Isabella Martinez

Isabella Martinez earned more than 100 badges and patches as a member of the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona.

NOGALES — Aspiring nurse and high school graduate Isabella “Isa” Martinez is on her way to pursuing her dreams. The Ambassador-level Girl Scout has earned more than 100 badges and patches as a member of the Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona.

Martinez graduated in May from Rio Rico High School in Santa Cruz County, 14 miles from Nogales and the U.S.-Mexico Border. Martinez has been a Girl Scout for 12 years.

Girl Scouts is a one-of-a-kind, leadership development nonprofit organization with services and programs open to all girls in kindergarten through 12th grade.

Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona is one of 112 councils across the nation and is a member of the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. Internationally, The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts has World Centers located in Mexico, Switzerland, India, Africa and the United Kingdom. The Girl Scouts organization in Mexico, Guías de México (Guides of Mexico), is familiar to Martinez’s mother.

The teen’s mother, Isabel Martinez, was a Girl Scout growing up in Mexico.

“I understood the advantages of being a Girl Scout, so I welcomed and encouraged Isa’s interest in joining the Girl Scouts when she was very young,” she said.

The organization helped the elder Martinez grow and think about others. She also learned to be socially responsible. When her daughter was ready to join Girl Scouts, the elder Martinez volunteered as a co-leader and later a leader for her daughter’s Cadette troop.

The younger Martinez, who joined the organization as a Daisy when she was 6 years old, said she learned many of the same lessons.

“I remember being so excited because my cousin was a Girl Scout and I saw how much fun she had, so I wanted to be one, too. As Daisies, we had fun doing lots of art projects, activities, movie nights and community service projects, but the best thing I remember was making new friends,” she said.

Girl Scout activities center in key areas — science, technology, engineering and math; outdoors; development of life skills; and entrepreneurship.

Isabella has fond memories of selling Girl Scout cookies starting when she was a Brownie, the organization’s level for second and third graders.

“It was cool because people were so nice to us and some people even donated money to help Girl Scouts. I learned a lot and met so many people during those times. It all helped build my confidence, too. I was so shy back then. The best thing is that the friends that I met are still friends with me today,” she said.

As a Junior Girl Scout in the fourth and fifth grades, she learned about self-care and the needs of the community, often taking part in projects such as food drives and helping the homeless and poor families.

The more she became involved in scouting and the community, the more her confidence grew, she said.

At Camp Whispering Pines on Mount Lemmon, she learned to use a compass, tie ropes and make a campfire.

“The best part about the camping trips was that we were isolated — away from the world, so we had to focus on each other. We talked to different people we met there, made more new friends and just had a great time,” she said.

The badges and patches acquired during her 12 years of scouting represent each of her adventures and experiences.

“I feel a real sense of accomplishment when I look at my vests with all those patches,” she said. “I have so many memories and look back on all that I learned and experienced by trying new things.”

One of her fondest memories was attending Girl Scout leadership experience Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker and Leader conference in Tucson last year.

The annual conference for middle and high school girls encourages young people to discover and unleash their GIRL power through a day of skill building, self-reflection, leadership development and inspiration. Workshops include such topics as learning how to prep to backpack in desert conditions and practicing self-defense techniques as well as honest conversations around mental health, self-esteem and body image. Each workshop encourages girls to leave their comfort zones behind and develop new skills across a broad range of topics, including entrepreneurship, STEM, life skills, the outdoors and healthy living.

“They had different sessions for us to pick and choose from, such as art and debate sessions, but the one I really loved the most was about self-image,” the teen said. “I’ve struggled with loving my body and loving myself, and that session really helped me to love myself just the way I am.”

Now a high school graduate, the teen plans on a career in the medical field by first taking undergraduate studies at Pima Community College, then transferring to Northern Arizona University for a nursing degree.

She plans to work part-time as a caregiver to get more practice in the field. She said she sees herself working at a hospital, specializing in labor and delivery.

As an Ambassador-level Girl Scout, she plans to bridge into an adult lifetime membership. Bridging is a beloved Girl Scout tradition that honors girls’ achievements throughout the year and celebrates their “crossing the bridge” to the next Girl Scout level. It is a defining moment when a girl becomes aware of her achievements and is ready for new adventures and responsibilities.

She said she encourages young girls to participate in Girl Scouts to learn more about themselves.

“You meet new people who later become like your family — sisters really — and you learn to love yourself and care for other people too,” she said. “I’m also planning to become a troop leader when I’m older. It’s just a wonderful experience.”

Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout.

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Beverly Gomez Arriaga is the community development specialist for Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona, which includes most Pinal County troops. For information about joining an area group, call 520-319-3173 or send an email to barriaga@girlscoutssoaz.org.

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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