“Sara Jo is the ultimate Girl Scout. When I think of Sara Jo, I often think of the Juliette Low quote that reads, “You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout”.”
A lot can happen in 50 years. Think about it. From 1950 – 2000, the Korean War officially ended, Rock & Roll took over the music scene, Nelson Mandela went to, and was released from, prison, the Civil Rights Act was passed, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, The Godfather made its glorious debut, Pablo Picasso dies, The Watergate Scandal shocked America, the Hubble Telescope is launched into space, the human population reached 4 billion and the Internet was on a mission to take the world by storm.
All of these events are forever solidified in history books and museums, national monuments and immortalized by those who have shaped our world and affect the way it turns today. And just as history can be made on a global scale, it can have the same kind of impact in our backyard.
Then there’s Sara Jo Mueller. A Girl Scout through and through, she’s receiving her 50 year pin during this year’s Annual Meeting & Adult Volunteer Recognition Luncheon for her unmatched commitment to Girl Scouts. From her early scouting days to having a hand in the progression of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, her impact has affected just about all of us and her list of accomplishments are nothing short of amazing.
She worked with the Finance and Membership departments to help streamline training, forms and procedures related to financial management of activities, troops and service units. She worked on the realignment to merge the Cross Timbers, Red River and Tejas councils into the present-day Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas council. She worked to revise council policies and procedures. She and her mother, Scottie Hubbard, chaired the Family Partnership Committee and were responsible for a significant increase in donations for the council. She served as a delegate on the national level for GSNETX, authored several service unit toolkits, served on the Trainer Leadership, Council Awards and Voluntary Advisory Committees over the course of 30 years. The list goes on.
But what you see on the surface hardly defines who Sara Jo is a person. Like everyone, she had to start somewhere. In this case, her story began in Iowa City, Iowa.
“Sara Jo has been a role model to me and many others.”
– Jennifer Hoch
GS: Where are you originally from?
SJ: I was born in Iowa City, Iowa where my father was getting a PhD in nuclear physics at the University of Iowa. I spent elementary school in Tulsa, Oklahoma (K-8 grades). Then I lived for two years in Houston and finished my last 2 ½ years of high school in Richardson.
GS: What is your earliest memory as a child?
SJ: I remember waiting at a neighbor’s home for my parents to come home with my new baby sister when I was 3.
GS: What is one thing about you that even your closest friends would never guess?
SJ: As a child, I thought it would be great to work with handicapped children. This is one of the many things I got to do as a Girl Scout.
“Sara Jo is an amazing balance of trailblazer and zen master. She knows who she is, and she works hard to focus her energy into things she truly believes will make the world better for all.”
GS: Do you have any siblings? If so, how many? Were they in scouts, too?
SJ: I have a sister who is 3 years younger. She was also in Girl Scouts and earned the First Class award (highest award at the time). She lives in Richardson and is a lifetime Girl Scout because my mother paid for the membership.
GS: Who encouraged you to get into Girl Scouting? Why?
SJ: No one. When I was in second grade (the youngest grade you could join), I got flyers for Girl Scouts and Camp Fire. We didn’t have any connection to either group. I guess my friends were joining Girl Scouts so I did, too.
GS: Growing up, how did Girl Scouts positively affect you?
SJ: It gave me confidence and allowed me to try things that I would never have gotten to do without Girl Scouts, especially camping.
GS: Of the Girl Scout Law, what line describes who you are the most? (ex: honest and fair) Why?
SJ: A Girl Scout’s Honor Is to Be Trusted. This was the first Girl Scout Law when I was a girl. I was present when we voted to change the law in 1972 for the first time in 52 years. But I was already out of college by then. So what I think of as the original laws have always meant the most to me. Honor is very important to me and I hope I always act in ways that show that I obey this law.
” Many of us rely on Sara Jo for her knowledge, her steadiness, and her commitment to the council. Much of who we are as a council is a result of Sara Jo’s volunteer influence over the years.”
-Jennifer Bartkowski, GSNETX CEO
GS: How deeply rooted is your family in Girl Scouts?
SJ: I have been in Girl Scouts the longest. My mother joined one year after I did and my sister 3 years later. My mother worked for Tejas Girl Scout Council from 1965 to 1986. She was a field advisor for West Dallas and later in charge of camping. During her tenure, we bought and started developing Camp Bette Perot.
GS: As a Girl Scout, what was your proudest accomplishment?
