How I came to a career making the world a better place

The Girl Scout promise and law have helped guide Emily Kowalski to a career as a public interest and environmental advocate.

Green living

Emily Kowalski | TPIN
Emily Kowalski as a Brownie Girl Scout.

From kindergarten through high school I was part of troop 1047 of the Girl Scouts of the San Francisco Bay Area. My troop sold cookies, went camping and cooked over a campfire, we sang songs, performed skits and earned badges. And, in addition to learning about the world around us, we did projects to help make the world a better place.

Help people at all times

As Brownie Girl Scouts, we talked about how to be helpful members of our community and do a good turn daily. Each member of my troop had a paper mouse that we would knot the tail of each time we did a good turn.

As a Senior Girl Scout I earned my Gold Award by organizing a project that provided performing arts opportunities at the local elementary school. We made set pieces that could be used in future productions, stocked a costume box and produced a musical starring 5th and 6th graders, complete with a tap dance number and live accompanist. 

And throughout my time with my troop we did service projects. My mom taught us how to make no-sew blankets that we donated to those in need. We organized a toiletries drive and cleaned up community spaces. I learned concrete skills like how to properly paint a wall, and also learned the value of serving my neighbors and my planet.

Make the world a better place

When it was time for me to find a full–time job I knew that I wanted to live my values through my work. I explored different types of service and teaching roles and eventually found my way to political advocacy. Since graduating from college in 2010, I have helped register voters in Colorado, trained college students in California to campaign for stopping the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms, knocked on doors in New Hampshire to help ensure continued protections of our rivers through the Clean Water Act and organized community members in Illinois to advocate for policies that reduce single-use plastic pollution. While the specifics of each of those campaigns was different, on each one of them I was able to use my skills to move us step by step towards a greener, healthier, safer world. 

My experience in Girl Scouts planted the seed for my calling: making the world a better place.

Emily with conservation intern Kamebry at Lincoln Park Zoo to talk about the importance of protecting wildlife. Emily Kowalski | TPIN
Emily with Environment Illinois volunteers after a beach cleanup. Staff | TPIN
Emily with members of the Coalition for Plastic Reduction at a lobby meeting with Illinois Representative Will Guzzardi. Emily Kowalski | TPIN

Be a sister to every girl scout

Making a career out of working for social change has its challenges. Powerful special interests that outspend us run campaigns opposing our issues. The work itself can be intimidating. Knocking on my first door asking for support on a clean water campaign would have been even more challenging if I hadn’t had experience selling Girl Scout cookies in front of grocery and hardware stores. 

When faced with these challenges I gain resources and find inspiration from working with a team that shares my values and dedication to the vision of a better world. 

I am never surprised when I learn that my colleagues have a history with scouting. After all, Girl Scout alums are in leadership positions all across our society. I’m proud to be working side by side with so many of my sister Girl Scouts to make the world a better place.

Campfire eclairs (Emily’s favorite campfire treat)

Tools & Ingredients:

  • Instant pudding mix
  • Milk (or water)
  • A pastry bag or container and spoon
  • Dowels (1 ½ in. diameter by 12-18 in.)
  • Aluminum foil
  • Premade dough (refrigerated biscuit or crescent dough work great, depending on taste preferences)
  • Ice and cooler
  • Campfire


Step 1: Make your instant pudding according to the directions. Set aside. If you are able to prep your pudding mixture before heading to your campsite, seal it in a container in your cooler for transport. 

Step 2: Prep your dowels by covering everything but the last 6 inches with aluminum foil. The aluminum foil will get hot, so make sure to leave room to hold the stick!

Step 3: Wrap your premade dough around the end of the stick to create a tube with one end closed. 

Step 4: Cook your dough case over the campfire until browned/cooked according to the package.

Step 5: Remove your eclair case from the dowl by gently sliding it onto a plate. Be careful, your cooked dough will be hot!

Step 6: Fill your eclair case with pudding and enjoy.


Emily Kowalski

Outreach & Engagement Manager, Environment Illinois

Emily manages the marketing and public engagement strategy for Environment Illinois's campaigns, including our campaign to protect the Great Lakes from plastic pollution. Emily lives in Chicago where she enjoys knitting and biking.