Girl Scouts today
STACEY SOLT/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS Meeghan Rossi, 15, an Ambassador Girl Scout; and Brooke Turner, 15, a Senior Girl Scout, both from Troop 34229, sell cookies outside Redner's Warehouse Market in Nesquehoning. Girl Scouting isn't just about selling cookies, which have been a long-standing tradition since 1917. It's also about teaching girls about technology, science, the outdoors and other girl-centric programs.
While much has changed since Girl Scouts of the USA was founded in 1912, some things remain the same. The organization was founded on a belief that all girls should be resourceful, self-reliant, and prepared for life as a professional and active citizen. These values remain visible in modern troops, who are currently celebrating 100 years of Scouting.
"Girl Scouts isn't just cookies, camping and crafts," said Betsy Mattes, a leader of Palmerton Troop 37. "It's about technology and science, and all of the fields that were once off limits to women.
"Studies show that girls flourish in girl-centric programs," she added. "Girl Scouts is just for girls."
For the youngest girls, Girl Scouts is a time to become familiar with the Girl Scout Promise and Law. During each meeting they pledge to serve God and country, to help people at all times, to be honest, considerate and respectful, and to make the world a better place.
Daisy, Brownie, Junior, Cadette, Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts incorporate this Promise and Law into each troop's activities. Brownies might learn about the environment while on a camping trip. Seniors and Ambassadors often share their knowledge with the youngest girls and the community.
In Jim Thorpe, high school-aged Girl Scouts from Troop 34229 recently organized an event to educate the public on fracking.
"Events like this really guide the girls in how to network, and how to make contacts," says Sue Urban, leader of Senior and Ambassador Troop 34229. "I've learned a lot, and the girls have learned a lot. Now they're paying attention to the news, and they understand how this national issue is affecting them. It's an interesting process."
Because each troop tailors its activities to the Scouts' interests, much of Troop 34229's focus is on the helping others and the environment.
"It offers the girls an opportunity to explore new things, and to be able to learn about the world and their environment. We focus a lot in our troop on taking care of the planet. It helps them to become advocates for these things," she said.
Urban's troop also spends a lot of time outdoors and camping, and enjoy working with the younger Scouts during outdoor trips. They also perform volunteer work throughout the year, picking up trash or working with organizations such as Relay for Life and the Ronald McDonald House.
"I really enjoy all types of volunteer work," says Brooke Turner, 15, a Senior Girl Scout in Troop 34229 and freshman at Panther Valley High School. "I find it fun, going out into the community and helping people. I like seeing the smiles on people's faces."
Turner and Meeghan Rossi, 15, an Ambassador Girl Scout in Troop 34229 and junior from Jim Thorpe, are working toward their Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts, which requires a cumulative project. While they haven't finalized their project, they do know that they will choose a task that improves their community.
"We want to make a lasting impact, an impact that lasts longer than our actual project," said Rossi. "I'm proud to be a Girl Scout. Girl Scouting has made a huge impact on my life. I've learned leadership skills, and how to have fun while I'm helping others."
For the youngest girls, Girl Scouts is a way to build the teamwork skills, compassion and the inquisitive nature required to succeed at higher levels of Scouting.
"I like it when we go on trips. We see all sorts of new things," added Bre Hartranft, 9, in Junior Troop 37. "We also get to try different things at camp."
Their troop has gone camping, ice skating, rock wall climbing, whitewater rafting, and held sleepovers at the Palmerton Library. During camping trips they tried new foods and also made kites and rockets to learn about aerodynamics.
Of course, there's always time for crafts. Drawing, painting and hands-on crafts like doll-making remain a favorite activity for younger Scouts, and a good way to test their artistic abilities.
On a sunny day last week, Troop 37's Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes were out painting designs on the windows of Shea's Hardware in Palmerton. The images they painted were the winners of an art contest between the Scouts, who were asked to create an image around the theme "100 Years of Girl Scouts." It was a fun project for the girls and also helped to raise awareness of Scouting in the Palmerton area.
Troop 37, along with other Palmerton Girl Scouts, also collected canned goods during the Super Bowl to feed needy people in the Palmerton Area.
While collecting canned food and painting windows might seem like very different projects, they really serve a common goal, explained Mattes. That goal is to expose others to Scouting, and to encourage the girls to interact with the community in a positive way.
"It gets us out in the community," added Mattes. "Girl Scouts are always a bit in the background compared to other groups. We want to get out and show people what's going on in our local troops."
To learn more about joining or volunteering with the Girl Scouts in the TIMES NEWS area, go to www.GSEP.org.