A girl on the go Sarah Poutree is exploring new places and real issues
In a world where so many teens are in a hurry to find their niche, longtime Girl Scout Sarah Poutree, a junior at Brunswick High School, refuses to be pinned to just one passion—or one place.
“I reach a certain point with one thing, and I want to do something else, too,” Poutree says. “It’s almost torture in a way because I’m so busy. But it’s also so much fun because I always have something to do.”
Norma Poutree, Sarah’s mother and one of the leaders of Troop 1089, says, “I told her she needed to take a picture with her Girl Scout vest, her chamber choir dress, her sax, her softball hat and a couple of her summer campers hanging off her dress.” (That’s a no-go.)
One of Sarah’s passions—sales—has been key to her being able to earn enough money to attend the 10-day Global Student Leaders Summit in Germany and Switzerland this July.
“I’m the only Girl Scout in the country going right now,” Poutree says, adding that she earned the $5,600 through cookie sales, yard sales and serving chili, soups and “walking tacos” in bags of Fritos. It took her two years, but she’ll tour one of Berlin’s repurposed industrial complexes with an urban planner, hike through an Alpine glacier and explore a vast underground city in a nuclear bunker in Lucerne.
“There’s a lot of stuff about renewable energy,” says Poutree, whose interest was piqued when she was visiting colleges in Vermont and saw an abundance of solar panels. “Germany is the world leader right now in solar power.”
Tami Fisher, who was Poutree’s Girl Scout leader starting in second grade, is traveling to Europe with her—capping off a series of trips they’ve taken together with Troop 1089 over the past decade. There have been sleepovers at the Boston Science Museum, where no one wanted to sleep under a Tyrannosaurus rex, a Winter Carnival in Quebec City in sub-zero temperatures and so many camping trips that Poutree’s email address includes the phrase “pillowpack.”
“I really like going new places,” Poutree says. “I always learn something unexpected.”
In 2017, Poutree was a delegate at the Girl Scouts national convention in Ohio, voting on policy and hearing speakers such as global health equity advocate Barbara Pierce Bush, figure skater Sasha Cohen, gymnast Gabby Douglas and Girl Scouts CEO Sylvia Acevedo, a former NASA rocket scientist.
Poutree must have picked up some elocution pointers from these motivational speeches, because she won a state speech tournament, presenting material by political satirist P.J. O’Rourke.
“I used to lean fairly conservative, but after this past election I’m not quite there anymore,” says Poutree, who jokes that she thought Hillary Clinton was going to beat her to the punch in becoming the first female President of the United States.
As Poutree wraps up her junior year, she’s giving junior varsity softball a try, starting a part-time job at American Eagle and looking forward to a summer with Brunswick Parks & Rec, where she’s been promoted to assistant supervisor after two summers as a counselor working with first- through sixth-graders. Then it’s back to jazz band, honors wind ensemble, concert band and chamber choir—and, of course, Girl Scouts.
The troop spent a weekend together in North Conway, New Hampshire, in May, visiting a water park and an escape room before four out of the eight girls graduated. Poutree, now a rising senior, is working on her Gold Award project, which will address issues of body image through photographs.
“I want to have people take pictures of themselves, each of them in blue jeans, a white T-shirt and their favorite pair of shoes,” Poutree says. “I was on a college tour, and the guide said she knew it was going to be a diverse place because when she visited everyone was wearing different shoes. You can definitely pick out people’s priorities.”
On a more serious note, Poutree’s inspiration in selecting body image as her theme was a friend with an eating disorder. Also, she has observed that foreign exchange students exhibit slightly different cultural norms about beauty. She hopes to include exchange students in her project or even photograph a few students from around the world who will be at the Student Leaders Summit in Berlin.
“I have seen major, major growth in her,” Fisher says. “She takes charge—not in a bull in a china shop way of taking charge. She just has a presence, and people follow her.”
For more information on Girl Scouts of Maine: girlscoutsofmaine.org
Amy Paradysz is a writer, editor and photographer who lives in Scarborough.