The girls in Girls Scouts aren't just learning life skills and being developed as leaders, they are also changing the world and have been for 100 years. This year marks the 100th year of the Girl Scout organization in the United States.
The Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizons Council covers all of North Dakota, South Dakota, as well as some of Minnesota and Iowa, said Kathy Wamsley, Bismarck, the Northwest District director of the Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizons.
Locally, the Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizon program is thriving after last summer's flood, even though their grounds at Camp Owetti in Oak Park were flooded and their cabin at the camp was damaged.Wamsley said that the whole cabin at Camp Owetti had water up to the ceiling and was a complete loss. The only part that was flooded, though, was Camp Owetti, but their building in southwest Minot stayed dry since it wasn't in a flood zone. Wamsley said that the Minot Park District is working with FEMA to see what FEMA dollars are available. The building at the camp has been cleaned out and is just a shell now, she said, and there most likely won't be any camps there this summer. Instead, Wamsley said they'll have sleepovers at the Girl Scout building. They won't know until mid-summer when they'll be able to return to their camp facility, she added.
The Girl Scout cabin at Camp Owetti in Oak Park was damaged from last summer’s flood and had water up to the ceiling. The cabin has been cleaned out and is now just a shell and there most likely won’t be any camps held there this summer.
Everything in the cabin was a total loss, Wamsley said. They lost all of the tables, chairs, the entire kitchen, and a lot of camp supplies, she added.
Since the flood, Wamsley said they've seen a lot more people needing financial assistance from people who were flooded. She said there are also less volunteers because they're busy with their own flood issues. Surprisingly, however, Wamsley said they didn't lose much in their enrollment and it actually increased. She said as a district, enrollment in Girl Scouts is up by about 5 percent from last year, and it could even be more than that.
The only change that had to be made to the Girl Scout program last summer during the flood was moving all of the summer camps to the Girl Scout building, Wamsley said. They were still able to have their activities, though, she added.
Wamsley said that the flood happened after camp was finished, but they didn't get all of the supplies back to the Girl Scout office in time. She said that Girl Scouts started later this year because of the flood and didn't get the program kicked off until October. This summer, the Girl Scout camps will be held at the office, Wamsley said, and last summer's flood won't have any impact on this summer's programs.
The cabin's structure at Camp Owetti is sound, Wamsley said, but the interior will be remodeled and that will probably take a year to get that finished.
Members in Girl Scouts participate in a wide variety of activities like cooking, camping, crafts, "S.T.E.M." (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) activities, working on their badges and patches in their troops, as well as their sales of the fall product and cookie fundraising activities, Wamsley said, with the cookie fundraising being the most popular. "It's where girls learn the most life skills," she said. "It's a great first experience in sales because nine out of 10 people will buy cookies."
Wamsley said the Girl Scout program has recently been revamped so now the program is directed toward building leaders of the future. According to a press release from Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizons, a national campaign kicked off last month to bring volunteers and Girl Scouts together and pave the way for the next generation of leaders. Ann Metli, chief communications officer at Girl Scouts-Dakota Horizons, said, "The new campaign is focused on S.T.E.M., healthy body image and bullying - three identifiable areas where adults can make a difference in the lives of girls so they can change the world."
The Girl Scout program is geared for all girls from kindergarten to adult. Wamsley said the Daisy level is for kindergarten to first grade, Brownie is for second and third grades, junior is for grades four and five, cadet is for grades six through eight, senior is for grades nine and 10, ambassador is for grades 11 and 12, and once they graduate they become adult members. She said the highest retention level is in fifth grade and after that there's a big drop off in enrollment, but currently more girls are continuing in the program. A lot of rewards like college scholarships are available, Wamsley added, and there are a lot of reasons to stay in scouting because of more opportunities that are available.
The Daisies and Brownies provide the most membership in Girl Scouts, Wamsley said, and it's a close competition between the two levels.
To celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the Girl Scouts, there will be yearlong celebrations and activities. According to a press release, busloads of Girl Scouts from the Dakota Horizons Council gathered at the Mall of America for "The Great Girl Gathering" earlier in March and Girl Scouts will sleep overnight on the state capitol lawn in July to commemorate the anniversary. Wamsley said there's also an event coming up in May where the girls will camp overnight at the International Peace Garden that's in partnership with an Arbor Day event sponsored by another group.
Getting the word out about Girl Scouts is done through the schools allowing them to hand out fliers, Wamsley said, along with some advertising. It's also through their cookies and word of mouth, she added. "A lot of girls start in Girl Scouts during cookie season because they want to sell cookies," Wamsley said.