Cruz beach, where they went on rides, went to the beach and rode on a train. Carolina said Ferriz “loves us really much” and adds, “I wouldn’t like another leader.”
Beyond that, though, Daniela said Ferriz is a “very good hugger and when we feel sad, she comforts us.”
Sofia Espinoza-Godina, 10, agreed with the others that Ferriz is “always jolly and happy.” She adds, “She’s really fun and she’s really courageous and I really love her.” Her favorite part of being a Girl Scout is experiencing new challenges, going outdoors and playing. The troop goes camping and has gone to Camp Bothin, a Girl Scout camp in Marin County, where there is a zip line. They have also gone ice skating.
But it’s not all fun and games for the 15 members of Troop 10688 as the co-leaders encourage their charges to be involved in community service projects. Ferriz said they have planted trees and cleaned up a creek near Vintage High School in Napa and have picked up trash.
Sofia adds, “Whenever we’re doing an activity, Norma always supports us to finish that goal. She wants us to get it done so we can feel proud of ourselves. For example, if we’re picking up trash somewhere, she wants us to finish so there can be no more trash.”
In Savannah, Georgia, in March 1912, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts. According to GirlScouts.org, Low “understood that dedicated and dynamic leaders were vital to helping girls develop their full potential.”
Girls can be as young as 5 and join the Girl Scouts as part of a Daisy Troop. In St. Helena, Julia Smith is troop leader. She brought her daughter, Abbie, and two other youngsters, Olivia Perez and Dorie Pecota, to Rianda House to sing Christmas carols.
Ferriz said her troop is multi-age as are its leaders: Lucero is in her 30s, Ferriz is in her 50s and Pirchner is in her 70s. “We have a multi-age troops, we have girls who are 7 years old, up to 13 right now, so we show them we can be different ages and we can work together.... We learn from one another and that’s something that is fantastic about our troop.”
Why does Ferriz spend time volunteering as a Girl Scout leader? Her answer is simple and at the same time profound: “Because I love spending time with them and I was very lucky – I had a wonderful childhood. I know the importance of having a great childhood and it helps one become a great adult. I wanted to share that (with my girls). I want to contribute to their childhood and support them having a wonderful childhood as well.”
She adds, “I enjoy watching them grow, watching them laugh, learning, trying new things and building friendships. I do have high hopes for the future of all of these girls and want to contribute a little grain of sand with anything I can.”
Currently, there are 47,000 girls from ages 5 to 18 involved in Girl Scouting and 32,000 adults, according to the website for Girl Scouts of Northern California.
The members of St. Helena Troop 10688 include Mia Amezcua, Camila Arranaga, Susana Arranaga, Carolina Cuaxilo, Lillie Ehlers, Sofia Espinoza-Godina, Gabriela Flores, Brissa Gomez, Candy Guzman, Jennifer Jacinto, Nelly Jacinto, Kenia Lagunas, Kimberly Lagunas, Mya Moya, Daniela Ortiz, Elizabeth Serna, Sophia Silva and Camila Zazueta.