Two of My Favorite Things–Girl Scouts and College Students

I found this draft from a year ago, and it’s still relevant–maybe more so.

A new book claims that today’s college freshman lack basic life skills. This is a gap that Girl Scouts should address.

raise-adult-book-cover

In How to Raise an Adult, Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshman at Stanford University, claims that incoming students had impressive resumes, but were increasingly incapable of taking care of themselves. To remedy this problem, she says that, especially with teenagers, we should “seek out opportunities to put independence in their way,” such as making them responsible for their own food or learning to take public transportation.

She’s not alone in this belief. Many colleges have “College 101” courses to teach some of the basics. US News & World Report suggests that college freshmen need Seven Essential Life Skills.

Source: Skills Needed: Girl Scout Badges Could Help | Girl Scout History Project

The author of the post listed those seven skills, together with a Girl Scout badge that will help a girl gain those skills. She then lists several other skills (like laundry and cooking) she thinks college students need.

When I look at the badges included in the first Girl Scout Handbooks (and all iterations of the Boy Scout Handbooks–the Girl Scout badge program has been severely gutted in the last 8 years, but that’s another story), I see that Scouting was strongly based in teaching hard skills to allow a young person to succeed in adulthood. Looking at the young people in my life who are not Scouts, they do not have opportunities to learn and practice money management, cooking, outdoor appreciation, or first aid unless their caregivers teach those skills in the home (granted, some organizations and schools provide some of these, but I don’t personally know a child who gets any of this outside of home of Scouting).

Schools already have residence hall programs which teach residents how to do laundry and basic cooking. Is there a point where higher ed professionals can’t or won’t step in anymore? Is it ever feasible for courses like Home Ec to be included in the middle/secondary ed curriculum again? Or am I just longing for a dream of yesterday?

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The Student Affairs Collective #SAVolunteers – The Secret Lives of Student Affairs Professionals – The Student Affairs Collective

In this time of giving, many people think of the needs of others and decide to volunteer at a food pantry, or with the elderly or children in need. Some people volunteer at specific times of the year, like during the holidays; others volunteer year-round with various organizations. Volunteering is a noble activity–giving of your time, energy, knowledge and skills to benefit others with no expectation of receiving back anything but a “Thank you” and a good feeling.  Yet, many volunteers DO expect something more, whether it’s professional connections, skills development, a sense of superiority, or something else entirely.

Continue reading at: The Student Affairs Collective #SAVolunteers – The Secret Lives of Student Affairs Professionals – The Student Affairs Collective

What I’ve Learned from Girl Scouts

Girl-Scouts Logo

Yesterday, I was asked how many years I have been a Girl Scout. This includes all types of involvement because one must always be a registered member whether as a Girl, Volunteer, or Staff. When I mentally tallied the 9 years as a girl, 2 as camp staff and 7 as a volunteer, I came up with 18.

That’s a long time for someone to dedicate to a single thing.

Yes, that is more than half my life, but I had several breaks in membership/activity because I didn’t think I was “old enough” or “experienced enough” or “had enough time” to be a Girl Scout volunteer. It took a while to realize one does not need a daughter or to run a troop to be  active with GS. As a Learning Facilitator, I have the “exciting” role of teaching new Volunteers about the Girl Scout Leadership Experience and helping them understand/use program materials effectively with the girls they are working with.

So many of these new volunteers are joining because they want their daughters to have the same experience they did. Girl Scouts has meant a lot to many women and we are inherently attracted to things that have a  positive effect on us.

Girl Scouts is different though, and it’s hard for volunteers to grasp. Heck, it’s taken me 3 years of facilitating sessions on the GSLE to “get” it, and I feel there’s still more to learn. I often hear in sessions, and read on the web, “If we have to do so much to make it work, why do we have this program?” I’ll be honest that I find some the new program materials leave something to be desired. But I will also say that I get the reasoning:

Girl Scouts is about the experience, not the badges.

This is an incredibly hard concept to make people understand. It’s absolutely a combination of the forest/trees scenario and the fact that change is difficult. It’s also affected by the need to give everyone a trophy, even if they didn’t show up but were on the team (that’s a rant for another day though). The way I understand it, the Journeys program was created to allow girls and their volunteers to have a cohesive, multi-layered experience over the course of many sessions/activities.  The founder, Juliette Low, said this about badges:

Every badge you earn is tied up to your motto. This badge is not a reward for something you have done once or for an examination you have passed. Badges are not medals to wear on your sleeve to show what a smart girl you are. A badge is a symbol that you have done the thing it stands for often enough, thoroughly enough, and well enough to BE PREPARED to give service in it. You wear the badge to let people know that you are prepared and willing to be called on because you are a Girl Scout. And Girl Scouting is not just knowing…..but doing…..not just doing, but being.

As I have tried to understand and accept the current program so I can train others on it, I have come to realize that this is a bigger concept than Girl Scouts. Life is about the experience, the journey. The badges and awards (degree, house, marriage  etc) are what you show when you understand what you’ve done and where you’ve come from to arrive at that place.

