This new Girl Scouts site is a ‘treasure chest’ of tips for girls to make a difference
Girl Scouts of the USA is most commonly known for its signature cookies, but the century-old organization plays a unique role in American politics that often goes unnoticed.
More than half of the women serving in Congress, for example, are former Girl Scouts. And Sylvia Acevedo, the organization’s CEO, says she regularly learns of Girl Scouts who see injustice or an opportunity to make positive change in their community, and then write letters to their mayor, lobby their state representatives, and sometimes even help change the law.
That’s no mistake, Acevedo says. The organization has long encouraged participants to become civically engaged, providing them with the tools and mentoring to do so. Now, Girl Scouts wants to take what Acevedo calls its “treasure chest” of tips and techniques and share it with every girl, regardless of whether or not she belongs to a troop.
That online resource, which launched Friday, is called the G.I.R.L. Agenda. The nonpartisan initiative is designed to help girls learn about creating positive change through civic action. (G.I.R.L. stands for Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader.)
“We want to give [a girl] the skills and the tools so that she can use her voice around the things that she values,” says Acevedo.
“We want to give a girl the skills and the tools so that she can use her voice around the things that she values.”
The G.I.R.L. Agenda site offers a comprehensive set of PDFs that give step-by-step advice on how to get involved in civic engagement. Broken into three age groups (5-13, 14-17, and adulthood), the tip sheets encourage girls to learn about their community by talking to neighbors, paying close attention to what happens in their school, and attending town meetings.
The site urges girls to start by picking an issue that’s meaningful to them. It’s important to channel their passion but also back that emotion up with facts — and the ability to thoughtfully disagree.
That may sound like a novel concept for intensely divided political times, but Acevedo wants to ensure that girls are equipped to solve problems. She noticed that many girls this year became politically aware or active, but they didn’t know what steps to take next after marching in the street for a cause.
Acevedo says that many students aren’t getting a rigorous civics education in school, and as a result, often don’t know the basic elements of civic engagement or how to advocate for what their communities need.
The new site is designed to bridge that gap for anyone who is interested in learning, though the resources do encourage people to become a Girl Scout by linking to the organization’s membership page. Acevedo says that while the site dispenses useful tips, the “secret sauce” of helping girls become advocates for themselves and their values is in “leadership experience.”
Beyond its political and social relevance, the initiative is also deeply personal to Acevedo. When she was a Girl Scout, her mother spoke only Spanish. Acevedo’s troop leaders helped her mom learn English around the kitchen table and enrolled her in citizenship classes.
“They were taking civic action,” she says. “They were being that good neighbor.”
That’s exactly the skill Acevedo wants girls to learn because it sustains communities.
“Frankly, our Facebook followers, they’re not going to water our plants when we’re away,” she says. “Our Instagram followers, they’re not going to bring us a hot meal.”
But, Acevedo says, the Girl Scout who cares about her neighbors and knows how to act on those values can.