When it comes to the Girl Scouts, it's hard not to fall in love. They gave the world Thin Mints, and for that I am thankful. Oh, and of course girl power. Natch.
But just one look at the Girl Scouts of America website, and I break out in hives. Aren't those girls rather ... high ... on those ropes? And, um, do they really have to be rowing in the middle of a lake?
Yes, these are all wonderful, empowering activities for the right girl. God love 'em, I'm glad we have 'em. But do you ever wonder what happens to those other girls? The girls who dropped out in Brownies? The girls whose skin broke out at the sight of a green sash? The girl who saw a rope climbing course and tripped over herself to get to the library? The girls whose parents just didn't have time to take them to a Girl Scout meeting?
Although Girl Scouts offers opportunities into high school, the bulk of its membership drops off in middle school. Talking to teens to get a feeling for the whys, the reasons are varied, but there's one constant: they associate the Scouts with childhood, and now they feel "too grown up" for Scouting -- even if they admit enjoying the ride. And that's where we're losing girls: as teens, who fall into the traps of cliques and mean girl-on-girl cattiness.
I may have found something ... I dare say it ... better for our girls than the Girl Scouts, or at the very least, a replacement for the days after Scouts. It's the Girls Leadership Institute (GLI), and it picks up where the Scouts leave off.
For the sake of full disclosure, I have to admit I found it in a round-about way. I got a press packet from the Secret deodorant company about their new anti-bullying campaign with GLI. Mean Stinks is a catchy and much-needed way of putting the stops on a problem in our nation's schools. But a look at the non-profit behind the company's program, and I'm hooked. At GLI, they believe:
A connected girl is a happy girl. Strong relationships embolden girls to feel motivated, successful, and inspired. When girls know how to manage conflict, we reduce the incidence of bullying and aggression.
Pretty bad ass stuff. They have camps (like Girl Scouts) and workshops, starting at grade six. That's right where girls, in my neck of the woods anyway, start to split from the Scouts and begin to flounder. So they can jump on the GLI website to sign up for a session or wander through the site's articles on confidence, activism, feminism, body image, and identity.
Need help now? They can go via Mean Stinks and GLI to find ways to undo mean like: "Girl-to-Girl Mean. Face-to-face, text-to-text, pen-to-bathroom-stall, whatever" with 24/7 support and a Facebook feed of positivity from girls around the world. In an age when 77 percent of students confess to having been bullied at some point in high school, girls need a fall-back for empowerment. That's where GLI is coming in as a lifesaver for our girls. Simply put: they need something to carry them through the tough teen years. The more support, the better.
The Girl Scouts remain a strong option, but when girls have abandoned scouting, what is there to turn to?
Image via Dottie Mae/Flickr