Once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout ; food for thought as cookie season rolls around

Ella Jones
Associate Editor

It’s that time of the year again. For those who haven’t already seen them, booths with Girl Scouts selling cookies are beginning to pop up outside neighborhood grocery stores.

Some run toward us – others run away

There are two kinds of people when cookie season rolls around. Some people run screaming with excitement towards the booth and some conveniently get a phone call right before they leave the store. Yes, we know you’re faking it. Nice try though.

The words, “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” have left my mouth so many times I almost ask the girls standing outside stores before they have a chance to ask me. I joined Girl Scouts in 2002 and was active until I graduated high school in 2013.

A place to grow and find ourselves

My troop became a second family. Half the things I did throughout my school experience were done with them. These girls became my sisters. Our troop leader, who was lucky to make it out with her sanity, was a second mom to those who showed up to a recruitment meeting one day in 2002.

We went to Hawai’i, took a cruise to Mexico and spent a weekend at the Oregon coast every summer. We all graduated with 400+ hours of recorded community service, but what really happened in that decade is we grew, I grew.

People don’t typically see the full story that is Girl Scouts. It’s seen as a place for little girls to do arts and crafts and sell cookies, but this is just a small fraction of what really goes on.

The mission, as listed on the organization’s web page, is “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.” It has never been anything more than helping girls grow and think for themselves while learning valuable life skills.

When you buy a box of cookies, or ten, there’s more to the transaction than the exchange of money for tasty cookies. The money goes towards trips, camps and other smaller troop activities.

Girl Scouts are given opportunities that are hard to find anywhere else during the K-12 years. We’re a group of girls who all want the same experiences to grow with and to have someone to turn to when life gets rough. We want people to travel with, learn with, gain leadership skills with and so much more. For some, scouting may be the only break they get from a rough home life.

We have controversy, too

Not everyone agrees with some of the decisions the organization has made. All over the Internet there is controversy about different decisions.

People are talking about the granting of membership to transgender girls. They’re talking about high school badge books that include lessons about safe sex and women’s reproductive health, including the decision to list resources for teens and websites for more information. This is information they might really need but can’t get anywhere else.

We need to keep in mind that this is 2015 and society isn’t the same as it was when the first Girl Scout activities were introduced in 1912. It’s not like we’re taking field trips to the abortion clinic; we’re just progressing with the times along with everyone else.

We’re not directly taught controversial things, but shown both sides and encouraged to think for ourselves. In my opinion, all young people need someone to show them both sides and let them experience and decide on their own in a safe, guided environment.

Our troop was unconventional

I’ll admit not every troop gets as much out of the experience as mine. There will always be the few troop leaders and adult volunteers who are far too controlling for the girls to grow on their own. Children are going to be exposed to things adults don’t agree with; the best we can do is give them a safe environment and an outlet for expressing how they feel.

Troop 361 wasn’t the most conventional, I’ll admit. Before the end of our troop activities there was talk about what we should do that would be special, since this was the end of an era for us. We joked for years about getting matching tattoos. People still think it’s a joke when I tell them the roman numerals on my arm are actually my troop number.

They really don’t believe that five of us have tattoos with 361 incorporated into them, all done by Etzel at The Parlour, our honorary Girl Scout tattoo artist.

Buying cookies helps shape lives

So, for those who avoid the booths at all costs, remember that people might not know just from passing by how much cookie sales could be shaping lives. After all, these children are our future. If you’re not sure if it’s an organization you want to support, talk to the girls. See what they’re doing.

You might support the troop’s decisions or even the girls’ goals, but you won’t know if you’re answering a fake call or speaking a foreign language that day. Girl Scouts changed my life, and I hope it will be something I’m always a part of and something the community continues to support and take interest in, regardless of what the first impression may be.