Exchange Student Hopes to Bring Girl Scouts Back to Her Country

Submitted by Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways

Exchange student Zhanerke Abayeva with Girl Scouts Community Development Manager Judi Knowlton.
Exchange student Zhanerke Abayeva with Girl Scouts Community Development Manager Judi Knowlton.

Phoenix, N.Y. – Zhanerke Abayeva, 17, from Kazakhstan is an average teenager. She likes to have fun, hang out with her friends and she is very proud of her country. She is also an exchange student and a senior at John C. Birdlebough High School in Phoenix.

Her host mom, Tammy Patnode, is a leader of Girl Scout Brownie troop 916, and Zhan began to volunteer her time at troop meetings. She has also taught the girls about her country, heritage and language.

“I noticed the girls are so full of happiness and energy,” Zhan said. “I like the atmosphere when I’m with Girl Scouts. They are so interested and have so many ideas on what to do and they ask questions and are excited.”

She wanted to learn more about the business side of Girl Scouting, so she also spent some time shadowing Community Development Manager, Judi Knowlton, at the Cicero Service Center.

“I want to open a Girl Scout organization in my country,” she said.

Zhan remembers a center in her country full of children without parents because their parents can’t feed them or take care of them.

“Kids can’t connect with other people because they’ve been so secluded in this center for so long,” she said. “That’s all they’ve ever known. I hope to be able to help change that.”

Zhan hopes that by shadowing Judi she will learn how to become a good leader, how to open the organization in Kazakhstan, and what she needs to get started.

“I want to find a way into the hearts of children in Kazakhstan and show them that it’s a really good thing to be a Girl Scout,” she said.

Zhan is in the United States until May and then plans on beginning her plans on opening the organization in Kazakhstan. She says that if there’s one thing she’s learned so far while in the United States it’s this, “just go ahead and do it!”

The Girl Scout Leadership Experience teaches girls to discover their interests, connect with others in their community, and take action to make the world a better place.

Join the fun and friendship of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. Contact the Cicero Service Center at (315) 698-9400, visit, become a fan of Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways, Inc. on Facebook, or follow @GSNYPENN on Twitter for more information.