The Girl Scouts have been dedicated to girl leadership development since 1912 — before women had the right to vote.

Girl Scouts spot wildlife during a hike as part of a Day of Birds program at Camp Arnaz in Ventura.

Today, Girl Scouting is considered by some the best leadership program in the world for girls, now offering the opportunity to earn national cybersecurity badges and learn other skills that will help prepare them for the 21st century.

“As the world’s girl leadership development expert, our outcomes prove that Girl Scouting’s time-tested and research-backed program works,” said Jody Skenderian, Chief Executive Officer of the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast.

The girl-centric safe space to try new things coupled with the variety of challenging proficiency badges and activities offered allows girls to build camaraderie, take healthy risks, gain confidence and build character, she said.

Additionally, only Girl Scouts can earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest achievement earned by girls who complete a project that positively impacts their community while learning skills that help them gain access to college and careers while building their confidence.

“Millions of women alumnae attribute their current well-being and success to the skills and experiences they attained in Girl Scouts while being mentored by caring adult volunteer leaders,” Skenderian said.

23 new badges

Girl Scout Troop 60385 stand next to their can tree during for the food drive in Ventura.

Girl Scouting has been active along the Central Coast since the 1920s. The current council was formed when two councils — Tres Condados Council and the Monterey Bay Council — aligned to form Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast in 2007.

While Girl Scout membership overall has seen a decline nationally, “Along the Central Coast, our membership has remained relatively consistent in comparison, along with a strong retention rate above the national average,” Skenderian said.

Today, there are more than 10,000 girls involved with the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast. They are composed of the Girl Scout Daisies for kindergarteners and first-graders; the Girl Scout Brownies for second- and third-graders; the Girl Scout Juniors for fourth- and fifth-graders; and the Girl Scout Cadettes for sixth- through eighth-graders. There are also the Girl Scout Seniors for freshmen and sophomores and the Girl Scout Ambassadors for juniors and seniors.

Most recently, in 2017, Girl Scouts launched 23 new badges in STEM and the Outdoors. Badges in robotics, race car design, engineering, troop camping and civic engagement — the Good Neighbor Badge — are among the offerings. Additionally, in May of 2018, Girl Scouts announced the plan to rollout new cybersecurity badges.

“To encourage girls to become the experts who can meet future cybersecurity challenges, GSUSA and Palo Alto Networks are teaming up to deliver the first-ever national cybersecurity badges for girls in grades K-12,” Skenderian said. “In September 2018, 18 badges will introduce cybersecurity education to millions of girls across the United States through compelling programming designed to increase their interest and instill in them a valuable 21st-century skill set.”

Four Program Pillars

Girl Scouts learn to use power tools at Camp Arnaz during construction camp.

Girl Scouts offers four program pillars through the Girl Scout Leadership Curriculum: Outdoor, STEM, Life Skills and Entrepreneurship.

“Girls choose skills and activities to pursue based on their interests,” Skenderian said.

Girls in Girl Scouting are still able to earn legacy badges at every age level.

“Badges focused on first aid, cooking, painting, pet care, woodworking, and camping — from cabin camper to survival camper — are still an integral part of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience today,” Skenderian said.

Girl Scout Juniors and older are also able to participate in the council’s biannual Kaleidoscope camporee, which includes a series of skill-building challenges like fire-building, knot-tying, lashing, orienteering and more.

“And our members also have access to the outdoors through camping and program at Camp Arnaz, 36 acres of beautiful outdoor space located in Ventura for campers of all experience levels,” Skenderian said.

Girl-Led

Girl Scouting always has been, and always will be, girl-led.

Girls decide what they are interested in trying, discovering or experiencing — to explore their potential or to solve a community problem, Skenderian said.

With a wide variety of fun and challenging activities — whether she chooses to pitch a tent and learn wilderness survival skills, earn the Musician Badge, learn to code a computer game or build an audio library for blind youth in Thailand — “She’ll be inspired by her experience and on her way to a lifetime of leadership that will set her up for success through the world’s largest network of women as a Girl Scout alum,” Skenderian said.

In fact, Girl Scouts recently launched a new Girl Scout Network through LinkedIn so that generations of Girl Scout alumni can connect.

Girl Scouts creates greater opportunities

While girls may have opportunities at school or at home, in Girl Scouts, girls get to have experiences in unique ways that cultivate a strong sense of self, build character and encourage innovation and risk-taking that ultimately prepare them for success in their adult lives.

“In fact, Girl Scouts report a higher level of well-being; they display positive values, are more civically engaged, they are able to problem-solve and they maintain healthier relationships,” Skenderian said.

Girl Scouts’ highest honors include the Bronze, Silver and Girl Scout Gold Award — the highest award in Girl Scouting.

“A high school girl who has completed the Girl Scout Gold Award has completed a seven-step project and solved a community problem,” Skenderian noted. “Further, she has distinguished herself as a leader in the college application process, can earn college scholarships and can enter the military one rank higher.”

Amina Pasha

Sixteen-year-old Amina Pasha has been a Girl Scout for a decade since joining when she was in the second grade.

