Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains works to reach every girl in two states
BEDFORD, NH | Encouraging every girl to unleash her inner G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ is what Girl Scouts is all about. While the traditional Girl Scout troop is still the most common way girls participate, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is reaching out to girls in underserved areas – or who may never even have heard of Girl Scouts.
Outreach troops have been part of the effort to reach girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont for three years. “We have this so we can let more girls into Girl Scouts,” said Daley Buckwell, membership growth specialist for GSGWM.
There are currently 31 outreach troops in the two states, serving 450 girls. Five are in Nashua 10 in Manchester, six in Concord, three in Laconia, one in Franklin, one in Enfield, and one in Dover. In Vermont, there is one in Derby and one in Newport. “We’re adding more all the time – summer troops,” said Buckwell. “Mostly younger ages, but we serve every level.” More troops are forming as interest grows.
Concord supports troops
It’s an effort John Hoyt, executive director of Concord Housing and Redevelopment, fully supports. The public housing authority has donated $5,000 toward getting 23 girls into two outreach troops last fall. He plans to further fund the program with help for summer camp.
“We have a family property, 59 units, with 125 school-age children,” said Hoyt. “We’ve been trying innovative ways to keep the kids involved with groups and organizations that will help give them opportunities in the future.”
He had tried to get other after-school programs running to serve these children, but finding adults who would make the commitment to running a program and mentoring children was a huge challenge. When he found out that Girl Scouts provide a paid troop leader, he said “That’s the answer! Outreach provides the adult to run the troop and consistently shows up and knows what they’re doing.”
Not that it isn’t always a challenge, with five different languages and diverse cultures involved.
“They come from cultures that don’t recognize who Girl Scouts are,” Hoyt said. “They don’t know why their daughter should participate in Girl Scouts. But any way I can give one kid the chance to succeed, the tools, I’ll do that.”
The program and funding
Outreach troops are funded by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains; with grants, such as the one from Concord Housing and Redevelopment or from People’s United Foundation; and troop sponsorships. Citizens Bank has made generous donations in support of literacy programming in outreach troops. Also supporting overall outreach troop programming this year are People’s United Bank, the Manchester Elks Club, and the Mary Louise Billings Trust.
Often schools and community groups will partner with Girl Scouts, such as 21st Century, which is the only federal funding source dedicated exclusively to supporting local after-school, before-school and summer learning programs. The program was reauthorized in 2015 as part of the Every Student Succeeds Act. It offers academic help as well as clubs and activities. The Boys & Girls Club in Concord provides space and support to Girl Scout outreach troops. Merrimack Valley Daycare Services also provides a staff person to help with the troops as a leader. In Laconia, Project Extra is that school district’s after-school program. They provide enrichment for students before and after school, as well as meals.
The Girl Scout outreach troops run much like a typical troop, but are council-led – they have a paid GSGWM staff person to lead the troop, said Buckwell. While there is not as much mobility or parent involvement, girls still get the full Girl Scout Leadership Experience with its focus on life skills, the outdoors, entrepreneurship and STEM activities. The girls are provided with uniforms free of cost, as well as their membership fees, some supplies, and some camperships. They are also encouraged to fund their activities like camping or service projects through cookie sales, and make their own decisions on what their activities will be.
“It’s a great program,” said Kristin Smith, mother to a Brownie in an outreach troop. “She’s come out of her shell so much. She’s more independent. She says ‘Let me try it!’” Her daughter loves the Girl Scout program so much she joined not only the after-school outreach troop, but also a second Girl Scout troop.
Smith says she can see that attitudes change when girls get involved in Girl Scouts. “The difference in them – they’re excited, they’re happy!”
The Girl Scouts in Nashua and Franklin troops are already planning camporees – the first time these girls will have ever gone camping. In Franklin, they want to do an overnight trip, while the Nashua troop will spend a full weekend at Camp Kettleford in Bedford with the Hudson-Pelham service unit.
“It’s the first time we had an outreach troop go as a group,” said Buckwell. “The goal is to get them to do things like this. We had troops that met their cookie sales goals, and are doing activities accordingly. The kids did the financial literacy badges, all the planning.”
These Brownies and Juniors – those in second through fifth grades – are all working on badges and Journeys, which are a thematic series of earned awards.
“Three troops were able to sell cookies off site,” said Buckwell. “One was McDonough Elementary School at a Rotary meeting in Manchester. Older girls have been able to go to Camp Seawood, some are going to Older Girl Conference.”
Buckwell notes that languages and cultures do add a new level of difficulty, but she already speaks Spanish and is even learning Swahili.
“We have three Spanish speaking leaders working with us,” she said. “In Nashua, leaders speak Spanish fluently. The majority is Spanish, Swahili and French. We have Nepali and Middle Eastern girls. Some African girls speak French.”
At McDonough, outreach troop leader Devon O’Hara, a student at Saint Anselm College, works after school with girls who are Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors, in partnership with the 21st Century program. The girls meet on Friday afternoons, and her patience and good cheer with the girls, rambunctious after a tiring school week, are obvious.
“Sometimes I see moments, like they clean up without being asked, say ‘sisters,’” O’Hara said. “When we were selling cookies and then saw the uniforms arrive, it was like, oh, it’s for real!” Her Girl Scouts are now brainstorming what to do with their cookie proceeds, perhaps an overnight at Camp Farnsworth in Vermont.
Outreach troops are just one of many ways girls may participate in the Girl Scout Experience. They can also join a traditional troop, be an individually registered member, or take part in a special program like Girls Rock the Capitol or FIRST Lego League. Girls can also join to get outdoors and go camping, or travel the world with the Girl Scout Destinations programs.
No one knows more about girls than Girl Scouts! We know when girls are given the opportunity to discover their strengths and nurture their talents, they can become a positive force in their families and communities. Girl Scouts unleashes the G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™ in every girl!
About Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains: Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is recognized throughout New Hampshire and Vermont as a leading expert on girls. Our Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a one-of-a-kind leadership development program for girls, with proven results. It is based on time-tested methods and research-backed programming that helps girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. Through our exciting and challenging programs, Girl Scouts not only participate but also take the lead in a range of activities—from kayaking, archery, and camping, to coding, robotics, financial literacy training, and beyond! Serving more than 10,000 girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. Visit www.girlscoutsgwm.org.