These girls do more than sell cookies — though, admittedly, that’s part of being a Girl Scout.
Girl Scouts and their troop leaders in the D.C. area are part of the nationwide organization that teaches girls curiosity and confidence, not just during Women’s History Month, but all year long.
Taylor Keane, 17, is part of Troop 6560 in D.C.
A Girl Scout for 11 years, last fall Keane earned her Gold Award — the highest award for girls in the organization, achieved by creating a project to address an issue in their community.
In Keane’s case, she created a virtual tutoring program for children of refugees in the D.C. region. The idea began when she was tutoring two kids who are Iraqi refugees living in Riverdale, Maryland.
The students needed help in most subjects, particularly reading and math, she said. But their parents have a limited ability to read English, so it was difficult for them to help out with homework.
“I quickly realized that this was a much bigger issue than just the two students,” Keane told WTOP. “I decided to make the program much bigger so that I could help other students in the area.”
Before taking part in her program, Keane said some of the students were reading basic books or lacked confidence in their ability to read.
After 10 to 15 weeks of tutoring, Keane said most students jumped up a couple of reading levels.
“And they were excited to learn instead of nervous about the mistakes they were gonna make,” she said. “I saw the confidence in all the students really rise a lot.”
Service near and far
A senior in high school, Keane expanded her volunteer-work beyond the D.C. area when she traveled with her troop to India in 2019 for a service trip.
The trip was funded by three or four years of cookie sales and fundraising events. The Girl Scouts planned activities and lessons for kids whose parents worked at a construction site.
Service opportunities are extended to all Girl Scouts, even in kindergarten at the Daisy level of the program.
Rebecca Spicer is a troop leader for her 5th grade daughter’s troop at the Basilica School of St. Mary in Alexandria, Virginia. Spicer’s daughter, Rigby, and the rest of Troop 60029 made a food station in their community to stash canned or boxed goods for people who can’t afford food.
Each scout nailed a part into the house-shaped structure, Rigby said.
“I think a lot of the girls were really sensitive to the fact that there are people who live within walking distance of us who are really struggling to put food on the table each night,” Spicer said.
Girl (Scout) power
Since 1912, Girl Scouts has uplifted female voices through badges, activities, service and other events.
“It’s really important to have the female lead organizations because there’s not enough strong female role models for a lot of young girls,” Keane said. “And being able to see someone that’s like you succeeding is really inspiring and motivating.”
But Keane herself acts as a role model for some younger Girl Scouts as her troop volunteers to help younger scouts with badge events.
Spicer is a multigenerational scout, with her mother and grandmother also being members. Now, Rigby’s following in those footsteps too.
“It’s fun to have my mom be a Girl Scout troop leader,” Rigby said. “It just makes it a little more fun.”
Spicer’s seen growth in Rigby’s troop in the five or so years since they joined as Daisies.
“We used to have to script and lead everything they did and now the girls are really leading their own meetings,” she said.
A few weeks ago, Spicer said the girls identified each other’s strengths in writing, singing, dancing or public speaking to plan a skit about Rwanda.
“If we’re going to have effective female leadership in tomorrow’s world, it’s important, especially for women today to invest in our girls and to show them the path forward,” Spicer said.
If you provide girls with leadership opportunities — “then it’s just second nature to them when they’re adults,” Spicer said.
How the cookie crumbles
The burning question was answered.
What’s your favorite Girl Scout cookie?
Keane’s is Tagalongs. And for the Spicers’ cookie-preferences seem to run in the family: the mother and daughter agree that Thin Mints are superior, with a close second being Samoas.
Spicer said her troop’s top selling cookies in 2022 mirrored the pair’s favorites — Thin Mints, followed by Samoas.
The cookie sales aren’t always sweet. Cookie sales also teach girls about financial literacy and how to sell a product, Spicer said.
“It can be intimidating, being like eight or nine standing on the sidewalk and asking random people walking by if they’d like to buy Girl Scout cookies,” Keane agreed.
Building resiliency, Keane recalled a time she pitched cookies for 30 minutes with no takers. But the day turned out to be a success as the girls sold more boxes than any other booth sale that year.
Six years into the program, Rigby said she hopes to stay a scout as long as Keane has. Rigby said the program has taught her about leadership and teamwork — as well as friendship.
“It helps you make friends,” Rigby said. “It’s just so fun, because I’ve known some of these girls since kindergarten.”