Girl Scouts program continues to focus on girl-led experience

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Natalie Benson, 5, and Holly Sweezer, 6, carry extra flags as Boy and Girl Scouts place flags on each of the 5,000 headstones at the Grand Rapids Veterans State Cemetery in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The October 2017 Boy Scouts of America announcement to admit girls throughout its ranks will transform what has been a mostly cordial relationship between the two iconic youth groups since the Girl Scouts of the USA was founded in 1912, two years after the Boy Scouts. (Katie Greene/The Grand Rapids Press via AP)

The Girl Scouts family is made up of 1.8 million girls around the country. Just over 7,500 of those girls participate in Girl Scouts in the state of Utah, according to Janet Frasier, CEO of Girl Scouts of Utah.

Girl Scouts structure and journey

This month Boy Scouts of America announced it will now allow girls to participate in its Cub Scouts programs up to even earning the Eagle Scout award.

After the announcement, there was an increase in girls wanting to participate in Girl Scouts of Utah, according to Frasier.

She said Girl Scouts is focused on the girls creating an experience tailored to them.

“Every girl creates her own Girl Scout journey,” Frasier said.

Because many girls and their troop leaders see the value of the Girl Scouts program and the benefits it brings, Frasier doesn’t think much will change in light of the announcement.

“We really think people will continue to see the value of what Girl Scouts offers, because Girl Scouts is focused on a girl-led experience,” Frasier said. “We think that message will continue to come through.”

Frasier started out in Girl Scouts with her daughters as a troop leader. She felt the program would be beneficial for both her and her girls.

Anna Olsen, a kindergarten teacher from Orem, was a Girl Scout from age 5 to age 18 and said the program helped shape her into the person she is today.

The Girl Scouts program has four main program pillars: STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), Outdoors, Life Skills and Entrepreneurship.

Girl Scouts is designed to be progressive, according to Frasier, as girls move from Daisies (kindergarten through first grade), to Brownies (second and third grade), to Juniors (fourth and fifth grade), to Cadettes (sixth through eighth grade) and senior Girl Scouts (grades nine through 12). Any Girl Scouts past the 11th grade are considered Ambassadors.

Kristin Goodman
BYU alumna Kristin Goodman participated in Girl Scouts from fourth grade through high school. Green vests are used by Junior Girl Scouts wear green vests, while Cadettes wear tan vests. (Kristin Goodman)

“(Girl Scouts) helps girls to develop courage, confidence, and character as they interact with others in their community,” Olsen said. “Girls who come out of the Girl Scout program will know what it means to be a contributing member of society because they will have done it through their time in Girl Scouts, and they will take that with them throughout their lives.”

Helen Bansen from Truckee, California participated in Girl Scouts from 1999 at age 5 until 2013, when she received her Gold Award — equivalent to the Eagle Scout award for the Boy Scouts. Bansen said her experiences with Girl Scouts gave her skills she still uses today.

“I made wonderful friends and got to explore the world in a different way than I would have otherwise,” Bansen said.

Girl Scouts and the LDS Church

Some members of the LDS Church grew up attending Young Women, a program for girls ages 12-18, while participating in Girl Scouts. Sarah Curry, a first-year MPA student at BYU, was one of these members.

“Girl Scouts taught me life skills, while young women’s taught me spiritual skills. I got to be adventurous and ambitious at Girl Scouts in a way I wasn’t in Young Women’s. I’m grateful I had both,” Curry said. “I loved my Young Women’s experience, but Girl Scouts supplemented it in a way I needed.”

The LDS Church’s Personal Progress program is designed to help young women “cultivate feminine attributes, strengthen (their) testimon(ies), and reach (their) divine potential,” according to the Personal Progress manual.

The LDS Church does not sponsor scouting for girls like it does for boys.

Girl Scouts is divided into groups of scouts called troops. Each troop can create a Girl Scouts experience specific to the girls in the troop.

This is different from the Boy Scouts of America, which has chartering agreements through which organizations sponsor Boy Scout groups, according to Lee Ferrin, a BYU alum and the District Executive for the Utah National Parks Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

“The Primary and Young Women programs of the church are designed to meet the needs and interests of girls and young women,” according to the Scouting Handbook for the LDS Church.

The Girl Scouts program and the Young Women’s program provide opportunities for growth. BYU alumna Molly Baker said each program emphasizes different things.

Baker said both the Young Women program and Girl Scouts “encourage service and self-improvement through activities and projects in the home and community.”

Kristin Goodman
BYU alumna Kristin Goodman receives her Gold Award in December 2011. Goodman participated in Girl Scouts and the Young Women’s program of the LDS church. (Kristin Goodman)

BYU alumna Kristin Goodman joined the Girl Scouts while in fourth grade and stayed through high school. She received the Gold Award for Girl Scouts and the Young Women’s medallion for the LDS Personal Progress program.

“With Girl Scouts, I learned a lot of practical skills,” Goodman said. “The Young Women program taught me a lot more about personal habits and my own spiritual growth.”

Since the LDS Church partners with the Boy Scouts, there is more of a religious overlap within those scouting troops, according to Goodman. Most of the girls in her troop growing up were Christians, but since the troop wasn’t sponsored by a religious organization, there wasn’t a spiritual aspect to her experience with Girl Scouts, Goodman said.

The Girl Scouts program and Young Women’s program each provide a different purpose for young girls and women in the community. Goodman believes it would be helpful for the young women of the church to have opportunities to be both practically and spiritually prepared, something she found in participating in both programs.

“The (Girl Scouts) program is very much focused on helping girls do things that maybe they haven’t done before,” Frasier said.

Timeline by Kelsey Johnson

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