Girl Scouts: Beyond the Cookie

May 1, 2019 | by anna rogers

Photos courtesy of Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming

If your first thought when you hear “Girl Scouts” is “Girl Scout Cookies,” you’re not alone. The cookies are delicious and certainly leave a positive, lasting “taste.” Cookie sales support experiences that empower girls, on top of providing an entrepreneurial practice that builds confidence and communication skills.

With all the benefits of Girl Scout cookies, there is more to this iconic organization than Samoasâ and Thin Mintsâ. Girl Scouts started in 1912, over 100 years ago, and is now comprised of over 1.7 million girls who are being built up and sent out into their communities.

“The Girl Scout organization is a centerpiece of American culture,” says Cortni Cross, Chief Operating Officer of Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming. “Girl Scouts design robots, go whitewater rafting, and improve their communities – and yes, they sell the best cookies on the planet.”

Many troops choose to use their cookie proceeds to give back to the community, like a Billings Troop that last year purchased specialized oxygen masks for pets to assist in smoke inhalation recovery. The troop donated these masks to all fire stations in the city. Now Billings’ firefighters have the equipment they need to rescue and protect pets, all as a result of these Girl Scouts’ initiative and resourcefulness.

Beyond the reach of the cookie, the organization is raising up girls who will be helpers and contributors to their communities, representing the traits of a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) ™. The organization’s programming supports this goal by creating a niche environment for girls that is proven to yield thriving relationships and leadership skills.

“Research shows that girls learn best in an all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment where their specific needs are addressed and met. Most of a girl’s life is coed, making the safe space that Girl Scouts offers imperative for nurturing teamwork,” Cross explains.

The Girl Scout organization is leveraging this proven all-girl method of development and empowerment in new ways. Building on the best of their legacy experiences – like outdoor adventure, camping, and financial literacy – Girl Scouts is implementing modern programs, like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), to ensure a truly one-of-a-kind experience for today’s girls.

Girl Scouts are recognized as an industry leader when it comes to their STEM focus and programming, and unmatched in their ability to deliver these programs to girls. According to a 2019 report by the Girl Scout Research Institute “Decoding the Digital Girl,” most girls’ interest in STEM decreases with age. However, Girl Scouts’ interest in these fields actually increases from age 8, when 67% are interested in STEM fields, through high school, when 74% are interested.

Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming has supported over 60 competitive robotics teams. Kathryn Grady is a Girl Scout parent in Montana whose daughter competes with one of these teams. “I'm embarrassed to say that I hadn't thought about Girl Scouts much, beyond loving their cookies and knowing that they helped develop leaders. But when our girls received a scholarship two years in a row to compete in the FIRST LEGO Robotics program, I was amazed at how supportive and proactive the Girl Scouts were in engaging girls with STEM opportunities. Our girls never would have gotten into robotics and engineering without the Girl Scouts paving the way! And what a difference the Girl Scouts has made in their lives! Our girls now think of themselves as engineers. All of this was made possible by the Girl Scouts.”

Cross believes that “it is imperative that girls are not only technologically prepared to take a seat at the table, but that they possess the courage and confidence to excel once there. Giving girls opportunities to try things they might never have otherwise, take risks in a supportive all-girl environment and learn entrepreneurial skills at a younger age is creating a female leadership pipeline for generations to come.”

In addition to the STEM programming, Girl Scouts also offers travel opportunities aimed to nurture the G.I.R.L. in every Girl Scout. Each year, Girl Scouts across Montana and Wyoming travel internationally with their troop or with other Scouts from around the country. From Jackson Hole to Costa Rica, Greece, Japan, and even Ethiopia, girls are enjoying culturally enriching and life-changing experiences.

The Girl Scout effect is proven. In the United States, 90 percent of female astronauts, 80 percent of female tech leaders, 75 percent of current senators, and 50 percent of female business owners are Girl Scout alumni. The goal is for Girl Scout girls to grow into women who empower others and lead with empathy, all while enjoying uniquely girl experiences and relationships in their youth.

Learn more about Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming: gsmw.org

Originally printed in the May 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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