February is National Youth Leadership Month. What automatically comes to mind when you think of young people growing into the leaders of tomorrow? Girl Scouts, of course! The Girl Scout experience enables girls ages 5-17 to grow into strong young women by providing opportunities that help shape their futures. Girl Scouts explore leadership, business, science, travel, adventure, health, sports and technology all while learning about themselves and our diverse world. They are molded to be tomorrow's leaders through the opportunities that challenge them today.
The Girl Scout program teaches three keys to leadership: discover, connect and take action. Girls discover and understand themselves and their values, connect with others locally and globally and then use their newfound knowledge and skills to take action and make the world a better place. Girl Scout programs are designed to take girls on "journeys" which engage girls in discovering themselves. Journeys unfold through a sequence of activities and discussions that add up to a great adventure. All journeys have activities that focus on financial literacy, healthy living, science & technology and most importantly, leadership.
In Girl Scouts, leadership is not just about building future leaders, but also about building girl leaders for today. Girls learn that a leader is defined both by the qualities and skills one possesses, and more importantly by how those qualities and skills are put into action to effect positive change. Girls develop into leaders through a variety of activities that promote responsibility, self-discipline, listening skills, teamwork and the ability to direct and delegate. These skills prepare girls for futures in every career field and are essential in helping them to achieve their personal goals.
Journeys provide an important foundation for girls and volunteers in each level of Girl Scouting and provide meaningful and fun experiences centered on the three leadership components. As girls progress through the levels from Daisy to Ambassador, their awards signify attaining new and higher levels of knowledge and skills, and ultimately a deeper understanding of what it means to be a leader who makes a difference in the world.
In addition to participation patches and age level awards, girls can earn special awards called the Bronze, Silver and Gold awards. For each of these awards—the highest achievements in Girl Scouting—a girl will have planned and executed a project that encompasses using organizational, leadership and networking skills to create change and fulfill a need within her community. To receive these awards, girls must meet requirements that help them prepare for and complete a special project benefiting their communities. The Bronze award is the highest award for a Junior (4th and 5th grade) Girl Scout and the Silver award is the highest award for a Cadet (6th, 7th or 8th grade) Girl Scout.
The Gold award is the highest level of Girl Scout achievement. Girls must be in 9th, 10th, 11th or 12th grade to earn this award. The girl who goes for the Gold embraces challenges, achieves excellence, and works diligently to make the world a better place, in her own unique way through a leadership project totaling more than 65 hours. Her leadership, vision, and boundless energy are an inspiration to all Girl Scouts. Girls who earn their Gold Award are also recognized by the President of the United States, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Armed Services, state legislatures, the American Legion and colleges and universities nationwide for admission and scholarship opportunities.
Over time, these outcomes will set girls on a life-long path to lead with courage by speaking out on issues they care about and taking active roles in their communities. They will gain confidence by making the most of their strengths and feel empowered to make a difference in their communities. Girls will build character by acting with integrity and compassion and making decisions that promote the well-being of themselves and others as they continue to make the world a better place.