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Guest column: Girl Scouts designed to help girls excel on their own terms

By Jessica Muroff, Special to the Times
Girl Scouts like these, earning a patch at the Medical Center of Trinity earlier this year, are exposed to the best leadership experience in the world, says Jessica Muroff, who runs the organization locally. [Times files]

Girl Scouts is the best leadership experience for girls in the world, created specifically with and for girls. If I could name only one thing that girls learn when theyíre involved with Girl Scouts, itís that they become capable of tackling pretty much anything.

From ensuring children donít go hungry on the weekends to taking on the issues of teen depression and unhealthy body images, our girls have done amazing things for more than 100 years. With the right encouragement, guidance, training, and confidence, they grow into women who lead by example to do great things for the world. I see this incredible impact daily in nearly 20,000 girls we serve and in my own two daughters.

With more than 100 years of experience, we have become the experts at giving girls the tools they need to empower themselves by teaching them that their voices count, they must stand up for what they believe in, and they have the strength to take the lead.

Our programs are specifically designed with girls at the forefront and provide opportunities that they can only get from the pre-eminent leadership organization for girls in the world. No other organization comes close to offering the full experience that a girl can have in Girl Scouts.

Our leadership model is designed to meet their interests and needs because itís collaborative and places importance on a diversity of perspectives. It is also completely girl-led, meaning we place the girlsí voice first in all of our decisions and programs.

We welcome girls of all backgrounds and interests who want to develop the courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place. Our program bolsters the benefits of school by fostering a safe, inclusive environment where girls are free to practice different skills, try new things, and take on leadership positions.

In fact, the all-girl environment is one of the major keys to our success. Research shows that girls learn best in an all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment where their specific needs are addressed and met.

Girl Scouts provides a place for girls to support and encourage one another in a pressure-free environment without boys. Our leaders, camp counselors, and volunteers are all thoroughly vetted, and although moms, dads, brothers, and sisters are all welcome, the focus is always on girls.

The options for fun, exploration, and leadership are endless. Girls can participate in outdoor activities like hiking, camping, canoeing, and archery to have exciting, girl-led adventures while learning important life skills. At Girl Scouts, we ensure that every girl has an opportunity to take the lead in the world of science, technology, engineering, and math through hands-on learning by doing.

Our iconic Girl Scout Cookie Program is unrivaled in its ability to teach girls financial literacy skills for today and tomorrow. Additionally, one-of-a-kind civic engagement programming gives girls the chance to take the lead on issues they care about in their communities and be recognized by their peers and neighbors as the societal champions they are.

And, of course, only Girl Scouts gives girls the chance to pursue the most challenging, rewarding, and life-changing award for girls in the world: the Girl Scout Gold Award. Earned by fewer than 6 percent of Girl Scouts annually, the Gold Award requires girls to demonstrate their leadership skills by addressing a local or global community issue.

There are many organizations that serve girls. Some have even been doing this for as long as Girl Scouts, while others are just now deciding to pursue them. But none of them can or will be able to offer what girls get from Girl Scouts. Girls should be in a program that was made for them, not one that just allows them to participate as an afterthought.

Girls should be in a program that is built with an understanding of their needs and that is designed to help them excel in life on their own terms. Girl Scouts believes strongly in and remains committed to the importance of the all-girl, girl-led, and girl-friendly environment that we provide. Itís the best leadership experience for girls in the world!

Put simply, Girl Scouts works.

Jessica Muroff of Tampa is chief executive officer of the Girls Scouts of West Central Florida.