The goal of the Girl Scout Outreach programs in Jackson County is to provide access to youth development opportunities to girls who may not be able to participate in Girl Scouting as part of a volunteer-led troop. Barriers to participation often include lack of transportation and financial support, as well as a lack of available Girl Scout troops resulting from a lack of volunteers to lead them. Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan (GSHOM) offers its outreach program in partnership with area schools and community organizations. Outreach facilitators deliver Girl Scout programming in several Jackson Public Schools on an ongoing basis through the school year, and in shorter sessions at community partner sites, such as Lily Missions and the Martin Luther King Community Center. Outreach program facilitators take on the roles of mentor and guide for girls, generally provided by a caring adult volunteer in a traditional, volunteer-led Girl Scout troop. Facilitators serve as positive role models who help girls develop leadership and life skills, build self-esteem, and broaden their sense of community.
Outreach programs in Jackson County are free to participants. Because the programs are held at locations where girls are already in attendance for education or other programs, transportation is less of an issue. Outreach programming focuses on Girl Scouts enrichment activities that supplement girls’ educational experience at school, and that also build social and emotional competence. In an accepting and nurturing environment, girls build character and skills for success in the real world. In partnership with committed adult facilitators, girls develop qualities that will serve them all their lives – like strong values, a social conscience, and a conviction about their own potential and self-worth. We use the national organization’s leadership model for programs and activities which engages girls to: Discover themselves, Connect with others and their community and Take Action to better their community and the world.
Girls have opportunities ranging from traditional Girl Scout activities such as earning badges and designing/implementing community service projects, to creative arts programs, to traveling. In alignment with GSHOM’s commitment to increasing girls’ access to physical activity and getting out-of-doors, all girls participating in Jackson Girl Scouting through the outreach program had the opportunity to spend a day (or more) at our Camp o’ the Hills property in Brooklyn. In such safe and supervised settings, girls make friends and learn how to relate to each other in positive ways. We believe it is essential that all girls, regardless of their situations, have access to Girl Scout programs which encourage girls to embrace positive values of honesty, fairness, caring, and self-control, and develop leadership and positive self-images.
In June of 2014, all girls involved in the Outreach program were given the opportunity to attend camp for a day. For many girls, this was their first venture out of the city and into the ‘wilderness,’ as they called it. Different activity stations were set up throughout Camp o’ the Hills and included making s’mores, tie-dying bandanas, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects, archery, and boating. The girls had a great time participating in each of these activities, but some became very hesitant when it came time to get into the boats. Since they had never been out in a boat or on a lake before, they were very afraid of tipping over. Heading out, they were very apprehensive, but once they were assured by staff and volunteers that they could touch the bottom of the lake from where they were and that they were never too far from shore, they began to relax. They took part in rowing the boats and enjoyed seeing the fish swim all around them. Upon returning to shore, they were all smiles and their fears had disappeared. When the girls came to their next Outreach program meeting, the primary topic of conversation was filled with camp stories about the fun and exciting things they did. Seeing the smiles on their faces and knowing that we were able to give them such an enriching experience made our day at camp a huge success.