There is a widely known and deeply concerning trend in Girl Scouts. Once girls reach middle school their interests change, their schedules grow busier with new extracurricular activities, and their passion for Girl Scouts, once the highlight of their week, wanes and inevitably evaporates. “My daughters have choices just like other people,” LeMay says. “High school gets extremely busy, along with church activities.” According to a 2012 Girl Scout Institute Research Survey, the average girl only spends about four years in Girl Scouts. When Annie and Miranda L. considered leaving Girl Scouts, their mother Sabrina says she encouraged her daughters to consider how well-rounded Girl Scout programming is. “Mostly what makes our girls stay in Girl Scouts has a lot to do with the friends they have made and the opportunities that Girl Scouts has offered them. I have had 2 of my daughters go to Costa Rica on a Destination trip and 2 others went to Europe for 10 days,” she said.
As the transition to middle school and high school brings what seems like an endless array of options from sports to band, from student government to social clubs, parents and girls often feel forced to choose. It is at that particular fork in the road that girls find themselves confronting the unspoken stereotype of older Girl Scouts: they’re just not that cool.
|Aubree with Lady Cans teammate|
It was that sense of belonging that proved to be critical for Sabrina L. as a young woman. “I was a teen mom, delivering my daughter at 15 years of age. During that time, when so many people shunned me for being an unmarried pregnant teenager, my friends in my troop accepted me and helped me,” says Sabrina. “They showed me what family and friends were about. They helped me through the tough times and never turned their backs on me.”
|Brooke in Costa Rica|
Like Sabrina’s daughters, GSCTX Cadette, Brooke S. traveled to Costa Rica through the GSUSA Destinations program which is only available to girls once they turn 11-years-old. Each memory Brooke shares from her trip—making new friends, volunteering at a local elementary school, learning to surf--- is punctuated with a wide grin. Chief among her reasons of why she believes older girls should stay in Girl Scouts is the added boost in interest she gets when filling out applications for school organizations, “I definitely make sure to put down that I’m part of Girl Scouts and I have been for almost the last ten years. People usually respond with ‘Oh, that’s cool,’ so you get more opportunities from that too,” she said. Last year Brooke applied to join National Junior Honor Society, which nationally recognizes outstanding middle school students. She credits her Girl Scout experience with being accepted into the organization.
|Troop 533 made it all the way to Ambassador|
Laurie R. agrees that staying in Girl Scouts can help a girl distinguish herself from her peers during the college application process. Laurie comes from a Girl Scout family. In 1950, her mother earned the Curved Bar or what is now known today as the Gold Award. She and her sisters also made the promise to serve God and their country, help people at all times and live by the Girl Scout Law. After moving to Buda just before her daughter Christina entered kindergarten, Laurie began searching for ways for her to make friends. When a Girl Scout flier made its way home from school with Christina, Laurie signed her up immediately. This spring, Christina and her troop completed their Ambassador year of Girl Scouts and in the fall, Christina will begin her freshman year at the University of Texas. “I attended many financial aid seminars in the last two years in preparing for Christina to go to college in the Fall and one thing a UT Financial Aid speaker said that really stuck with me was that when they are looking at applications, they are looking to see that the students got involved with something and stuck with it,” said Laurie.
Aside from a resume boost, Laurie says the experiences Christina has had in Girl Scouts has helped her move past self-doubt and fear and is now able to focus on accomplishing her goals. “I think selling cookies brought that attitude out of her. The rejection from people we have encountered at the cookie booths is not fun, but there is an ultimate goal and you deal with the rejection and get back to work,” she said.
|Laurie's daughter Christina|
For parents like Sabrina and Laurie and girls like Aubree and Brooke, being a Girl Scout goes beyond a uniform and preconceived notions of little girls selling cookies. For them and countless others it is an opportunity to build a network of cherished friendships, have adventures that might not otherwise be possible, and gain real, meaningful experiences that have and will shape their futures.
More importantly, Girl Scouts is not what they do. It is who they are.