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Troop Leader Spotlight: Deb McNelly

Deb McNelly with girls in her troop

Troop Leader: Deb McNelly

Service Unit: Sunflower Ridge, Ambassador Troop 01998

GS history: Twelve years with Girl Scouts–10 as a Troop Leader!

Deb, Tell us why you invest the time and effort in being a Troop Leader? My passion has always been the girls. I want them to not only experience things that they might never do in school or home, but also give every girl the opportunity to become all they can be. And to help them gain confidence in the process.

Do you have a camp name? What is it and the story behind it? My camp name is MacGyver because I am "jack" of all issues, activities and problems. When it comes to the girls I want them to know they can do anything, anytime, anywhere not matter what the circumstances are. You just can't give up!

Favorite GS program and why? I would have to say CAMP for so many different reasons. First, summer camp gives some girls their first real independent experience and second, camp allows them to be bold and try new things. Neighborhood encampments allow girls to lead in a safe, secure environment.

If you were a GS cookie what would it be and why? I would say that I'm a Thin Mint, bold personality with a cool refreshing attitude and ideas.

What was the most inspiring moment you’ve experienced? There is no single most inspiring moment, my troop girls inspire me with everything they do. They always put others first and want to make a difference in every girl they meet. They take the time to make other girls feel important and encourage them to do their very best.

What has been your proudest moment? My proudest moment was watching my oldest daughter fill out her own lifetime Girl Scout Membership. As a Girl Scout of 12 years she is now ready to give back as an adult, just as she had continually done throughout her Girl Scout experience. 

How do you balance the demands of being a Troop Leader? At this point, my troop girls make being their leader effortless. They are very capable, driven young ladies and I am usually following their lead in everything we do. 

What goals and projects are you currently working on? My Seniors and Ambassadors are focused on holding neighborhood events and mentoring younger girls. As a leader, my role has become more supportive rather than directive. This allows me the time to also focus on recruitment and retention in our community. I currently help mentor a group of older girls from the northwest valley called "Girls on a Mission." These are service-minded girls that are interested in giving back to their community and Girl Scout neighborhoods. I am also now a Council Trainer, which allows me first contact with new leaders in our community.

What advice would you give other Troop Leaders? Continually encourage the girls to step outside their comfort zones and experience all they can. Help them build strong leadership skills by allowing them to be leaders every day. Recognize their achievements, and allow them the safe space to do better. Seek mentorship as a leader, and never stop asking for help when needed. 

What do you wish someone had told you as a new leader? My advice to other leaders is to remember everything does not always have to be perfect and that you are there to walk beside the girls in this awesome journey, not in front.