Monday, December 17, 2018

We’re a Girl Scout Family and I Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way

Chris S. is a troop leader from Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore. A proud Eagle Scout growing up, he shared his volunteer experience with us and explained why he thinks Girl Scouts is the best leadership training for girls. 

Girl Scouts is a family affair for us. I'm one of six leaders in a multi-level troop of 27 girls; my wife is our troop treasurer; and my daughter, Luci, is a second-year Brownie. Our Girl Scout experience began when Luci joined as a Daisy in first grade. From our first parent meeting, I knew I wanted to get involved and be a resource for the energetic girls running around. In our troop, we’ve balanced fun activities with giving back—from cranberry picking in the fall to packing toiletries and personal items for “blessing bags” for those in need in our community.

Luci loves astronomy and science, so she’s excited about the new science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) badges. She’s even earned her Brownie Space Science Adventurer badge. She and her troop attended a council-wide cybersecurity event recently, and I love watching her eyes light up when she delves into a topic that excites her. I also love that she’s able to share her passion for STEM with her troop, because she might not talk about STEM as much when she’s with her school friends. Girl Scouts is definitely a platform for her interests.

I became an Eagle Scout in high school and consider that one of the most valuable experiences in my life, but from everything I see now as a troop leader at Girl Scouts, I feel strongly that it’s the best place for girls to develop character and confidence. It’s so important for them to have a space to themselves where they can grow their confidence and follow their passions. It's been amazing to watch the girls become comfortable with who they are, own their interests, and learn to rely on one another. In fact, it’s the most important thing for me to see as a dad and troop leader. For example, Luci hated bugs, but as she earned her Brownie Bugs badge, she looked for bugs under rocks and got close to them in a way I hadn’t seen before. If it were just the two of us hiking, she wouldn’t have done that; with her friends, she has more confidence and she pushes herself to do more.

For the dads out there, I think if you want to spend high-quality time with your daughter and make meaningful memories, Girl Scouts is the perfect way to do so. There are so many incredible activities you can take part in, and you shouldn’t feel intimidated or afraid to do them. Actually, a majority of volunteers in our council wish there were more actively involved dads. Don't get me wrong, many dads volunteer—one dad is a police officer who talked with the girls for their Brownie Safety Award pin—but I'm a delegate in my council, and I think it’s 95 percent women. I do a lot of our outreach to new members, and moms are usually surprised when they hear me on the phone. After they get to know me, however, they become more comfortable and they like the fact we have both male and female leaders.

Girl Scouts being just for moms and daughters is a stereotype that needs to get squashed. Being a Girl Scout troop leader opened my mind to different things, and it’s made me more aware of the need for girls to empower themselves and of the unique issues that women face today. I feel passionately that girls should never think of themselves as limited because they’re girls; they should always know they can do anything they want. And for Luci, knowing that her dad is there to support her as she does her part to make the world a better place is what matters to me most of all.