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A Good Scout

Jessa Rank, right, service unit coordinator for Girl Scouts of Northern California Sonoma Valley, helps Claire McNairy, 11, left, and Ivy Blackwood, 10, center, of Troop 10141 sell Girl Scout cookies in front of the Wells Fargo Bank in Sonoma, Friday, Feb. 15, 2013. (Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat)

Sonoma woman uses business, leadership skills to boost Girl Scouting

By MELODY KARPINSKI
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

For Jessa Rank, Girl Scouts is a family affair.

Rank, 34, joined the Girl Scouts as a first-grader and now serves as the organization’s volunteer service unit director.

Her mother, Dianne Rank, just received her 60-year pin, and her dad, Tom Rank, is a registered and active Girl Scout dad. Rounding out the clan are Rank’s three siblings, Dede, Bethany and Jared, all of whom are involved in Girl Scouting in some capacity.

Rank traces her love for Girl Scouts back to her mother, who was as a child was a Mariner Scout in the Los Angeles enclave of Venice.

“Having her three daughters in Girl Scouts was very important to her,” Rank said. “She (had) a passion for the program and a knowledge of all the opportunities it would offer to us.”

Growing up in Petaluma, Rank spent 12 years in the Girl Scouts. She graduated from both Girl Scouts and Casa Grande in 1996, receiving her Girl Scouts Gold Award and lifetime membership in the organization.

She attended Santa Rosa Junior College and Sonoma State University, graduating with a degree in business in 2004. Four years ago, Rank moved to Sonoma and wanted to get involved in Girl Scouts again.

“I thought it would be great to start a high school girl’s troop to mentor and give back to some local youth,” Rank said.

She reached out to her local Scouts’ service unit and discovered a troop of junior high girls about to disband. The girls had lost interest in Scouting, and the parents were ready to let them move on.

“I asked the girls to give us three meetings to prove to them that Girl Scouts could be cool and fun,” Rank said. “The first two meetings the girls hardly spoke, but the third meeting it all clicked.”

Rank spent her first year back in Scouting leading the junior high troop. During her second year, the local service unit director stepped down and Rank stepped in.

“I knew I had the business background and leadership skills to step up,” said Rank, who is a self-employed business consultant. “It was our 100th year and I wanted to use that to help relaunch Girl Scouts in Sonoma Valley.”

As director, Rank has worked on two major initiatives: developing a weeklong outdoor program and expanding the Counselors in Training program for older Girl Scouts.

Rank “creates an environment of excellence,” said Darcy McNairy, a Girl Scout mom and troop leader. “When the leader is passionate, it inspires other people to join in.”

Under Rank’s leadership, membership has doubled and parental involvement is at an all-time high. More than 125 girls are expected to attend Girl Scout Day Camp this year, up from the 60 two years ago.

“(Rank) brought a great level of expertise to the program,” said McNairy, who is the director of the day camp.

While Rank does not have children of her own, she hopes to one day have a “Daisy” Scout and watch her grow up learning from the organization.

“Girl Scouts made me into the woman I am today,” said Rank. “I wanted to give other girls the same opportunities I was given as a Girl Scout growing up.”

You can reach Staff Writer Melody Karpinski at 521-5205 or melody.karpinski@pressdemocrat.com.