Amazing Grace

A Montecito Girl Scout Helps Revamp a 90-year American Tradition

Grace Tynan initially thought her stint as a Girl Scout would be short-lived. Little did she know her six-year involvement with the Girl Scouts would lead to national media exposure and memories and skills she would treasure for the rest of her life. She was recently presented with a Gold Award, the highest honor a Girl Scout can receive. Grace, 16, has also participated in an innovative Girl Scout program that has utilized the 90-year-old tradition of selling cookies to teach young women sound business fundamentals.

In sixth grade, Grace was a Montecito Union student busy playing soccer, basketball and piano. That year, 2001, she reluctantly joined the Girl Scouts to placate her school friends who wanted her to be part of their troop.

“I thought I would just try it for one year,” Grace recalls. “But then I started working with children at the YMCA and meeting new friends. It was a great experience.”

Grace also sold Girl Scout cookies, an annual rite she says strikes a chord among people, both young and old. “People stop by when we are selling cookies to talk about how they sold cookies or someone in their family did,” she explains. “College students would tell me how their mom sends them cookies.” (Girl Scout cookies are currently on sale until March 25.)

In 2001, the Girl Scouts Tres Condados Council in Santa Barbara developed the CEO-in-Training Program, which helps Scouts attending high school develop real life business skills to use during the cookie sales season. The program focuses on a more aggressive sales model – offering cookies by the case, not just by the box. After receiving a flyer from troop co-leader Marsha Hill, Grace took part in the program this year, immersing herself in every facet, from mapping out sales goals to targeting area businesses and associations to tallying orders and following through on deliveries. Grace was taught to create and deliver a presentation and produce a final report at the end of the program.

“She went the extra mile for the CEO-in-Training Cookie Program last year when it was in its infancy,” Hill says of Grace. “Grace prepared a presentation that was so well done the woman in charge of Product Sales from the Council Office took her presentation to the National Product Sales meeting.”

Some could argue that Grace had an advantage going into the program. Her father is John Tynan, the president the Tynan Group, a real estate development company that in less than 10 years has handled more than $3 billion worth of projects. Either way, her contributions to the CEO-in-Training program were enough to attract national media attention, through a March 1 New York Times article and an appearance on a Fox News segment.

“I made a slideshow presentation to various businesses in town explaining how they could use the cookies for employee gifts, staff meetings and client appreciation,” Grace says of her sales pitch.

Proceeds from cookie sales will help Grace’s troop attend the 2007 World Scout Jamboree, which will be held in England this July. Although she is raising money for her troop to attend, Grace will not be among the 46,000 Scouts from 216 countries. Instead, she plans on going to France with the Santa Barbara High School Madrigals, who are mostly high school junior and senior singers scheduled to make summer appearances at the Cathedral of Chartres, Notre Dame in Paris, Mont Saint Michel and other French venues.

In addition to earning badges and selling cookies, Scouts who work toward the Gold Award must come up with a service project. The Gold Award is the Girl Scout equivalent of the Boy Scout’s Eagle Award and Grace won hers by organizing and running a summer camp for underprivileged girls living in the People’s Self-Help housing development in Carpinteria. She accomplished this with the help of four Scout friends and her mother, Mary Beth Tynan.

“We taught about ten to twelve girls at the development, most of them spoke Spanish,” Grace recalls. “One of my friends was fluent in Spanish and translated. We used the American Girl dolls to teach them about different time periods. I really enjoy history and hope to be a teacher someday.”

Lexy Patterson, the once Montecito Union sixth-grader who convinced Grace to join Girl Scouts, also helped with the project and says the girls at the housing development weren’t the only ones to take something away from the experience.

“I think Grace's project wasn't only fun for the girls but it was fun for us too,” says Patterson. “The girls at People's Self-Help Housing learned history through dolls, which is a great way to teach younger girls. It was also a learning experience for the volunteers. I had a chance to practice my Spanish and patience. Grace did a really good job explaining everything to the younger girls; she is truly amazing.”

Today, Grace can thank Patterson for cajoling her into Girl Scouts, but she can also thank herself for caving in to her friend and sticking out the experience.

“I never expected to stay in Girl Scouts for six years, but opportunities to speak and working in the community kept me interested,” she says. “I also made a lot of lasting friendships and learned lots of life skills. I do plan to stay in Girl Scouts as long as possible. It allows me to give back to my community and help others.”

Cookies by the Numbers

Girl Scouts biggest sellers each year are:

25% – Thin Mints

19% – Samoas/Caramel deLites

13% – Peanut Butter Patties/Tagalongs

11% – Peanut Butter Sandwich/Do-si-dos

9% – Shortbread/Trefoils