Friday, September 16, 2016

What do Girl Scouts really do?

This is a true story shared by one of our Program Specialists.

One day a girl asked me, “What do Girl Scouts really do?” She said “I know they sell cookies, go camping, make crafts and they do nice things for people. Why do I have to become a member to do any of those things, especially when one of those things is just being what you should be…helpful?”

I am not sure if she expected the answer she got, but I do know that she did not want to be convinced or cajoled. She wanted the facts. I am sharing the facts with you as I did with her at the start of the summer.

This past school year girls from all over Nassau County participated in programs where they explored the barrier islands and dissected dog sharks at the Sports Fishing Alliance Center. They learned proper archery form at C & B Archery; having seconds to prepare for a target game that challenged their newly acquired skills. More than 180 girls prepared themselves for summer jobs by earning their Babysitter badge at Saint Joseph Hospital. Still others learned how to build and launch rockets and interpret authentic human skeletal remains for gender, age, trauma, and disease at Garvies Point Museum and Preserve. They built robots, operated flight simulators and they packed their bags for an advocacy trip in Albany. Girls choose to do all sorts of things to explore the world they live in because at Girl Scouts they can; their voice counts, their decisions matter, their actions are impactful. It doesn’t take long for them to understand that their experiences make them interesting, unique and are the foundation for their life choices.
Most Girl Scouts take pride in selling cookies because they know where cookies come from... Girl Scouts was established in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low. This being an election year, I must tell you that Girl Scouts existed eight years before women had the right to vote in 1920. Juliette was notorious for refusing to accept no for an answer and in this capacity her tenacity served women and girls quite well. Getting back to the cookie business. Juliette quickly realized that the girls needed money to fund their experiences. Most of the girls lived on farms. They had access to eggs and farm animals. So, first they sold eggs. Then they sheared their sheep and Juliette sold the wool to local merchants. They sold other things too, but with farm fresh ingredients at their disposal, cookies became their top selling product and still is! Today, girls run a $700 million cookie business. Girls fund their fun all year with a percentage of the profit. For many, this experience is their first memory of their desire to be a leader with business skills.
Many Girl Scouts camp. Girl Scouts of Nassau County owns the magnificent Camp Blue Bay in East Hampton. Camping wasn’t our idea, it was Juliette’s. Juliette wanted girls to have the opportunity to appreciate and explore the outdoors in a time period when girls spent much of the time indoors doing things like cooking, sewing, and reading. Juliette herself grew up doing all kinds of things inside and out; climbing trees, fishing, painting and sliding down the spiral bannisters in her family’s home. Most girls did not have that exposure. Today, we encourage girls to embrace the outdoors; learning everything from kayaking and swimming to rock climbing and repelling. And that is why Girl Scouts camp!
Crafting is a special part of our history. Juliette Gordon Low was a talented artist. She painted, sculpted and even tried her hand at welding the gates that she designed for her home. Juliette used her talent to cope with her disabilities. She was a positive person who knew how to work smart rather than hard--- long before that phrase was coined.
Girl Scouts share our founder’s attitude of gratitude and embrace her take charge spirit. They volunteer their time, energy and skills to those in need just as Juliette did when she cared for soldiers with her mother during the Spanish American War. Juliette was a little girl during the Civil War. She was not a stranger to hunger, sickness and sacrifice. She learned what was important early on… God, country and people. Juliette’s goals are embedded in the Girl Scout Promise and her values, simply written in the Girl Scout Law, are timeless, tried and true.
That same girl responded to me with another question “okay, I get all of that and it sounds really fun, but why do I have to be a member?”
I answered her last question this way. Because membership is a commitment to our mission, our sisterhood and our values. We are not alone, we are part of a community and once you are a Girl Scout, you are always a Girl Scout. A girl with a mission working together with a group of girls who share their beliefs succeeds at building courage, confidence, character and relationships that last a lifetime.

The last thing the young girl said to me was “great, thanks, I’ve got enough stuff to convince my mom and dad that Girl Scouts is for me.”

I believe that Girl Scouts make the world a better place and she will too.

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