It’s that time of year, when the one thing we can rely on are bright boxes of Samoas and Tagalongs (and have you tried the Toffee-Tastics?). Girl Scout cookies are such a ubiquitous part of American culture that it’s easy to forget that behind those cookies are girls who are building leadership skills as they work toward careers — often in male-dominated STEM fields.
In some cases, people didn’t forget; they just don’t know.
“We’ve asked people: do you think it’s important for girls to learn STEM?” said Gina Dzielak, communications manager for Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay. “They’ll say yes, STEM is important, leadership skills are important. Then we ask if they think the Girl Scouts offer these things, and they say no.”
Its campfires-and-crafts reputation is, in reality, only a small part of what the organization does. GSCB has evolved with the times, from its somewhat inaptly named Camp Country Center in Hockessin, which hosts STEM camps and activities for girls, featuring badges for robotics, mechanical engineering and web design.
Sisters Eryne and Sydne Jenkins of Magnolia are Ceasar Rodney High School students and longtime Girl Scouts. Not only have they sold the most Girl Scout cookies as a sister team, they’ve attended most of GSCB’s STEM programming.
Eryne, a senior, was on the planning team for the largest girl-led convention in the world, G.I.R.L. 2017 in October, and is currently working on her Girl Scout Gold Award (the highest achievement in Girl Scouts) focusing on opioid addiction. Sydne, a freshman, attended space camp as part of a Girl Scout Destination last summer. Both are interested in careers in medicine.
“Girl Scouts is a great choice for girls interested in STEM,” said Eryne. “While we hold true to many traditions such as cookies, camping and crafts, the organization is committed to helping young women be relevant in the twenty-first century.”
For Eryne, helping to plan G.I.R.L. 2017 was a unique opportunity. “Along with 20 other Girl Scouts from across the country we planned the entertainment, activities, break out session and speakers for an audience of over 10,000 people,” she said. “I gained leadership skills as I lead a group within the planning team. I learned how to collaborate with youth and adults through various platforms. Overall, I learned a lot about myself and my capability as a young professional.”
Sydne, who admits she wasn’t especially interested in space before going to space camp, says the experience changed her outlook. “Space camp was an opportunity of a lifetime. From eating astronaut ice cream to exploring different jobs in the space field, I fell in love with the mysteries of space,” she said. “Girl Scout Destination included STEM workshops, and I was engrossed.”
The Girl Scouts have impacted their future career choices, too.
“Three years ago, at a Women of Distinction event where the honoree was a healthcare professional, I had the opportunity to network with physicians from A.I. Dupont Hospital for Children,” said Eryne. “In particular, I began talking to a pediatric neurologist. After that experience, I began researching and reading various medical journals, and have chosen to pursue a career of neurology.”
Sydne has been similarly inspired. “Programs offered by Girl Scouts have helped me decide what I am passionate about and what I enjoy,” she said. “Girl Scouts focuses on women empowerment, helping me to gain confidence in everything I do and whatever career field I choose to pursue.”
And the cookies?
“Cookie sales are my favorite time of year,” said Sydne. “In those three months I learn marketing and business skills. Standing outside on those cold, winter days is always worth it because I know it is going towards improving programs for the girls. Every year I make a cookie goal and strive to achieve it. This year my goal is 1,000 boxes and I am confident I can do it.”
On top of business and marketing skills, cookie sales helps Girl Scouts like Eryne, whose advanced projects may require funding, to meet financial goals.
“I’ve learned a lot about myself and my community by selling cookies,” said Eryne. “I make the most sales when I communicate to people how I plan to use the money and educate the community about various Girl Scout opportunities. This year, I hope to sell 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies to help fund my Gold Award.”
For her Gold Award project on the topic of addiction prevention, Eryne joined the organization aTAcK Addiction to learn all she could about substance abuse. Then, she took action and reached out to the members of the organization. She’s planning to create a digital presentation that captures all the facets of substance abuse and its impact on communities for their website.
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