If you picture Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan singing around a campfire, cutting and pasting crafts and selling cookies, you may think you are summing up what Girl Scouts is all about. But you’d only be partially correct.
“Girl Scouts is so much more than cookies, camping and crafts,” says Monica Woodson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. “Girl Scouts is about drone and robotics programming, it’s about marketing and entrepreneurship and a great part of those practical everyday things that we all need to know how to do. There are avenues for girls to explore all of this through Girl Scouts.”
On Sept. 11, 2021, in Detroit’s Palmer Park, Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan welcomes girls and their families to discover just what Girl Scouts is all about. Family Day in the Park is free and open to families throughout metro Detroit. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. Girls are not obligated to join Girl Scouts, but they are encouraged to have a great time learning about all the exciting opportunities at Girl Scouts, says Tiffiny Griffin, deputy chief program officer.
“There will be a lot of hands-on interactive activities for families that will introduce them to Girl Scout programming, especially within our four pillars of outdoor, life skills, STEM and entrepreneurship,” Griffin says. “The event will really be a great taste of Girl Scouts.”
At the event, there will be lots of activities to excite kids ages K-12, like drone flying lessons and a LEGO derby. Plenty of program partners will be on hand to engage girls and their families. Detroit PAL (Detroit Police Athletic League) will keep everyone active with an Olympic-style obstacle course. The Detroit Pistons Dance Team and Cirque Amongus, the metro Detroit-based circus arts education organization, will perform. Grand Valley State University’s local campus will share activities and campus information and University of Detroit Mercy School of Dentistry will provide toothbrushes and dental care tips.
“The day will offer a lot of great fun and a friendly family afternoon,” Griffin says. “People can drop in, experience some fun activities, then continue on to enjoy the rest of their day.” No registration is necessary, but organizers will maintain group limits at all times to allow people space to maintain social distancing. Plan to wear a face covering.
Much more than cookies, camps and crafts
Today’s Girl Scout programming is designed to empower girls and young women to see themselves as STEM leaders, entrepreneurs and adventurers.
And, while cookies, camps and crafts are built into its tradition — and still continues to be important — Girl Scouts is designed to help girls create their own path through exposure to a wide variety of progressive opportunities. By participating in “college knowledge” workshops, for instance, girls can discover various considerations about selecting a college.
“But not all girls want to go to college, so how can we plug the gap and create opportunities for girls to self-sustain? We realized an introduction to the skilled trades was that opportunity,” Griffin says. Through partnerships with southeast Michigan companies and organizations. Girl Scouts is helping girls explore trucking, carpentry, masonry, power and electricity — and a lot more.
“We held our first skilled trades programming which taught girls how to use tools. They created a toolbox where they could keep their tools. They were surprised because they never knew there were so many types of screwdrivers,” Griffin says. “We really open doors more than people think.”
Collaboration is key
For a strong future, leadership at Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan realizes that the future is collaborative, says Woodson.
“There is work to be done when you talk about engaging youth and preparing tomorrow’s young adults today. Girl Scouts has a lot to bring to the table, and Detroit PAL is awesome and DTE and the Detroit Pistons are supporting us in various ways,” Woodson explains. “We recognize that we need help and partners with a shared vision doing complementary work to join us as we join them. The spirit of collaboration is my mantra in many ways for getting this work done.”
As Woodson returned home to Detroit after a few years living in Chicago, she says it’s a running joke that she needs a GPS to get around the city because of all the growth and changes. “The tech companies moving in and the River Walk and all of the positive change, that all happened because of collaboration, as it has with successful cities around the country.”
Collaboration is introduced to girls at the beginning of their Girl Scouts journey, Woodson says, regardless of how they interact with Girl Scouts. In troops or as solo Girl scouts (called Juliettes), girls learn how collaboration builds success. “It’s ingrained in our DNA and from a leadership perspective, we remind ourselves constantly of the importance of partnerships. Innovation is fantastic, but we have to get back to the basics, which is helping young girls and women frame their future.”
For girls to see themselves as future truck drivers, entrepreneurs, engineers, doctors or electricians, Girl Scouts are connected to women in these fields to see first-hand what the careers hold. And, for girls who have college in their futures, scholarships can help them realize their goals.
“What is the ROI of Girl Scouts? There are certainly some practical everyday things parents are looking for as well,” Woodson says. “The price of college tuition is not going down so if Girl Scouts can help girls who want to go to school, that’s something we want to do. We are always looking for ways to grow our scholarship program.”
At the individual level, Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan wants to be open and accessible to all girls in Detroit and in the metro Detroit area.
“It’s a personal passion of mine and of my team that we say Girl Scouting is for every girl and we are living that,” she says. “My mom was a Girl Scout. I was a Girl Scout, but there are so many who don’t have that generational connection. We are working to show them some of the cool things girls are doing in Girl Scouts.”
Learn more about Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan at gssem.org.