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New Girl Scouts program reaches under-served populations

June 13, 2019

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Tomatoes, peppers, mayonnaise and noodles: For Girl Scout Troop 59558, the ingredients for making pasta salad were also the key to earning their next badges. A group of Junior and Cadette scouts were hard at work chopping vegetables and measuring seasonings at the Concord Boys and Girls Club last Thursday.

The troop may have donned chef toques for their Simple Meals and Locavore badges, but they’ve worn a variety of hats over the past few months. The girls have already built model houses and practiced sketching, digital photography, jewelry making and engineering.

“We started in March, and they’ve gotten a lot done,” troop leader Daley Buckwell said.

The girls have been able to learn so many skills thanks to a recent initiative that is expanding who can be a scout.

Three years ago, Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains helped launch 31 “outreach troops” in New Hampshire and Vermont as part of a wider effort to reach girls who otherwise may not have access to traditional programming. At four sites in Concord, six outreach troops currently engage a total of 85 girls.

Socioeconomic or New American status are possible obstacles that can prevent girls from joining troops. “We’re trying to cover that gap to make sure we’re serving all girls, no matter what the situation is,” Buckwell said.

Unlike traditional troops that are typically led by parent volunteers, outreach troops are led by paid employees of the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains. Buckwell has worked for GSGWM for the past two years, currently as an outreach support specialist.

Membership dues and uniforms are funded by a combination of grants and donations from GSGWM and local organizations. Both Concord Housing and Redevelopment and Citizens Bank have pledged thousands of dollars in support of outreach troops.

Although restricted in their ability to pursue offsite activities, outreach troops are doing what they can to develop confident girls with skills in entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership.

“At the other sites, we’ve done everything from playing fair, to hiking, to first aid, to robotics, to space and astronomy, to kind of everything,” Buckwell said.

Several members of Troop 59558 described their Girl Scout participation as “experimental” and “creative.” They named the Simple Meals and engineering badges as their favorites to earn.

If more girls were to become Girl Scouts, “it would help our community,” one scout added.

Buckwell has already noticed changes in her troop since their first meetings.

“They have come a long way with working as a team, working as a troop, listening,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of improvement in all of those skills.”

Troop 59558 is looking to continue exploring and creating together. In addition to more than 30 new STEM badges introduced last fall, summer camp and cookie selling are also possible future activities.

In the meantime, the girls are content taking home containers of pasta salad, that they learned how to make in Girl Scouts, of course.

Online: https://bit.ly/31mX857

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Information from: Concord Monitor, http://www.concordmonitor.com

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