Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Girl Scouts: Much More Than Cookies

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Girl Scouts: Much More Than Cookies

Article excerpt

Byline: Times-Union Editorial Board Women are speaking out all over America about abuses that occurred sometimes decades ago.

Our View

It has placed a spotlight on the need to raise the self-esteem of girls and women.

There is no better agency to do that than the Girl Scouts of America and its local affiliate, Girl Scouts of Gateway Council.

Membership in Girl Scouts was declining nationally, said Mary Anne Jacobs, CEO of Girl Scouts of Gateway Council to the Times-Union Editorial Board.

This challenge was embraced to move the Scouts into the 21st century, developing programming that hits home for today's girls without getting away from core principles.

It seems that the Scouts lost a generation of girls but parents are coming in and saying they never had the experience and want it for their daughters.

Locally, the Girl Scouts are in increasing enrollment growth and putting their budget in the black.

There are about 9,500 girls in scouting in the 16-county area with two-thirds of them in Duval. The local organization serves 3,000 girls in high-poverty ZIP Codes, providing a full leadership experience. This includes the First Coast counties as well as Putnam and Alachua counties.

The Scouts help to fund these troops with grants, donations and with a portion of the annual budget.

Also, there are plenty of immigrant families in Scouts gaining a positive introduction to American values.

Veronica Della Porta, president of the Della Porta Group, attributes much of her career achievements to lessons learned as a Girl Scout.

"As a Girl Scout, I learned to set personal goals, to be an innovator and risk-taker, and to develop leadership qualities -- all while having the time of my life!" she wrote in a letter to the Times-Union. "I am fortunate I was able to learn these skills at an early age here in Northeast Florida."

The process of selling cookies helps develop confidence, teamwork and collaboration.

"Girls must break out of their comfort zone, learn to speak confidently and articulate why they are selling cookies," Della Porta wrote. "I gained confidence when talking to people I did not know and I learned to articulate my position in a precise way. I learned how to take on additional tasks in a responsible manner and became more confident in doing so. I have learned that teamwork and collaboration transition to success. I have seen these lessons repeated and instilled in my daughters as they grew up in the Girl Scout program."

Yes, the scouts are much more than cookies and campouts, and have been for a long time.

In fact, a delegation of 25 girls representing Girl Scouts of Gateway Council recently joined 120 girls from other Florida councils for Legislative Days in Tallahassee. Over three days the girls learned about public policy, how bills become law and how to advocate for positive change. There were workshops on public speaking and self-esteem, a mock debate, a visit to Florida A&M, the Florida History Museum the Capitol building and the House and Senate chambers.

The Girl Scout Research Institute in Manhattan is the largest institute that focuses on girl behavior in the nation. The foundation of scouting is contained in the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. This seeks to empower girls as they develop the attitudes and skills essential to leadership:

A strong sense of self. This is driven by supportive adult relationships and hands-on activities.

Positive values. This results from working toward shared goals in teams.

Seeking challenges. STEM activities, such as working with robots, is one example.

Healthy relationships. Girls share ideas and reflect on what worked in their projects.

Community problem solving. Service activities often are keys to the projects.

Grades. These are driven by ethical, honest and responsible behavior. …

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