Girl Scouts Eastern Washington & Northern Idaho Programs
Girl Scouts Eastern Washington & Northern Idaho's strategic plan includes the vision to have the capacity to serve girls throughout the council and be the pre-eminent leadership development organization for girls. We are focused on providing informal learning opportunities for girls in the areas of Career Development, STEM Education, and Leadership.
Girls participate in Girl Scouting through a variety of pathways including; traditional troops, outreach program, individual programs and events, resident camp and travel. We currently serve 8300 girls and 2600 adult volunteers in 30 counties in Washington and Idaho.
Advocacy - Take Action! (ATA) teaches girls the skills needed to identify local community service learning projects, form relationships with partners, then plan and implement projects for an issue of interest to them. Adults are trained in all aspects of the ATA with sessions that address (a) the difference of a short-term project (a one-time effort with a short term impact) VS a Take Action project which identifies the root has and long term benefits and sustainable support, (b) assessing one's own leadership skills and styles, (c) identifying community needs and resources, (d) guiding girls to develop a Take Action Project Plan, (e) preparing girls to education, inspire, and advocate, and (f) train adults to let girls lead. Adult volunteers then train the girls in ATA. Service learning is a connection with classroom studies and the interest girls have for their communities and the world at large. The main focus of ATA is girls in the 10 to 17 year age group, though girls from age five engage in service learning. At the end of the 14 to 24 month project, 500 girls will have participated in 30 ATA projects that reflect partnerships and sustainability; 70% of the girls will increase civic engagement activities and 80% of the community partners will agree facilitating projects cooperatively addressed a community need.
Girl Scouts Eastern Washington & Northern Idaho is designing a specific program for girls who have entered the child welfare system and placed into out-of-home arrangements under the care of adults other than their birth parents. Our goal is not only to help the girls with their current situations, but also to help them as they either transition back to in-home care or out of the system as adults. On any given day throughout the year, there are over 10,000 kids in Washington currently living apart from their birth parents in foster care placements(http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/stats_research/afcars/statistics/entryexit2006.htm).
With an estimated 50 percent of these youths being female, there are approximately 5,000 girls who are currently in the child welfare system. These girls typically stay in the system for an estimated two years. It is also common for girls who "age-out" or turn 18 while in the system, to experience a period of homelessness after they are no longer in the system. The program we propose is aimed at both girls who are in the program for a limited amount of time as well as for those girls who have been or will be in the program for an extended duration. As such, we want to make sure that we address all the concerns that each group of girls has, including the emotional, educational, and service elements. The program will be administered through an afterschool program that meets on a regular basis in both small groups and as a larger collective.
Girl Scouts Eastern Washington & Northern Idaho operates an out of school program for girls at the Girl Scout Program Center located in Spokane, Washington. The Program Center consists of a full gymnasium with rock wall, teaching kitchen, arts and craft studio, and computer lab with 12 computer stations. Without these programs many at risk girls would be staying home alone while their parents work. We are adding six school sites for after school pick up, school day off events, and school break camps during holiday and spring breaks. In previous years, the after school program has been provided to girls free of charge. However, due to the recent economic conditions we now are in a position where we will need to charge for these services. The after school program run at the Girl Scout Program Central in West Central Spokane serves girls from some of the lowest income families in the state, as referenced by the statewide free and reduced lunch program in the public school system. Girls are able to participate in activities such as healthy cooking, study lab, art, and fitness through Rock Climbing and traditional sports. The Program Center offers a safe place for girls to build relationships, participate in active play and grow in an understanding of their personal value.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
"One of the most important things in children's lives is to have positive opportunities to participate in program or service. These [opportunities] create a resilient attitude in the child to all the negative influences in life like peer pressures, drugs, alcohol, and teen pregnancy." (Karlene Nacarre, Executive Director, Kennewick Housing Authority)
The power of this project is in the words of the girls and is illustrated by this story told by a participant in the uniquely ME! program, a self-esteem building program, who received full funding for her Girl Scout experience through the Opportunity Fund.
"Now that I am going to uniquely ME! I am more helpful around the house; I also pay more attention to my friends. My parents said I am very helpful feeding the animals and cleaning up after other people. My teacher said 'nice job' because I was paying attention. It has changed my thoughts and personal choices to do positive things not negative things."
By making the commitment to serve low income and at risk girls through non-traditional means, Girl Scouts Eastern Washington & Northern Idaho has made a commitment to making a change in the lives of those most at risk for negative behaviors. This commitment to change benefits the entire community.
The Girl Scout Leadership Development Program engages girls in discovering themselves, connecting with others, and taking action to make the world a better place. (GSUSA, Transforming Leadership, 2008) By supporting Girl Scouting, you support a program of informal education where the female youth in our community are empowered to become leaders in their world, seek challenges in the world around them and work to make the world a better place to live. Girls involved in Girl Scouts learn to advocate for themselves and for others. They learn to identify community needs, and take action to make changes for themselves and others through numerous hours of community service. The return on your investment in Girl Scouts, through the potential confidence and knowledge gained by girls in the program, would be priceless.