SJ: As a girl, I earned the Curved Bar. It was the highest award in Girl Scouts at the time. You had to earn Tenderfoot, Second Class and First Class first. You had 5th through 8th grade to accomplish all of those awards. Then you became a Senior Girl Scout in 9th grade. I earned Curved Bar at the beginning of 8th grade and when I was in 9th grade the program changed. We had a one year transition time. So in 9th grade, I stayed in the old program model and in 10th moved to the new plan. The new plan had 4 levels of Girl Scouts – Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, and Seniors. When I started it was Brownies, Intermediates, and Seniors.
“Sara Jo Mueller is a model for all of us to give back to this organization that builds girls of courage, confidence, and character.”
– Carol Short
GS: What is the most meaningful opportunity Girl Scouts has given you?
SJ: In 10th grade, I was chosen to be in one of 4 patrols of eight girls to go to the last international Roundup Encampment in Idaho in 1965. We trained with the other girls from Tejas Girl Scout Council for a year and then traveled to Idaho by train for approximately 2 weeks. It was totally primitive camping. Each patrol was put with 3 other patrols from across the country to be a “troop.” We had a troop leader, but she wasn’t around a lot. Mostly we were on our own. The adults were there, but managed to stay in the background. It was a great feeling to be so prepared that we could handle ourselves without adults constantly telling us what we needed to be doing. We cooked 3 meals a day, put up all of our tents, built a picnic table to eat at, planned our activities, and made sure we were where we were supposed to be on time. There were approximately 12,000 people there from all over the world. Last fall, people who were associated with one of the 4 Roundups met in Idaho for a week to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that Roundup.
“Sara Jo always has a dedication to service, has a smile on her face and is always willing to go the extra mile to help others.”
– Debbie Roling, GSNETX CFO & CAO
GS: When did you know you wanted to continue your Girl Scout journey as a volunteer?
SJ: I always planned to continue in Girl Scouts. I had a troop in college and started a Campus Girl Scout group on my campus. I went to college planning to work for a Girl Scout council when I graduated. And I did. I worked for 3 years at Wheatbelt Area Girl Scout Council headquartered in Hutchinson, Kansas and then for 1 ½ years at Circle T Girl Scout Council in Fort Worth. It was strange moving to a state where I knew no one, but I was prepared to handle myself partly because of my experiences in Girl Scouts. Wheatbelt was a wonderful place for a first job. Because it was a small council with only 4 professional staff, we got to do lots of things that wouldn’t be possible for someone working in a large council. I was a Field Advisor working with neighborhoods (now Service Units), advisor to the camp committee, training director, in charge of Counselor-In-Training for 2 summers and a resident camp director for 1 summer. After I stopped working for Girl Scout councils, it was natural to continue volunteering.
GS: Why do you think it’s important to invest in girls?
SJ: Girls have been largely overlooked in our society and they have so much potential and ability to do great things. We need to help girls grow in confidence and realize all the things that they can do and change in their world.
GS: How have you seen the Girl Scouts organization change over the years?
SJ: The way we organize ourselves has changed a lot over the years. But the important thing is that our core values have never changed and I don’t believe that they ever will. We change to be sure that we can engage girls in what they are interested in and help them to be the best that they can be.
“I cannot begin to express how much Sara Jo means to me and how much I respect her. For the past 5 years she has held a leadership role in the training team an my personal consiglieri – my adviser, my counselor, someone I trust and turn to for a valued opinion – as well as my second pair of sharp eyes for editing. Honestly, I wish she could have been my mom – I esteem her that much.”
GS: What is the one thing Girl Scouts does that no other organization can do?
SJ: They provide an atmosphere where it is okay for girls to try new things and to develop their leadership abilities.
GS: Where do you see the Girl Scouts organization going in the future?
SJ: I believe that we will always work to help girls develop to their greatest potential.
GS: How do you plan to continue your legacy as a Girl Scout?
SJ: I will continue to volunteer with Girl Scouts in whatever way is possible for me.
“Sara Jo’s commitment to the ideals of Girl Scouting is complete and she puts that commitment into practice through her ongoing work, offering her talents and energy for the betterment of girls.”
– David Mueller, Sara Jo’s husband
A lot can happen in 50 years and Sara Jo is living proof of that. From the very beginning she’s had it in her to go above and beyond, lend a hand wherever it’s needed and launch our movement forward in order to give those around her the best opportunities and experiences. As a result, she’s influenced hundreds of people and inspired them to join her in continuing diligent work. These last few decades she’s watched girls blossom into strong women in leadership, made countless friends and strengthened our mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.
As a family, we realize how incredibly fortunate we are to have a sister Girl Scout like Sara Jo in our corner. She’s the ultimate spirited sidekick and a perfect example of how one person can make a world of difference.