Guest post by Nicole Hill
Many people think of Girl Scouts as the young, smiling girls who sell cookies outside of grocery stores. However, there are also older girls, of middle and high school age, who remain active in Girl Scouting. By this age, the girls are learning about global issues, enjoying the outdoors, and serving their community. Several Middle Georgia Girl Scout troops are made up of teenagers, and they work hard to be influential members of our community.
Girl Scouts of middle school age are called “Cadettes”. As a Cadette, the highest award they can earn is called the “Silver Award”. This award helps Cadettes become leaders and problem solvers in their communities. By finding issues or causes that need help, Cadettes can learn how to think independently to help a greater purpose. They do this through advocating for their cause and volunteering, to earn their Silver Awards.
A few years ago, the members of Girl Scout Troop 60116 completed their Silver Award. The troop leaders asked what issues the girls were interested in, and several problems in the community were discussed. They elected to help battered women and children in Macon.
The troop met with a local counselor, who taught them about domestic violence and the cycle of violence. The girls then met with representatives of the Dove Center, the Crisis Line & Safe House, and the District Attorney’s office to learn about their needs and how the girls could help. The Dove Center and the Crisis Line & Safe House provide emergency housing to families who are homeless due to domestic violence, while the DA’s office prosecutes criminal cases against physical abusers.
One shelter just wanted handmade decorations to liven up the facility. The other center needed more help. The girls built a bookcase to make a library for the women and children living there. They also helped babysit children during support meetings, and organizing the materials and clothes in the storage shed, among other things. The lives of the victims in those shelters were improved because of the work done by middle school Girl Scouts.
Girl Scouts in high school, who are called “Senior Girl Scouts,” have far more opportunities than younger girls to travel. Several troops save the money earned from selling cookies to take their girls various places. Many girls elect to go to Savannah, Georgia. Girl Scouts was founded in Savannah, and troops across the country visit the First Headquarters and learn about why the Girl Scout program was founded. There are Girl Scout destinations all over the world for Girl Scout Troops to travel to.
Part of being in Girl Scouts is learning about the community and life skills. Several troops got together recently and learned all about farm to table. This consisted of learning how to find and use quality locally grown ingredients, and turn them into good tasting and healthy meals. Saralyn Collins, the owner of Grow on Riverside Drive, even taught the girls how to use the ingredients for a restaurant-worthy meal.
Troop 60667, who are teenage Girl Scouts, hosts an annual 5k as their fundraiser. The girls learn leadership and organizational skills through the project. They also have several service projects such as maintaining a butterfly garden, and cooking meals for those staying at the Ronald McDonald House. Girl Scouts gives girls the opportunity to learn and explore about many avenues in life.
Members of Troop 60667 are working towards completion of their Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouting. It is very difficult to earn, as it is awarded to only around 5% of eligible Girl Scouts. The Gold Award is focused on independent achievement. After completing many other leadership and community service requirements, the final requirement is the Gold Award Project. Girls must individually select and research a project, and present their plan for approval. The young ladies are encouraged to build a community team, but must be responsible for overseeing planning and completion of the project.
Girls are required to spend at least 80 hours on their project, improving an issue in their community. Examples of projects started locally include: teaching the homeless how to make beds from plastic bags, pedestrian safety in Middle Georgia, a dance class for underprivileged children, and building playgrounds. Some scholarships are offered to girls who receive it, due to the rigor of earning the award.
The opportunities in Girl Scouts are endless. They range from archery, camping, cooking, STEM activities, life skills, traveling, and lots of other activities to help better prepare the girls for their futures. Community service remains a cornerstone of the Girl Scout program, especially for middle school and high school scouts. Girl Scouts helps build girls of courage, confidence, and character, and it isn’t only the girls who benefit.