Girl Scouts; not just about selling cookies

Guest Columnist

  • Friday, October 3, 2008 5:51am
  • Opinion

What do Hillary Rodham Clinton, Grace Kelly, Florence Griffith-Joyner, Katie Couric, Mariah Carey, Sally Ride and Erma Bombeck have in common? They were all Girl Scouts!

Girl Scouts of the United States of America was started in 1912 and since then, close to 50-million women have been involved in scouting at one time or another. Many of these young girls have gone on to become leaders in their field, and many credit the Girl Scouts for giving them the start they needed to become successful.

Here in the Valley, scouting is alive and well. The local service unit, Girl Scout Service Unit 442, includes 40 troops serving 249 girls in North Bend, Snoqualmie and Fall City. It falls under the umbrella of Totem-Council in Seattle and is headed up by two very dedicated North Bend women, Christine McKay and Alice Romano, both Girl Scout leaders themselves.

Girl Scouts provides the opportunity for girls to be girls in a supportive, caring and nurturing environment without any pressure. Jane Barry, service unit registrar and leader, said that to her, the concept of scouting is about girls being able to be themselves and feeling accepted for who they are.

Scouting is not just about selling cookies and going camping. Scouting promotes values, leadership skills, diversity awareness and community involvement.

The Girl Scout Promise and Law reiterates positive values the girls strive to live by and highlights moral behaviors the girls are expected to uphold, such as honesty, friendliness, helpfulness, consideration and respect. Romano said, “The girls try their best to abide by the promise and law. They take their scouting seriously and they always try to do the right thing.”

Leadership opportunities abound for the girls as they get older and take on larger roles in planning and organizing troop activities. Girls are encouraged to try new things and they do exactly that, many times stepping out of their comfort zones to try something they never would have on their own. Celese Brun, a leader for nine years with a high-school troop, remembers the joy of watching one of her girls give a speech to a large audience last year when five years earlier, this same girl had been terrified to speak in front of anyone.

Girl Scouts include girls from many walks of life, including those who are “differently-abled,” from diverse racial and economic backgrounds and from different family situations. Barry said that no girl will be turned away from scouting based on an inability to pay. “We have scholarship programs available and all girls are welcome,” she said.

Life skills the girls learn include self-confidence and probably most importantly, how to get along in a group. “Girl Scouts is really about everybody,” said Brun. “My girls aren’t best friends at school and I have every type of girl you could imagine, but when they’re together they depend upon each other. That’s why they’re so tight – it’s all about the shared experiences.”

Community service teaches the girls about doing for others, not just for themselves. It is one of the fundamental aspects of scouting and the girls learn that giving back to the community has many rewards. Lois Bauer, a Fall City leader with 37 years of scouting under her belt, says that she takes her troop to clean the grounds at their school every year. “When the girls are picking up litter at school, they feel a real sense of pride knowing that they are making a difference. They also become more aware of their surroundings,” said Bauer.

While scouting is open to all, the organization is dependent upon women (and men) to come forward and volunteer their time and effort to organize and lead troops. “We don’t want to turn away any girls, but the bottom line is that in order for new troops to form, we need adults to be leaders,” said Barry. “Our troop leaders range from stay-at-home moms to corporate executives to single mothers – anyone can be a leader – and the common factor is that they all care about the girls.”

Barry said that all troops are different. “It’s important to realize that every troop is unique – they all have their own flavor. Some troops enjoy experiencing new activities, some like outdoorsy things like hiking and camping and some are into crafts. Some meet weekly; others meet monthly. The bottom line is that it’s about whatever the girls want to do. Leaders guide the girls and make it all happen,” Barry said.

Leaders realize they are providing experiences the girls might not get otherwise, and that they are making a difference in the lives of these young women who will be the leaders of tomorrow. Bauer noted, “I think scouting is so important for girls. When I was interviewing out of college, I was consistently asked over and over about my Girl Scout experiences. Girl Scouts has always been a part of my life.”

Girl Scout Recruitment Night is Monday, Oct. 17, from 7-8:30 p.m. in the multi-purpose room at Cascade View Elementary on Snoqualmie Ridge, 34816 S.E. Ridge St. Leaders from Valley elementary schools will be available to answer questions. Parents who volunteer as leaders guarantee spots for their daughters in a troop.

* For information, call Girl Scouts at (425) 614-1126 or (800) 767-6815.

Lynn McCulley is a North Bend resident, Valley Record copy editor, Girl Scout leader and mother of two Girl Scouts.

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