The young waterfront instructor tilted her head as she held out her hand. “You can do it,” she said, calmly.
Cautiously, I stepped on to the stand-up paddleboard for the first time, and quickly knelt for stability. The stakes were high: Even in August, the icy mountain lake at Camp Cloud Rim would mean a painful dunk for any mistake.
As I glided away, I gained balance and soon mastered moving from kneeling to standing, confident to try something new, even as a grandmother. Growing bold, I shouted encouragement and a challenge to my friend also paddling across the pristine lake.
It’s a great example of Girl Scouting – a safe place to try out new adventures, conquer fears, share excitement with friends, and choose your own path.
Girl Scouts of Utah is the premier organization for girls in Utah. “For girls” means that the program is specially designed to develop girls as go-getters, innovators, risk-takers and leaders. It is a modern, well-researched and time-tested set of programs that are guided by a trained volunteer who can offer the social capital that many girls in our state need. Girl Scout troops are girl-led. The girls decide what activities they want to do. Girl Scout troops provide a place where gender stereotypes of what a girl can do are thankfully set aside: Girls can do anything.
In Utah, we offer some of the nation’s most challenging outdoor adventures: rock climbing, camping, white water rafting, hiking, sailing and many other trips and camp activities. Just last week, Girl Scouts participated in extreme winter camping, where they snowshoed, built snow caves and camped in the snow. Girls also work with our partners to learn financial literacy, STEM, business skills, coding, design and even what it means to be a first responder.
The Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest girl-led entrepreneurial program in the world, where girls can build a business, create relationships, interact with customers, manage money and set goals. All of the net revenue raised through the program stays here in Utah and with the girls and troops. Girls set goals and use cookie funds to pay their own way to camp, troop activities and travel. Local communities also benefit, as many girls use their money to fund improvement projects, or donate to worthy causes.
Girl Scouts have a proven record. The top women leaders in the country — senators, business leaders, astronauts, athletes, military officers and engineers — were overwhelmingly Girl Scouts. Our Gold Award Girl Scouts create and implement sustainable projects that engage serious issues like homelessness, health, literacy, global warming, youth suicide, drug abuse and clean water. The Gold Award, similar to an Eagle, is challenging and inspires girls to take action.
Many people ask us about Boy Scouts’ new policy to allow girls. Boy Scouts is an historic and important organization, but I know many former Boy Scouts and leaders who question the appropriateness of the recent change. It isn’t clear whether this is a benefit for boys or girls.
Studies show that girls learn better in an all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment. In Girl Scouts she can be herself, lead, try new things, and even fall into the icy lake, learning to get up, dry off and try again. In a world literally dominated by boy’s clubs, girls really need at least one place of their own.
Girl Scouts today support girls who will lead in a modern, diverse and changing world. We are looking for adult volunteers, new troops and donors to support refugee troops and others who need a little help.
Brenda Case Scheer is a Lifetime Girl Scout, a professor in the School of Architecture and City and Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah and board chair of the Girl Scouts of Utah.