For over 100 years, the Girl Scouts organization has been teaching life skills. Founded in 1912, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America offers leadership programs to girls aged 5-18 in STEM, the outdoors, and entrepreneurship. The organization boasts a membership of everyone from suffragettes to astronauts to opera singers to Supreme Court justices to gold-medal athletes. Beyond badges, today’s programs now reflect the girls it serves, focusing on diversity, equity, and, more importantly, inclusion.
We sat down with the CFO, Rich Ryan, to talk about how the GSHCC has helped shape its members’ lives, as it continues to grow, pivot, and evolve.
How many members strong is GSHCC? Girl Scouts Heart of Central California (GSHCC) serves 18 northern and central California counties and is a community with more than 12,000 girls and 6,000 adult members sharing in the Girl Scout movement locally.
The Girl Scouts celebrates its 109th year in existence. What has changed, and what has remained the same? The Girl Scout mission has held steady since 1912: Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. The girl-led, female environment allows girls to thrive and creates a safe space for girls of all ages, from grades K-12, to learn and grow. Being a Girl Scout helps girls across generations succeed in five key ways. As a Girl Scout, she:
- Develops a strong sense of self
- Displays positive values
- Seeks challenges and learns from setbacks
- Forms and maintains healthy relationships
- Learns to identify and solve problems in her community
Because Girl Scouts is girl-led, we are always adapting to the interests and needs of modern girls. Over the past few years, we have expanded our focus on STEM programming through badge earning and hands-on experimentation at the GSHCC STEM Center + MakerSpaces. Outdoor opportunities have been elevated between Girl Scout resident camp, expeditions like backpacking and white water rafting, and high adventure troops. When girls get outside, they discover they can better solve problems and overcome challenges, develop leadership skills, care about protecting the environment, and more.
The Girls Scouts recently announced the addition of 28 new badges in STEM, entrepreneurship, and digital leadership. How do you believe these skills are helping to build our future leaders? Through these badges, Girl Scouts as an organization is opening doors for girls that tend to be closed, largely due to outdated cultural biases. We’re showing young girls that they can be mathematicians, engineers, and CEOs, and we’re showing them HOW to do it.
Tell us more about the STEM Center + MakerSpaces. In order to provide girls with empowering, hands-on STEM learning opportunities, Girl Scouts Heart of Central California opened the region’s first girl-led, girl-built STEM Center + MakerSpaces. Located in Sacramento and Modesto, these unique facilities host a variety of STEM, maker, and design-thinking activities that encourage girls to embrace the spirit of scientific discovery in their lives. The Mobile STEM Center + MakerSpace enables girls across our 18-county region to access these activities in their own communities.
Through a variety of cooperative learning opportunities and hands-on experimentation, girls hone STEM-related skills while having fun and gaining confidence. Girl Scouts has also introduced 30 new badges to power girls’ leadership and to prepare them for careers in emerging technologies and STEM fields like cybersecurity, mechanical engineering, robotics, computer science, and space exploration.
What is the Girls Scout Gold Award, and how does someone earn one? The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest award a girl can earn as a Girl Scout. High school-age Girl Scouts earn the Girl Scout Gold Award by identifying and addressing issues that are dear to them and driving lasting change in their communities and beyond. Gold Award Girl Scouts spend an average of 1-2 years on their projects, more specifically 80+ hours.
We cannot discuss the Girls Scouts without talking about the famous cookies. How did the pandemic affect The Girl Scout Cookie Program? The Girl Scout Cookie Program—the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the world—gives girls hands-on practice with a variety of skills, including goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills, and business ethics as they learn to think like entrepreneurs. Through the program, they learn from setbacks, collaborate with other girls to reach common goals, and, over time, take on more responsibility for their cookie business as they progress through Girl Scouts.
Of course, the pandemic threw troops’ plans for a loop! But nobody was better prepared to innovate than our girls. Girls used the pandemic as an opportunity to run a digital business. Digital had been a component of cookie selling in the past, but in 2021 girls found themselves learning about digital marketing and partnering with big names in the digital sphere, such as GrubHub. Local residents will definitely see more of a girl presence in the upcoming cookie season that was missing last year. But with all their new digital skills, girls are positioned to be more successful than ever this year.
What is your favorite Girl Scout cookie? My favorite cookie has been the thin mint, but I’m looking forward to trying the new cookie for 2022 called Adventurefuls. It’s a brownie-inspired cookie with caramel-flavored crème and a hint of sea salt.
To learn more about the Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, visit their website at www.girlscoutshcc.org.