“I wanted to be a Girl Scout because I wanted to be part of a community where our sisters work as a team to make a difference in our community,” said Amina of Westlake Village, who’s a member of Troop 60497.

She learned to be more social, made more friends, and had the opportunity to teach younger girls how to be Girl Scouts.

“I learned how to communicate with adults, which eventually led to me starting my own business, NatNatNatural,” she said, “and I learned how to take action to make a change in my community by completing my Silver Award in sixth grade and Gold Award in 10th grade.”

The best skill she learned was public speaking.

Today, “I feel comfortable to speak in front of any crowd … comfortable debating in JSA (Junior State America), and comfortable sharing my ideas,” Amina said.

Thanks to Girl Scouts, she now feels ready to take part in her community.

“Whether it may be the Persian community, Westlake community or my youth community, I know that I can step to new challenges and make a difference,” she said.

Being a Girl Scout has changed her life by giving her opportunities she never thought she would experience — including serving in the role of camp counselor.

She bridged to become a Junior in San Francisco with her elementary school troop, got to work with Boy Scouts on her Silver Award project, where she beautified the Secret Garden at Cornerstone Elementary, and she worked with the Cancer Support Community to interview the children in Kids’ and Teens’ Circle and publish a book for her Gold Award.

“These are just the few experiences I had in my 10 years because Girl Scouts of America gave me the chance to find my true self,” Amina said.

Sierra Engel

Sierra Engel’s mom was a Girl Scout, and she also had a couple of friends that had fun and beneficial experiences as Girl Scouts, “so I wanted to become one, too.”

The 12-year-old of Ventura, who’s been a Girl Scout since the first grade, is a member of Troop 60385.

Her favorite skills learned initially were to tie different knots, prepare meals and sew.

“Now it is the lifesaving ability to do CPR and first aid because you never know when and where you might need it,” Sierra said.

Being a Girl Scout has prepared her for the future in many great ways, she said.

“I am more confident in myself and I have tested my endurance in the outdoors hiking and backpacking,” Sierra said.

She has also gained leadership skills by leading meetings, speaking and performing in front of large groups, and in mentoring younger scouts like her sister, Sedona, who just finished her first year as a Daisy.

“Girl Scouts has positively changed my life because of the lifelong skills, memories and friendships I’ve gained throughout the six years I’ve been a member,” she said.

Also, the charity work she has done has been very rewarding.

Some of the community service projects her troop has done include building benches at their elementary school, collecting toiletries and helping serve meals to the homeless, collecting blankets and making toys for local animal shelters, collecting and buying clothes and backpacks for foster children, and caroling to seniors and veterans in nursing homes.

“For any girl who is considering joining Girl Scouts I recommend it 100 percent,” Sierra added.

Miriam Vie

Miriam Vie

Eleven-year-old Miriam Vie of Ventura has been a member of the Girl Scouts for about six years.

“I initially wanted to become a Girl Scout because of all the fun outdoor activities I heard we would get to experience — camping, archery, hiking and even horseback riding,” said the member of Troop 60385.

Out of all the skills and lessons she has acquired from Girl Scouts, her favorite is teamwork.

“This is because by working together you can accomplish so much more,” she said.

Today, “I know for sure that being a part of the Girl Scouts has prepared me for the future.”

“This is because being a Girl Scout has taught me many important skills and life lessons that I will eventually take part in, such as social skills, acts of community service, teamwork and public speaking,” Miriam said.

Being a Girl Scout has beneficially changed her life “because it feels really good to do good things for the community together as a group — singing holiday carols to the elderly, and serving food at the homeless shelter.”

Helping girls achieve their full potential

The ultimate goal of the Girl Scouts is reaching all girls to help them achieve their full potential, Skenderian emphasized.

She noted that California ranks 29th in the nation for girl well-being according to a recent study published by the Girl Scout Research Institute, “a statistic we are focused on improving.”

“We know Girl Scouts can make a difference from the 2017 Girl Scout Impact Study, which provides compelling evidence that Girl Scouts stand out significantly from non-Girl Scouts, demonstrating more well-rounded lifestyles,” Skenderian said.

Outcomes include that Girl Scouts are more likely to:

  • Have a strong sense of self
  • Have positive values
  • Seek challenges and learn from setbacks
  • Develop and maintain healthy relationships
  • Exhibit community problem-solving skills

“In the study, Girl Scouts also earned excellent grades, are expected to graduate from high school and college, desired challenging careers, and expected to have a great future more likely than non-Girl Scouts,” Skenderian said. “If more girls participate in the Girl Scout leadership experience, we will improve girl well-being overall.”

In an effort to continue leading girls to reach their full potential, Skenderian added, “We do need volunteers.”

These include both parents of girls and those who may not have children currently in the Girl Scout program, but have skills, talent and a desire to change the lives of girls.

“When dedicated, nurturing volunteers come into the Girl Scout program, they not only find it truly personally rewarding, they quickly experience that they are giving girls a gift of a lifetime, and supporting the future well-being of their communities and the wider world,” Skenderian said.

For more information, contact Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast at 800-822-2427, ext. 3977, or direct, 805-232-3977; www.girlscoutsccc.org.