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Eleven years ago, Gillian DeWit put on her Girl Scout Daisy uniform for the first time. The small light-blue tunic would eventually be adorned with leadership leaves and petals, showing her understanding of the Girl Scout Law.

Gillian, now a junior at Kennard-Dale High School, is still a Girl Scout today but now dons a khaki vest, the uniform of an Ambassador, the highest tier of Girl Scout membership.

"I started when I was 5 or 6 and never missed a year," she said. "The program itself is just very good. You find a lot of friends through Girl Scouts; the friends I made when I was 5 I'm still friends with today."

Joining: Girl Scouts is open to any girl from kindergarten through grade 12, and anyone over the age of 18 can become a Girl Scout volunteer. There will be several opportunities across York County to sign up through the end of September.

Gillian encouraged anyone thinking about joining to "go for it."

"Not only will you make friends that will last 11, 12-plus years, it will teach you how to get out of your comfort zone," she said. "I'm definitely ahead of the curve in public speaking and leading groups and giving in work that is above average ... that kind of stuff comes from Girl Scouts."

In addition to all that Scouting has taught her, she also has turned to her fellow Scouts for guidance, she said.

"You never feel alone, even if you're in a small troop," she said.

"I know when I have kids, when I have little girls, I'm definitely going to put them into this program.

"It makes you a very determined person who wants to go further, and I think everyone needs that in life."

Cookies: While the cookies are definitely a perk, Gillian — whose favorite Girl Scout cookie is a toss-up between the Thin Mint and the Samoa — said being a Scout is more than just cookies and art projects.

In May, Gillian's troop was honored with the Senior Visionary Award for its in-depth project that aimed to shed light on how the media affects girls' body images.

"I'm a big fan of the projects," she said. "The work can be tedious, but the end product of everything is so great. ... It's very empowering when you do an outstanding project and the head of Scouts posts it on the blog page, you just feel very strong about what you did."

Gillian, who hopes to become an English teacher, is working on another project this year for her Gold Award, one of the highest achievements earned as a Girl Scout.

Signing up: To join Girl Scouts or learn more about volunteering, call 800-692-7816, visit www.girlscouts.org/join or attend one of these sign-up nights.

•Monday, Sept. 21, at York Alliance Church at 501 Rathton Road, 6-7 p.m.

•Tuesday, Sept. 22, at Chick-fil-A at 14665 Mount Airy Road in Shrewsbury, 6:30-8 p.m.

•Thursday, Sept. 24, at Kruetz Creek Library at 66 Walnut Springs Road in Hallam, 6-7 p.m.

•Friday, Sept. 25, at Zion Lutheran Church at 2215 Brandywine Lane, 6-7 p.m.

•Tuesday, Sept. 29, at Village Library at 35 N Main St. C in Jacobus, 6-7 p.m.

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at jschladebeck@yorkdispatch.com.

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