Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan

How Girl Scouts is preparing girls for bright futures this school year

The organization aims to enrich girls’ lives through its STEM and entrepreneur programs.

Christina Heiser, for Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts is working to break down barriers in STEM for young girls.

The Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM) is on a mission. The organization wants to enrich the lives of young girls in the Metro Detroit region through a variety of activities that build leadership, entrepreneurial and STEM skills.  

The back-to-school season – or “back-to-troop season,” as Amanda Thomas, deputy chief membership officer for GSSEM, called it – is the busiest time of year for the organization. 

It’s when GSSEM introduces themselves to girls and their families, hosting one-hour family information meetings at elementary schools and community events around Metro Detroit. 

“We explain that we are the premiere leadership organization for girls and that girls get a chance to have lots of adventure,” said Chasity Benson, recruitment manager for GSSEM. “They get to participate in outdoor experiences, STEM and entrepreneurship experiences and build life skills, all within the Girl Scouts program.” 

Building future entrepreneurs through cookie sales

One of the highlights of being a Girl Scout, of course, is getting to participate in the Girl Scout Cookie Program, which Thomas said is the “centerpiece of our entrepreneurship program.”

The cookie program isn’t just about selling cookies, though — it’s about financial literacy. It teaches girls of all ages valuable business skills, including goal setting, decision making and money management.

The Girl Scout Cookie Program helps young girls develop critical skills in financial literacy and entrepreneurship.

For example, Daisies in kindergarten and first grade can earn their “My First Cookie Business Badge” by creating a sales pitch, while Brownies in second and third grades can earn their “My Cookie Customers Badge” by thinking about new places to find customers and how they can get them to buy cookies.

There’s even a digital cookie platform now, so girls can develop their own digital marketing campaigns to promote their business and sell cookies online. This has been especially popular during the pandemic, when many people have shifted their shopping habits.

Breaking barriers in STEM: robotics, coding and more

Then there’s Girl Scouts’ STEM programming. This initiative aims to bridge the gender gap in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which are traditionally male-dominated fields. As Girl Scouts, girls can gain experience and boost their interest, knowledge and confidence in these areas.

Girl Scouts’ STEM programming includes everything from building robots to learning how to fly drones to coding digital games. Girls can earn STEM badges related to these skills, as well as things like cybersecurity, app development and mechanical engineering of model cars.

“Girls can really tailor the program to what matches their interests at any given time,” explained Thomas. “When those interests change over time, they have an opportunity to still explore other things within the program as well.”

Adapting – and thriving – during the pandemic

GSSEM met the challenges of the pandemic last year by having troops meet virtually. This gave the organization the opportunity to expand their programming into the online space, where many troops hadn’t been before, explained Thomas.

Although troops are back to meeting in person this year, GSSEM will likely continue to offer virtual programming for those who prefer that option, Thomas added.

Girl Scouts has found ways to adapt their program to meet the challenges of the pandemic.

One of the most popular virtual programs GSSEM launched last year, and is continuing to offer this year, is Badge in a Box, an all-inclusive box that has everything girls and families need to complete a badge.

The Math in Nature Box, for example, includes materials that Daisies, Brownies and Juniors can use to identify shapes and patterns in nature, observe and measure natural occurrences and create their own natural designs.

Preparing girls for a bright future

As a recruiter for Girl Scouts, Benson knows first-hand how powerful becoming a Girl Scout can be. Benson’s daughter, Brooklyn, fell in love with running while a Girl Scout.

Sponsor funding allowed GSSEM to pay for Brooklyn’s first and second experiences participating in 5K races in Detroit. Since then, she has run two more races and participated in cross country in middle school.

She even tried out and made the track team during her freshman year of high school last year, although the pandemic halted the season.

Still, the experience was hugely beneficial to Brooklyn in many ways, her mother said.

“She tried something new and found out that she liked it,” said Benson. “It increased her confidence, self-esteem and leadership skills.”

Benson hears this kind of feedback from parents of Girl Scouts all the time. She’ll often meet families who have a boy and a girl – and those girls don’t always get the chance to be around other girls.

“Girl Scouts provides sisterhood for those girls,” said Benson. “It allows them to gain a voice because, sometimes, when you have girls and boys in the room, the boys will take over. Parents have been really appreciative of our leadership programming for providing different skill sets [to girls].”

To learn more or attend a GSSEM Family Information Meeting, join or start a troop, visit Short-term and troop leadership volunteer opportunities are also available now.