Data from the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that participating in Girl Scouts is a foundation for success in education and careers, enables a lifetime of leadership, and provides high levels of life satisfaction. Alums, such as Susan Smigielski Acker, say being in Girl Scouts set them on a path for achievement. Susan is the co-founder, publisher and editor of VA Peninsula Media which produces the free, bi-monthly, VA Peninsula Magazine, available in 90 locations in Hampton, Newport News, Yorktown and Poquoson. You can also subscribe to their weekly e-newsletter.
Susan is proud of her Girl Scout history. Growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, Girl Scouts was a part of Susan’s youth and was something her family supported. Both her parents, dad a Navy career man and mom who worked for the Department of Defense, considered education a priority—in and out of the classroom. Susan’s mom became involved and took on the role of troop cookie chair for three seasons. She served as a chaperone on many of Susan’s daughters’ Girl Scout capers!
“My favorite memory is Camp Apasus in Norfolk,” Susan said. “I still remember the camp theme song! I really enjoyed it both as a child and adult. In 2012, I took my daughters to Camp Apasus’ reunion. It was 10 days after my mom’s funeral and that morning of the reunion, we placed her ashes in her church’s columbarium. Going there for the picnic lunch cheered me and my daughters following a very sad time.”
Susan’s love for writing and her talent in the arts was encouraged at home and in Girl Scouting. After graduating from Old Dominion University where she was the managing editor of the Mace and Crown, she worked in south Georgia as a staff writer for The Valdosta Daily Times and The Statesboro Herald. She also spent time as a staff writer for The Hourglass on the U.S. Army Post of Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific’s Marshall Islands and, here in Virginia, she worked at NASA Langley Research Center and spent 17 years as a freelance journalist prior to starting VA Peninsula Media.
“I know my years in Girl Scouts helped me face challenges and become a well-rounded individual,” she said. “Girls will always face challenges. Today’s challenge is too much screen time. There are so many opportunities to get lost in staring at the phone and computer.”
For Susan and her family, who now live in Newport News, being “unplugged” and scheduling outdoor activities is a must. They routinely go to the beach, bike, and hike. Her daughters, Charlotte and Julia, now in college, take as much time as possible to get outdoors and enjoy nature. Julia, who like her mom spent time in Girl Scouting, says camping and the outdoor experiences were some of her favorites.
“Girl Scouting can really ignite a lifelong love for the outdoors,” Susan said. “It is at the core of the Movement and every girl deserves the opportunity to be introduced to and benefit from the outdoor program. It will help her challenge herself and explore which, in turn, will impact how she responds to the world in the future.”
Thanks to Susan and other Girl Scout alum, Girl Scouting can continue and be introduced to new generations. This year, VA Peninsula Media, through Susan’s leadership, has joined other media partners in support of the 2022 Famous Formers Luncheon where women leaders who are Girl Scout alum will be recognized. The event, which raises funds to help further Girl Scouting locally, will take place on Thursday, September 15 at the Hampton Roads Convention Center.