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Troop 823: Where Generosity Thrives

Troop 823 members (from left) Kaytlen Akau, Kyla Koerte, Jayda Wakilina and Aleah Yano after their first Girl Scouts meeting in March 2014. PHOTO COURTESY TERESA CAIRES

When most young ladies are lounging at the beach on the weekends, Girl Scouts Kaytlen Akau, Kyla Koerte and Alexis Cacabelos of Troop 823 are lending a helping hand in the community. Between them, they’ve racked up more than 2,000 community service hours since joining the group in 2014.

“You’re always wanting to give back,” says Akau.

Before she joined, Koerte didn’t consider volunteering a part of her repertoire.

“But once I started, I actually really enjoyed it,” she says. “I don’t mind taking time out of my day to help people.”

The generous trio has received recognition for their individual work through Girl Scouts. Akau, a junior at Kaua‘i High School, was an honoree of the 2015 Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program because of her dedication to various service projects like working as a junior leader for the County of Kaua‘i’s Summer Enrichment Program.

Kaytlen Akau, junior at Kaua‘i High School

Cacabelos, a freshman at Kaua‘i High School, won a Silver Award (the second-highest award achieved in Girl Scouts) for her mission to help feed the hungry, collecting almost 400 pounds of food in 2016.

Koerte, a senior at Kaua‘i High School, was selected as the only representative from Hawai‘i to be part of a group of 21 girls from around the U.S. that helped plan the 2017 National Convention for every G.I.R.L. — Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker and Leader.

Called the G-Team, which stands for Girls Together Empowering and Mobilizing from the Girl Scouting movement, the group provided input and feedback on areas like what activities, panel presentations, discussion sessions and special events would comprise the three-day convention that took place earlier this month in Ohio.

Kyla Koerte, senior at Kaua‘i High School

“This has been the best experience I’ve ever been a part of,” says Koerte.

All three of these well-spoken, ambitious young ladies have been members of Troop 823 since they were in middle school. They have since achieved the highest Girl Scout level of ambassador. The troop, founded by Akau’s mother, Teresa Caires, consists of keiki in grades K-12 that work their way through various levels — daisies, brownies, juniors, cadets, seniors and ambassadors.

They have journey books for each level that they work through, and earn badges, as well as awards for lessons and projects completed, like kajukenbo classes, where they learned self-defense techniques. Another activity they have accomplished as a team is the Pink Pineapple Project, which is happening again this weekend. It’s where all of the island’s Girl Scout troops get together to plant pineapples and participate in activities like pollinator garden planting and leadership games.

Alexis Cacabelos, freshman at Kaua‘i High School

Each of these projects and lessons allow the girls to progress and become introduced to new thought-provoking skills and activities, almost always with a focus on community service.

“I love watching them grow, learn new things and shine,” says Caires, who started the group three years ago because she has fond memories of being a Girl Scout as a child. “Their growth has been tremendous.”

Akau says that since becoming a member her growth has largely been related to confidence.

“It was a good opportunity to get out of my comfort zone,” she says.

(From left) Kaytlen Akau, Jayda Wakilina and Alexis Cacabelos help Hawai‘i Foodbank with its annual food drive at Safeway in Līhu‘e. PHOTO COURTESY TERESA CAIRES

For Koerte, life as a Girl Scout has helped her become more assertive and open-minded.

“Being a part of Girl Scouts gives you a different view set on the world,” she says.

But it’s not always easy being a Girl Scout, especially for the older members. Akau, Koerte and Cacabelos have each been taunted since they were in middle school for being a part of the organization.

“Everyone said, ‘Girl Scouts are for kids; it’s for babies,'” says Koerte.

Girl Scouts (from left) Alexis Cacabelos, Kaytlen Akau, Kyla Koerte, Aleah Yano and Jayda Wakilina at the Kaua‘i Marathon county aid station in 2015, when they helped hand out cups of water to participants. PHOTO COURTESY TERESA CAIRES

“And they all laugh about it,” agrees Akau.

Instead Koerte says, “I just told them, ‘Watch what I’m going to do.'”

Caires says that their struggles made them stronger and helped them become exemplary role models.

“It’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing,” says Caires about how being different can be beneficial.

Girl Scouts also helps prepare young ladies for the real world and how to manage various personalities, as well as have enough initiative to work either independently or as a team.

“You think outside of the box because you work with such diverse people,” says Koerte. “So when you go into a business or certain type of job, you will know how to deal with certain situations and take a role that no one else is taking, and how to step up and be the leader if you need to.”

If you ask Koerte, Akau or Cacabelos, who have been friends since elementary school and knew each other through dance classes at Aloha Dance Studio, what some of their favorite aspects about being part of the organization are, however, they will tell you it’s the bonds they’ve formed with one another.

“It’s showed me how powerful teamwork is,” says Cacabelos.

Akau agrees. “One person has their own set of goals but we’re always there to support one another so we’re always going to be there to help them reach it,” she says.

There are several Girl Scout troops across the island and some 5,000 members in the state. Troop 823 currently has 23 girls and is accepting new members, as well as volunteers. Email Caires at girlscoutstroop823@yahoo.com or visit girlscoutstroop823.com for more information.

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