When one hears the words "Girl Scouts," cookies and camping often come to mind. However, many do not realize the tremendous impact that being a Girl Scout can have on a girl's life. I know firsthand the difference it can make, having joined my first troop in kindergarten. I made lifelong friends and memories in my troop, and believe my experiences as a Girl Scout helped shape the woman I am today.
As the office manager for the Girl Scouts' Fort Dodge Leadership Center, I often feel that my involvement has come full-circle, in that I now get to witness girls having fun and making a difference, just as I did when I was young. I feel so fortunate to work for an organization where girls come together to help others in their community. I also cannot say enough about the dedicated staff and outstanding volunteers I've met along the way.
I had the privilege of meeting one of these special volunteers earlier this month when Lorraine Peterson, an 89-year-old retired leader from Storm Lake, invited me to a gathering at her home. She and several of her former scouts shared stories, laughter, and sang old Girl Scout songs. It was incredibly touching to hear their memories and see what an impact both Scouting and Lorraine had on their lives.
Girls and women alike have been feeling that impact since the day it all began on March 12, 1912. It was then that a woman named Juliette Gordon Low gathered 18 girls in Savannah, Ga., for what has been deemed the first official Girl Scout troop meeting. "I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" she had exclaimed.
Juliette Gordon Low brought girls from all backgrounds into the outdoors, giving them the opportunity to develop self-reliance and resourcefulness. She encouraged them to prepare not only for traditional homemaking, but also for future roles as professional women - in the arts, sciences and business - and for active citizenship outside the home. She welcomed girls with disabilities at a time when they were excluded from many other activities.
One hundred years later, Girl Scouts is the pre-eminent leadership development organization for girls, serving 3.2 million girl and adult members worldwide.
About Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa
One of the earliest Girl Scout troops in Iowa was organized in Des Moines in 1922. Today, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa serves nearly 15,000 girls and 4,000 adult volunteers in 67 counties in Iowa, two counties in South Dakota and one county in Nebraska. Our corporate office is located in Des Moines, with Leadership Centers in Fort Dodge, Mason City, Sioux City and Council Bluffs.
Girl Scout initiatives
In addition to creating lifelong friendships and making a difference in the community, girls also learn how to reach their full potential through participating in Girl Scouts. The five areas we focus on to help them reach that potential are:
Science and technology - Programs in science, technology, engineering and math now account for over half of all Girl Scout awards. We introduce more girls to inspiring role models in scientific fields than any other organization.
Financial literacy - Millions of girls learn their economic ABCs by participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program. This $715 million girl-run business teaches these young entrepreneurs vital life skills such as goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.
Healthy living - Girl Scout programs recognize that physical health, emotional health, and self-esteem are interconnected. We embrace the "whole girl." Nine out of 10 girls say our self-esteem programs helped them make positive changes in their lives.
Environmental leadership - Girl Scouts combines environmental education with community action on a national scale. Last year alone, 83,000 girls worked directly with conservationists and scientists to complete environmental projects in 43 states.
Global citizenship - Girl Scouts makes the world smaller and the girl bigger. Through the world's largest organization for girls, every girl has a global impact and a global voice.
How to get involved
There are also multiple ways through which girls can become involved in Girl Scouts. They can join at any time during the year through one or more of the following pathways:
Events - One-time opportunities centered on specific activities.
Camp -By day or overnight, girls can camp at our amazing facilities or at a place of their choosing.
Series - Girls meet multiple times to explore their specific interests together.
Travel -Across the state or around the world, girls are taking incredible adventures.
Troop - Girls meet regularly with other girls and share rewarding experiences.
Who can join?
Girl Scouts is available to all girls in grades K-12, from all racial, ethnic, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, including girls with disabilities. Instant financial assistance is available for membership dues, program fees and camp registration.
Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa provides leadership development workshops and council-wide events to further the advancement and enhance the growth of our leaders and adult volunteers. Volunteers have the freedom to tailor their involvement to fit their schedule and lifestyle. We offer the support, instruction, resources and guidance to assist our volunteers in being the best they can be.
As we enter our next 100 years, Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa looks forward to continuing to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. For more information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect, or donate, please visit our website at www.girlscoutsiowa.org or contact the Fort Dodge Leadership Center at (800) 798-8141.
Kelly Fitzgibbon is office manager of the Girl Scouts of Greater Iowa Fort Dodge Leadership Center.