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A Girl Scout Leader Speaks Frankly

Troop 1171 working on the Girltopia Journey
Troop 1171 working on the Girltopia Journey
Vicki Woods

Now that my troop is in High School, Girl Scouts has been a challenge. The competition of school, sports, boys, the mall, tumblr and computer games and just the fact that Girl Scouts isn't cool when you are older, all make it difficult to keep a teenage girl's attention. But I tried. This year I made the hardest decision of all; to step back from my leader position and let someone else take over. I know it is the best decision for many reasons but it has been hard. I love and identify as a Girl Scout leader. I truly have faith that I made a positive difference in many girls' lives; including my daughter's. But I still knew it was time to step down and become lower on the command chain. Here are my top three reasons. Reason #1: My troop numbers were down and joining with another smallish troop seemed to make sense. Reason #2: I know I was taking things too personally when the girls were distracted and I needed to let another leader spark their interest. Reason #3: I thought my girls should work with some other girls to gain a new perspective on Girl Scouts from other peers. Luckily I found a troop and a leader I believe in so all I can do is be supportive in any way they need me to be.

Last year on this very same Thanksgiving weekend, I sat down to write a story and wrote about why I was thankful to be a leader. I just read through that and got emotional again. I am proud of my girls and what we accomplished, I love my troop and want to continue doing the great community service and activities, so yes, it is time to hand over the torch and feel good about that decision. After reading last years story and realizing that I feel a bit differently now and am concerned about the future of the troop, I decided to look up frustrations of other Girl Scout leaders on the internet. OMG! Did I find articles! Many of them were by leaders, most were from parents of Girl Scouts and some were some very misguided people going on about how Girl Scout cookies are evil. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised at the number of negative stuff, but I suppose most people that post comments are there to vent or rant. Dropping those pointlessly negative people out of my radar- I found a few articles that I could relate to. Article #1 was from a mom who went on about adults selling cookies at work. Now- I get the point, only the girls should be selling- but I bet that mom can afford to pay the difference on events the troop didn't raise enough for. That is not the case with many families. But.......I do think that the girls when they are older need to step up and sell without constant whining, if they want to travel or do expensive outings. It's about raising the money and being proud of it. Now do I think that maybe Girl Scouts could be better at coming up with fundraising ideas, other that selling food or magazines? Yes, I think they can and should.

One article was from a mom who went on about having to "help" so much, that the leader should do more...what I liked was one of the responses from a leader. She said everything I ever felt about us leaders being volunteers and how the more parent support we have, the better a troop can run. That was a problem I had over the years, not enough parental support and me doing too much. Kind of my fault though- I did let it happen. Leaders- make sure your parents help you, so you don't get burned out, just sayin...

Another story (and I saw this subject a lot) was about parent cliques. When girls or parents aren't happy with a current troop or just simply move into a new area, the problems they have finding a new troop are really frustrating for them. Myself and my co-leader were always happy to take any girl, from anywhere, that wanted to be in Girl Scouts. It is about the girls right? I am sorry to say that we were not always supported by our parents on that one. That is what I saw in these articles too. Parents calling troop after troop and leaders saying they were full or why are you calling my troop. Parents being rude to other parents and the girls if they were not from the same school or religious group. Diversity is important and I think necessary, but I saw too many articles about how the parents and leaders are making the decision what types of girls are in the troop. That made me sad.

Other articles I could relate to were about the lack of leaders and the Journey series. No leaders available, so we as unprepared parents take on the job. Yup, I know that one, that's how I became a leader. But there are leaders out there- we may just have to work harder to recruit them. I just worked last week with a troop at the OC Rescue Mission. The leader there has no girl in the troop- just the desire to share scouting with some underprivileged girls. I was very inspired and was so glad I could be a "special guest" for them and talk about our troop's work with our sister troop in Africa. Then there is the frustration of Journeys. I have tried to be a big supporter of the Journey series, because I think it's in the troops best interest to support Girl Scouts as a whole. But I agree that Journeys are hard to get through and the older girls roll their eyes while we do them. I look to GSUSA to help with that. We shouldn't just be doing them to fulfill requirements for doing the Gold Award. The girls should be enjoying them. I saw a lot of complaints about them online. What to do? For now the troops just need to do their best to make sure the girls make it fun for themselves and GSUSA needs to look at them too and think what they can do to make them more fun.

The last thing I read over and over was complaints about badge work vs. community service. Some troops do only the required one community service project a year and tons of badges, and some do nothing but service and few badges. I know the girls need to decide, but I saw a pretty even amount of complaints for both sides. Personally, I think you need to do close to 50/50 of both, but let the girls pick which ones. Finding fun community service is the key. No one wants to do the same thing over and over. My only real frustration before was getting the girls to come up with the ideas instead of them just picking the ones we found. I let it happen because I liked looking for new things, but I may have sold them short by not having them pick stuff more.

I am still thankful to be a Girl Scout Leader and hope that I am not stepping down 100%. I really want to be a part of this troop and hope there is a real place for me here eventually. I love Girl Scouts and what it can help a girl become. Thank you Lorraine and Kory and all the girls in Troop 1171 for welcoming us and making us a part of your troop right off the bat. Yay, Girl Scouts!

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