But the journey doesn’t end (well, it does, but no one likes to think about that unless you believe in reincarnation). Once you have earned the degree or have been hired for the job, you still have to keep yourself knowledgeable about your field, do the work that is set before you, pay your mortgage. Those are all their own journeys within the JOURNEY that is life. Sometimes I think we’re too focused on the badges.

 

[EP] Girl Scout Traditions: Adult/Volunteer

Gold; 40+ hrs

Girl Scout Traditions: Volunteer/Adult

Date Earned: May 7, 2012

Step(s) Completed  (click badge to view page)

  • Captain, leader, facilitator
  • Looking to the past
  • Customizing your materials
  • Online resources
  • Other adult volunteer positions
  • Training for adults
  • Girl Scout adult insignia
  • GSUSA recognitions
  • Fun patches
  • Girl Scout Alumnae

As a Girl Scout Alumna (9 years as a Girl member), and current Volunteer (5 years as a Volunteer), I am not ashamed to admit that I know quite a bit about the history and traditions of Girl Scouting. Add to that the fact that I have a small but growing collection of Girl Scout Handbooks & Badge Books, including a re-print of the original How Girls Can Help Their Country, and you have a semi-history buff. I’m also an unashamed traditionalist , with not nearly enough room to explain how GS would run if I were Queen of Girl Scouts™ I’m familiar and comfortable with the history of the Girl Scout Volunteer.

Personal geekiness aside, I earned this badge mostly through my activities as a Learning Facilitator (the fancy new-ish title for Trainers) over the last 3 years. When I started this role, GSUSA was releasing brand new program materials, and I needed to learn these new materials and train both new and experienced volunteers on how to implement them with their troops. The Journeys, which are very different from the badges that we are all familiar with, were (and remain) difficult for volunteers to wrap their heads around because they are a lot less cut-and-dry than badges, being much more experiential. Old volunteers had difficulty because it’s so different from the materials of the last 100 years; new volunteers had difficulty because they saw the books as a curriculum rather than a guide. Helping them understand that the themes and learning outcomes (I am such a Student Affairs person; I can’t for the life of me remember what they are called in the Journeys) are the “meat and potatoes” of each Journey, and that they should work with the girls to customize it was a challenge to both myself and them. Through being active (in a lurking kind of way), on several Girl Scout mailing lists and webgroups, as well as participating in any training within my Council that might be helpful, I have learned tips and tricks for implementing Journeys and the other new materials, especially how to involve the girls in choosing what (and how) to work on.

In addition to a programming workshop, called Essentials within my council, and broken up by age level, I deliver the Council Orientation, which is an overview of the Troop Volunteer position. This covers everything from the Promise & Law to opening a bank account & earning money to girl and adult safety. It’s an intense training because it’s on the dry side, and the volunteers taking it are completely new to the program, often having never been Girl Scouts themselves. I try to add in a brief overview of my Girl Scout knowledge, letting them know there is a lot out there for them to become involved with once they are comfortable with their troop and if they want to expand into other types of involvement. I stress Service Unit participation as a next step, but describe my positions as Facilitator, Regional Delegate & Gold Award Committee member to show the diversity of options based on various interests–I’m not good with small children, so working with adults and older girls are my preferred roles. Without volunteers, Girl Scouts doesn’t exist; I try to instill that in my trainings.

Honestly, until I began volunteering in 2008, I really wasn’t aware of the options I had; I thought Troop leadership was the only way to participate as an adult because I wasn’t as aware of Council workings or needs. If I hadn’t found out about other pathways, I would not be a volunteer now because I know I would not have had time for a troop during grad school and this first year as a new professional–it’s why I left the troop I was with when I started school. I found my fit and am looking forward to many more years of evolving involvement.

[EP] Girl Scout 100th Anniversary

Gold; Council-wide event

Girl Scout 100th Anniversary–Gold; Council-wide event

Date Earned: May 7, 2012

Step(s) Completed  (click badge to view page)

  • Gold — Helping to plan/run a Girl Scout 100th Anniversary event at the Council level. 

To honor the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts, my council, GS of Eastern MA, hosted the All TogetHER Volunteer Celebration on April 28, 2012. This event combined our Annual Meeting, Adult Recognition Luncheon and a learning conference into a single day of recognition and thanks for our volunteers. I enjoy planning events (hence the Student Affairs career) and strongly feel that volunteers don’t always get the recognition/thanks they deserve, so was eager to join the planning committee.

With the planning committee, I participated in several live meetings and conference calls with other committee members, where we selected a Keynote speaker, planned service projects for attendees to participate in, brainstormed workshops that would be of interest including songs, history/traditions, etc and mapped out the logistics of the event space. I also served in the role of point-of-contact/escort for our Keynote Speaker, Mel Robbins.

Helping to plan this event was an incredibly rewarding experience; it was wonderful being able to give the volunteers a day to celebrate themselves and thank them for all their hard work.