If you are a woman reading this, the odds are good that you were (at one point in your life) a Girl Scout.
I personally didn’t make it past the Brownies, but after speaking with Patricia Carroll — who began her role as the new CEO of Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey two weeks ago — I wish I’d stuck with it.
Carroll, a leader in New Jersey’s health care industry for 25 years (most recently as chief operating officer and senior vice president of Saint Peter’s Healthcare System), was herself a Girl Scout for 10 years.
“My background in health care had been extremely rewarding,” Carroll said. “So when I saw this opening, I thought what a great way to advocate the mentoring of young women in our community and build their character and confidence.
“Girl Scouts engages girls to discover themselves, connect with others and take action to make the world a better place. They will carry these skills throughout their lives.”
Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey is a huge undertaking, with this organization alone serving more than 22,000 girls and 9,000 adult volunteers in the counties of Hudson, Essex, Union, Somerset, Hunterdon, southern Warren and parts of Middlesex.
“We are committed to providing exciting programs and events — such as STEM, financial literacy, Girl Scout award workshops, health and fitness, outdoors, arts and culture, and more — with the opportunity to develop leadership skills while having fun,” Carroll said.
Today, there are 3.2 million Girl Scouts worldwide — 2.3 million girl members and 890,000 adult volunteers — that have joined the century-old organization.
And according to Inc.com, 80 percent of women business owners and more than two-thirds of the female members of Congress in 2012 were also, at one time, Girl Scouts.
Here’s what I wish I would’ve known 17 years ago, when I was a 9-year-old and begging to quit:
You can join the Girl Scouts at any age — and you can’t really use “I’m too busy” as an excuse. To participate in events, earn awards and sell cookies on their own time as an individual, “Juliettes” simply need an adviser to join the organization without a troop.
Girl Scouts provides scholarships, awards and grants — that’s right, free money — to members attending institutions such as Rutgers Douglass Residential College in New Brunswick, one of the many participating schools across the country.
Girl Scouts selling Tag-a-Longs at your front door aren’t just looking to fund their organization — they’re also learning how to set goals, make decisions, manage money, practice people skills and business ethics. Here’s how the program works:
Girl Scouts isn’t all about the cookies — their other programs, such as Financial Literacy, teach young girls lifelong skills that even the education systems seem to sometimes pass over. Here’s an example:
Most importantly, Girl Scouts is a great way to educate young girls about STEM: “You can look anywhere in the world right now — Google, Verizon — and find a big emphasis on encouraging young women to pursue professions in science, technology, engineering and mathematics because girls can do anything and Girl Scouting gives them confidence to be a representative and a working woman in these fields,” Carroll said. “A STEM program may mean going out and looking at the stars and identifying constellations during a night hike, or it might be going to the aquarium to learn about ocean life. The important piece is to start encouraging girls to explore and continue to follow their passion.”
So while I may not be able to rethink my second-grade decision, I will continue to purchase Girl Scout cookies (even though I’m gluten-free) and sign up to volunteer for my little sister’s next camping trip — in hopes that she’ll finance her own college education and become the next, great, successful female entrepreneur or Congresswoman.
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