Girl Scouts Offers Leadership, Technology Opportunities

By Charles Bolinger Edwardsville Intelligencer, Ill.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Girl Scouts can now choose among nine cybersecurity badges, funded by Palo Alto Networks, and three space science badges, funded by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and led by the SETI Institute.


When someone says, 'Girl Scouts,' many people think of cookies, camping or crafts. While those are all things in which Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSofSI) participate, the group strives to showcase all the attributes it has to offer.

Girl Scouts builds girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. That is the organizational mission statement and it is true, according to Kim Vrooman, GSofSI's director of communications.

Vrooman said her council was selected as only one out of four of all GS Councils to send girls to the Council on the State of Women at the United Nations in New York, New York this year. The council also had five Governor's Service State of IL Award Winners this year.

Vrooman said Girl Scouts is the world's largest leadership development organization for girls.

In partnership with committed adults, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives -- strong values, social conscience and conviction about their own potential and self-worth.

Today's Girl Scouts explore math and science, learn about diversity, good citizenship, leadership and teamwork. Girl Scouting is the place where girls experience the fun, friendship and power of girls together.

Any girl in kindergarten through 12th grade can join Girl Scouts; there are multiple troop levels. Daisies are kindergarten and first-graders; Brownies are second- and third-graders; Juniors fourth- and fifth-graders; Cadettes are sixth- through eighth-graders; Seniors are ninth- through 10th-graders; and Ambassadors are 11th- and 12th-graders.

Recently, GSofSI announced that girls would be able to take advantage of 42 new badge programs. Among those are outdoor high adventure badges that let girls pick how they want to earn each one.

Girl Scouts can also choose among nine cybersecurity badges, funded by Palo Alto Networks, and three space science badges, funded by NASA's Science Mission Directorate and led by the SETI Institute.

"Girls have engaged their power and potential through Girl Scouts for more than a century," said GSofSI CEO Loretta Graham. "We're proud to continue that legacy of delivering opportunities for girls to explore their passions, develop skills and build the courage, confidence and character to dream and achieve."

While Girl Scouts are renowned for their cookie sales, there is another selling opportunity for girls -- the Nuts, Candy and Magazine (NCM) Program. Sales typically start in late September and run until nearly Thanksgiving.

"When you purchase nuts, candies or magazines from a Girl Scout, you will help her achieve her sales goals and learn valuable business skills," Vrooman said.

While it is a troop fundraiser, NCM provides five critical skills for girls to learn -- goal-setting, decision-making, money management, people skills and business ethics. All of the NCM proceeds remain within southern Illinois to help underserved girls, maintain the council's camps and more. The NCM program also prepares troops for the annual cookie program, which takes place in January.

Another facet of Girl Scouts most people are unaware of is the Girl Scout Shop. It is a one-stop-shop for all of a troop's Girl Scout needs. It offers girls' and adults' uniforms, program publications, awards, Insignia, camping items, gifts, fun activity patches and merchandise exclusive to Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois. The shop is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday.

One of the newer features is Juliette's Closet, a mobile version of the council's shop. According to the website, the shop will be fitted with favorites, and rather than scheduling a delivery of items in limited supply, the mobile shop will bring a diverse array of GSofSI and GSUSA merchandise right to a troop's location.

In August, Juliette's Closet will be at United We Lead Gala at the Regency Conference Center in O'Fallon on Aug. 17 and at 505 South Cherry Street in O'Fallon from 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 27.

"According to TSL Marketing, one of the greatest achievements of the 21st Century is the mobilization of business," Graham said. "Companies are decreasing their dependency on stationary environments and are moving to mobile. Marketing and merchandising are no different, and with the mobile shop, anywhere we go, our mission and brand will be visibly present through this new shop."

Volunteers play a critical role at Girl Scouts. They introduce girls to new experiences that show the girls they're capable of more than they ever imagined. Thanks to volunteers, girls will each find their inner G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-Taker, Leader). Volunteers serve as cheerleaders, guides and mentors, helping girls develop essential life skills and confidence that will last a lifetime.

Jeanne Wojcieszak leads Troop 2 in Edwardsville, 19 girls who will enter fourth grade and bridging to Juniors. She was a Girl Scout from kindergarten through her senior year of high school.

"I joined Girl Scouts in first grade and loved every minute of it," Wojcieszak said. "My troop was very active. We learned lots of skill badges, attended fun events (like fishing derbies and sleepovers at the SIUC Rec Center) and, our senior year, we traveled to Savannah, Georgia, to visit the birthplace and gravesite of [Girl Scout Founder] Juliette Gordon Low."

She fondly recalls activities she did as a Girl Scout.

"I also attended Camp Cedar Point each year -- a resident camp previously owned by the Girl Scout Council. When my daughter entered kindergarten, she wanted to join Girl Scouts," Wojcieszak said. "I volunteered to lead her troop and convinced my best friend to be a co-leader, as I wanted her, and the other members of our troop, to have a great experience in Girl Scouts.

"Our troop loves to try different things, learn new skills and grow in friendship and leadership with each other," she said. "This summer, we spent three days and two nights at the YMCA Trout Lodge in Potosi, Missouri. The scouts rode a zip line, swam in the lake, played games and enjoyed being together.

Wojcieszak said two things keep her involved. "One -- my daughter, and two -- the desire to provide young women with opportunities they may not otherwise have, whether that is a trip to the Fox Theatre to see 'Aladdin,' or learn about equity in girls' sports and Title IX when we earned a sports-related badge.

"I want the scouts to know their potential and have the support and experiences to lead them to success," she said.

From its headquarters and store, located in Glen Carbon, GSofSI serves about 10,000 girls and almost 3,500 adult volunteers in 40.5 mostly rural counties in southern Illinois. The council has an operating budget of approximately $3.7 million and one out of seven school-aged girls here is a Girl Scout.

For more information on the programs available for girls, to check out the Girl Scout Shop or when and where Juliette's Closet makes its next stop, visit or call (800) 345-6858. Please note that the service center and shop are open Mondays through Thursdays only. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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