By Alison Stanton —
When you think about Girl Scouts, you might picture the yummy Thin Mints, Trefoils and other cookies that members of the organization sell every year.
But did you know that Girl Scouts have been in Arizona for over a century? And that being part of this well-known organization provides girls of all ages with plenty of options for activities and projects that go well beyond selling cookies?
It all started back in 1916, when Maxie Dunning unofficially began Girl Scout-related activities with a group of girls in Prescott using the Girl Scout Handbook.
At the time, there were just a few troops scattered across the state. Two years later in Ajo, the state’s first official troop was registered. In 1922, Alice Marshall formed Troop #1 of Phoenix, sponsored by Trinity Cathedral Church.
Today, over 17,000 adult volunteers and girl members from grades K-12 and from more than 90 communities are served by Girl Scouts, Arizona Cactus-Pine Council.
To learn more about the Girl Scouts and the organization’s positive impact on girls, we asked Susanne Wells, Senior Director of Membership Services for the Girl Scouts, Arizona Cactus-Pine Council and Madison Koetz, a teen media ambassador, some questions:
Q: What are some of the ways that being in the Girl Scouts is beneficial to girls?
A: The inclusive, all-female environment of a Girl Scout troop creates a safe space where girls can try new things, develop a range of skills, take on leadership roles, and just be themselves. We’re here for them—anticipating their needs and preparing them to thrive in today’s world, Wells says.
Q: Can teenage girls join the Girl Scouts?
A: Girl Scouting is open to all girls, at any time, so you can jump in at middle or high school. The benefits for joining in the high school years connects to trying out hobbies like throwing pottery or scuba diving, Wells says.
Q: What is the average time commitment, and can it vary from girl to girl?
A: Each Girl Scout group makes their own schedule; most connect 2 to 3 times a month for planning adventures and then experiencing them. High school girls are busy and many troops at this age meet around everyone’s busy calendars, Wells says.
Q: What are some of the activities that Girl Scouts can take part in?
A: There is such a wide range of activities to choose in each of our four program areas: STEM, Outdoor, Life Skills and Financial Literacy. For instance, in STEM girls can build robots, create experiments as a citizen scientist and explore tech like photography, video or gaming. In the outdoors girls ride horses, hike and backpack, rock climb and zipline, stand up paddleboard or kayak and target shoot with arrows or hatchets. There are so many opportunities for them to try something new – we help girls uncover their passions, Wells says.
Q: Who are some famous Girl Scout alums?
A: As a Girl Scout fact sheet notes, there are a number of famous alums, including Taylor Swift, Mariah Carey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Venus and Serena Williams and Hillary Clinton, Wells says.
Q: What are some of the things you especially like about being in the Girl Scouts?
A: I love being able to have the opportunity to work with younger girls and helping them discover new passions and skills. I also really enjoy the community service opportunities I get to be a part of such as drives for food or clothing, serving on committees, running fundraisers, and much more. Girl Scouts has also helped me build strong and lasting friendships with tons of different personalities and backgrounds, says Madison, who is a Girl Scout Ambassador of Troop 2010 and has been involved in Girl Scouts for 12 years.
Q: What would you advise another teenage girl who is thinking about joining, but isn’t sure if she should or has the time?
A: I would first say that it’s never too late to join Girl Scouts. One of my troopmates joined in 10th grade and has quickly began and grown her Girl Scout experience. I think another one of the great things about Girl Scouts is you can choose how involved you become. If you don’t have a lot of time, you are not required to serve on neighborhood committees or volunteer at every opportunity available. But, if you want to join different committees, teams, projects, or volunteer at events you always have the option too. Girl Scouts is such an amazing organization to be a part of and you should definitely consider joining. You’ll make lifelong friends as well as participate in so many wonderful service opportunities and earn badges that teach you skills you can actually apply in real-life. As a Girl Scout, you will become a leader in your community and continually grow your skillset as a person. You will also push yourself to explore things out of your comfort zone whether that involves nature, public speaking, or running a business like the Girl Scout Cookie Program, Madison says.
For more information about the Girl Scouts, please visit girlscoutsaz.org
Alison is the mom of a teenage son and an older son in his early 20s. She has been a freelance writer for the past 23 years and she thinks teenagers are the best!