Brooklyn Benson was 10 when she ran her first 5K race. “She started Girl Scouts as a Brownie in second or third grade, and we got an email from Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan saying they would pay the entry fee for the first 100 girls to sign up. I had never participated in a 5K, and nor had my husband, but we stood on the sidelines and she ran that 5K as part of the Detroit Marathon four years in a row,” says Brooklyn’s mom, Chasity Benson, recruitment manager for Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. “It helped her build confidence, and she ran cross country in middle school and then tried out for the track team during ninth grade at Cass Tech.”
For a 10-year-old, completing a 5K can be life-changing, but it’s pretty typical for those involved in Girl Scouts, says deputy chief membership officer Amanda Thomas. “Girl Scouts offers so many different things for girls to be involved in and they can try something they didn’t even think about before,” Thomas says, listing STEM, arts, outdoor adventures, ziplining, kayaking and canoeing as just a few activities Girl Scouts can try.
For young girls who didn’t attend preschool or kindergarten in person because of the pandemic, participation in Girl Scouts is all the more valuable as a way to build confidence, learn social skills and become comfortable in their school environment, Thomas says. “Girl Scouts gives them that opportunity to make friends, build connections and find their voice,” she says, adding that not enough families are aware of the many benefits of Girl Scouts.
Much more than cookies
Girl Scouts have been selling cookies for decades, but behind that effort, girls learn financial literacy, event planning, entrepreneurship and communication skills. They learn how to set goals and achieve them.
“Sure, they look cute selling cookies, but they’re also learning about decision making, goal setting, business ethics and money management,” Benson says. “They build confidence in speaking to adults about what they’re planning to do with the proceeds — and these are all leadership skills. In fact, Girl Scouts are 40% more likely to consider themselves to be leaders than those who have not been part of Girl Scouts.”
At a recent Family Day in Detroit’s Palmer Park, families learned just how much Girl Scouts are exposed to through their involvement, including archery, drone piloting, robotics, STEM, basketball and a lot more. “They discovered that Girl Scouts is not just cookies, campfires and crafts, but a lot of adventures and leadership skills through many, many programs and activities,” Benson says.
Join a troop — or learn how
Volunteers with Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan are now encouraging families to learn more about forming a troop at their daughter’s elementary school — or joining an existing troop, if there is one. Across southeast Michigan, families of girls in kindergarten through third grade are invited to attend an information meeting at their local school to learn about the benefits of Girl Scouts for their daughters and for their families, Benson says.
“We are prioritizing going to schools where there is an interest and where there may not already be a troop,” she says. Parents, grandparents, aunts and other family members can find out how they can volunteer to lead a troop, too.
For more than 100 years, Girl Scouts has been the No.1 leadership organization for girls, and it’s an organization that moves with the times to offer girls experiences that are real-world and relevant. That’s especially important for young girls just starting out in school, Benson says.
“When girls are just starting kindergarten, they may be shy because they haven’t had the chance to practice their social skills. But with Girl Scouts, they are in a group of peers, learning new things together. That allows them to build confidence and self-esteem. They’re trying new things and finding out what they are good at. They are learning how to rise above challenges and become leaders.”
Reach out to Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan to join an existing troop, start a new troop, and learn more about all the benefits of participating. Call 800-482-6734 or visit gssem.org/join.