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What’s the best leadership experience for girls? It’s Girl Scouts

In this July 21, 2017 photo, badges are seen on the vest of a member of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland as she participates in an activity introducing the world of robotics in Owings Mills, Md. The Girl Scouts of the USA is unveiling a major push this week into furthering the interest of girls in science, engineering, technology and math through 23 new badges, its largest addition of new badges in a decade.
In this July 21, 2017 photo, badges are seen on the vest of a member of the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland as she participates in an activity introducing the world of robotics in Owings Mills, Md. The Girl Scouts of the USA is unveiling a major push this week into furthering the interest of girls in science, engineering, technology and math through 23 new badges, its largest addition of new badges in a decade. AP

Fifteen years ago my mother placed her shy, anxious, quiet daughter into Girl Scouts. Thanks to Girl Scouts, that daughter has been shaped into a woman of courage, confidence, and character, who tries daily to make the world a better place.

In the fourth grade, I moved from upstate New York to Savannah. Before our move, my family visited the beautiful city and took a trip to the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace. My parents remarked, “If Girl Scouts started here, it can’t be a bad place to live!” After seeing that Savannah had Girl Scouts, I agreed to move. My new troop was a source of comfort for me and welcomed me with open arms.

As I grew older, my Girl Scout experience enabled me to sing, dance and speak in front of crowds as large as 5,000. I led older and younger girls through programs and tours. I traveled to Washington D.C., flew a plane, volunteered, camped, fired a gun, and led several camps for other girls. My family was astonished at all the opportunities and skills I was gaining.

In 2012, my troop was selected to be the Centennial Honor Guard for the celebration of the 100th year of Girl Scouting. Dressed in vintage uniforms, we performed special flag ceremonies, candle ceremonies and graveside services for crowds as large as 5,000. I learned so much and it gave me a window into one of my passions, history. I became a volunteer at First Headquarters, and after two summers, was offered a job. At 16 years old, I became a tour and program guide.

As an Ambassador Girl Scout, I completed my proudest achievement; the Girl Scout Gold Award. This is the highest award a girl can earn. It takes over 80 hours to earn the Gold Award. A Gold Award project must target an issue in the community, be sustainable, and have a lasting impact.

My Gold Award project was a literacy program. Earning this award brings the same prestige as the Eagle Scout award. With both awards, you receive special letters, including one from the president. Gold Award Girl Scouts and Eagle Scouts that enter the military are automatically a pay grade and rank above all other new recruits.

Recently, The Boy Scouts of America have announced they will open Boy Scouting to girls. They said this would “open scouting for the whole family.” Girls are already able to be scouts, through Girl Scouting. Additionally, Boy Scouts already has girls in scouting, through Venture Scouts and Sea Scouts. This angers me.

There already is scouting for the whole family, so the Boy Scouts need not open general Boy Scouting to girls. This is simply an attempt for the Boy Scouts to combat falling membership numbers. They should start by focusing on the 90 percent of American boys who are not involved with their movement. I stand by my movement’s statement. The Boy Scouts’ house is indeed “on fire.”

My Gold Award and time in Girl Scouting was crucial to my development. I am now a sophomore studying journalism at Mercer University, where I am working to start a Campus Girl Scouts program. I would not be where I am without Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts gave me skills and instilled confidence in me. I learned to ask questions, knowing that we were all supportive. Girl Scouts gave me a sisterhood. The women of Troop 30519 and I talk every day. When we are all home, we still go camping. Girl Scouts was my support system through middle school and high school. I was severely bullied in school, but Girl Scouts gave me the courage and confidence to continue being myself and not listen to the bullies. I learned how to hold my head up high and not let them get the best of me. Girl Scouts changed me into a woman who can be professional and get the job done.

Girl Scouts provides a safe all-girl environment for challenges to be conquered without fear of failure. Because everything is girl-led, there is no fear of judgment. Challenges vary from raising your hand to flying a plane, programming a robot, pitching a tent, and singing and dancing, all of which I have done.

Take a look at the 59 million Girl Scout alumnae, including Debbie Reynolds, Shirley Temple, Madeleine Albright, Lynda Carter and Taylor Swift. Girl Scouting is the best leadership experience for girls. I call upon my fellow scouting sisters. Show the world what we are doing. Shout your accomplishments from the rooftop. Tell everyone you meet. There is no way 59 million women can be wrong.

Rylee Kirk is a student at Mercer University.

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