Star of Queens: Cheryl Swiatkowski, Girl Scouts of Greater New York

Cheryl Swiatowski

COMMUNITY SERVICE: “My community service is really for the Girl Scouts of Greater New York. I started volunteering in September of 1980 at St. Adalbert’s in Elmhurst, and after 1990 I continued on to take on additional roles with the Girl Scouts. I was asked if I could become a trainer, which was a volunteer position to instruct other volunteers who wanted to be Girl Scout leaders. From there I started to do outdoor training, and in addition to my troop responsibilities, I went on to be a camp director. I also became an association chair, so I was also in charge of running meetings so that leaders could get together and exchange plans for programs and activities. At that point, I was invited to attend board meetings as a representative of the volunteers so that the board would understand what a volunteer did and the importance of the relationship between them and the girls.

She continued, “After I stopped being a troop leader in the early 2000s, I took on roles to work with adult volunteers, and other women took over being troop leaders at schools and churches. I was elected to the board of directors, and after a few years, the secretary of the board. I chaired the committee over the next few years, and in 2012 the committee told me they didn’t want me to chair anymore so that I could be honored. My emphasis right now is going to be helping volunteers get recognized and continuing to have a strong contingent so we can continue to make sure scouting is available to every girl in New York City.”

Cheryl Swiatowski is also the recipient of the Thanks Badge II, the highest award at the national level that an adult volunteer can receive, and the New York Executive Award, the highest award at the council level that a adult volunteer can receive. A volunteer is eligible for this award by providing at least five years of continuing services at a council level after having received the Thanks II Badge.

BACKGROUND: “My grandparents moved here from Poland, and I was born right here in Queens, born and raised in Maspeth. I was a Girl Scout at St. Adalbert’s, where I won the First Class Scout award, which was the highest honor a girl could earn at that time. I joined the Girl Scouts because at the time, there were very few extracurricular activities for girls, especially since women’s sports wouldn’t really come about until the late 1960s. Today I’m living in Kew Gardens Hills.”

FAVORITE MEMORY: “I have many favorite memories, but one of them is from when I was at camp. I was able to see a girl from the time she was in the fourth grade to the time she was a senior in high school. Each year I could see how she grew, developed, changed, and took on different roles until she became the person the younger girls looked to for guidance. I saw growth and confidence build in her, and watched her grow into a young woman. That’s what it’s all about.”

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: “My biggest challenge right now is figuring out how we can continue to reach these girls and reach out to more of them in general. It’s difficult getting people to realize the importance of volunteering and realize that they need to support these organizations, whether it’s as a volunteer or with contributions so that the work can continue.”

INSPIRATION: “There are a number of people in my life who have inspired me by doing little everyday things and not looking for applause. What inspires me is knowing that if we take one step forward every day and help just one person – whether physically or emotionally – that we can really make a difference.  I see inspiration in a lot of people.”




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