It’s Not Just About Selling Cookies: A Deeper Look into Why Black Girl Scouts Matter

by Camille Birdsong

Founded in 1912, the Girl Scouts of the USA is a well-known leadership organization for girls. Girl Scouts has strived to help build young girls’ development and encourage them to be brave, confident, kind, and to make the world a better place.

Those who have joined Girl Scouts have attributed positive experiences in their participation. In fact, according to a 2021 report by the Girl Scout Research Institute, 68 percent of Girl Scout alums say that Girl Scouts has had a positive impact on their lives.

Every girl can become a Girl Scout no matter what your race or ethnicity is.

The organization has around 2.6 million members— 1.8 million of them being girls and the rest being 800,000 adults. However, in 2017, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (GSUSA) Annual Report documented that only 13.01 percent of their members are African American. So, what may be the reason behind these low percentages?

Terri Washington | Vice President of Member Engagement of GSCCC

Terri Washington is the current Vice President of Member Engagement of the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, and she believes that involvement is an area that needs attention.

“I think that one of the struggles of the organization is trying to engage all girls—all girls everywhere,” said Terri Washington. 

In 2016, there were
228,808 African American Girl Scouts, but in 2017, the number went down to 195,924. That’s a -14.37% change.

However, Washington believes that sharing experiences is a way to connect with young Black girls.

Being involved in Girl Scouts can lead to a multitude of experiences and outcomes. In the Girl Scout Impact Study, a 2017 report from the Girl Scout Research Institute, key findings were discovered and made note of. Below is an infographic of some of the findings.

One other benefit of being a Girl Scout is the Gold Award. But what is the Gold Award?
 

“The Girl Scout Gold Award is the mark of the truly remarkable. Girl Scouts who earn the Gold Award tackle issues of need and concern in their communities to drive lasting change." - The Gold Impact 

Taryn-Marie Jenkins | 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout

To earn a Gold Award, a Girl Scout must complete an 80-hour community service project. The project must be approved and benefit the community around the Girl Scout.

In the past, there have been numerous Gold Award projects that branch out into many topics: social justice, liberal arts, STEM, the environment, education, and many more.

According to a 2016 study titled, "The Power of the Girl Scout Gold Award: Excellence in Leadership and Life Report", the Gold Award expands the body of knowledge about the skills Gold Award Girl Scouts develop and examines how these Girl Scouts leverage the Gold Award to achieve their goals and truly change the world.

Taryn-Marie Jenkins is a junior at Hampton University. She is a former Girl Scout and was named a 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout.

Her Girl Scout Gold Award project, "Jumping the Hurdles – Foster Care to College", was an innovative, sustainable initiative that helped youth in foster care transition to college.

Taryn-Marie believes that completing the Gold Award and even others such as the Bronze and Silver Award are things that all girls should go for when they join Girl Scouts. 

She's also grateful for the experiences that her Girl Scout troop gave her.

"Starting around third grade, I was in my church troop so I was around a lot of girls that looked like me and I think to this day that's still a strong support group and I'm really glad that I did Girl Scouts through my church troop."

As previously noted in The Girl Scout Impact Study, not only are Girl Scouts more likely to form healthy relationships and display positive values, they are also twice as likely to participate in activities that open up new worlds.

Terri Washington shared a touching moment that defines character building and sisterhood in the Girl Scout community.

Troop 329 is located in Chesapeake, Virginia, and is host to numerous Girl Scouts. The troop has been around for at least 17 years and is led by Toni Taylor and her team. 

Toni is also in charge of another troop located in Portsmouth, Virginia.

A majority of Troop 329's members are Black, and I had the pleasure of being a part of their Bridge Ceremony and Rededication Ceremony.

What I loved about Toni's troop is that she had all ages of Black girls present. There were Daisies, Brownies, Juniors. Cadettes, and  Seniors, and it was amazing to hear about what they had accomplished together. 

Toni has always encouraged her girls to go for the Gold Award and to keep moving forward until the very end.

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According to The Girl Scout Alum Difference: A Lifetime of Courage, Confidence, and Character report, alum say that Girl Scouts laid the foundation for their success.

Being in Girl Scouts set them on a path for achievement and success, connected them to something bigger than themselves, developed their passions and interests, and linked them to community and a network of women around the world.