CHOOSING EMPOWERMENT OVER…

By Lee O’Connell, Fund Development Manager at Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines

When I wrote a blog post this time last year, the world was in a much darker place than it is now. We were months into pandemic restrictions and cancelations; the promised summer lull was instead a summer peak. The summer was also a boiling point for social justice protests, and we were looking ahead to one of the most contentious elections we ever experienced. It seemed that every possible topic of conversation would set friends, family, or neighbors at odds. We were at a breaking point of hurt, fear, anger, and disconnect. We needed soothing. We needed to heal.

Thankfully, the outlook has brightened since then. Places have opened, vaccines have provided hope, we’re seeing some small victories in the fight against racial injustice, and people are going out and moving forward. We’re looking for ways to bring ourselves and our world back better than before. One of our longtime volunteers, Dr. Cindy Sortisio, said something at the Girl Scouts – North Carolina Coastal Pines Annual Meeting in March that perfectly encapsulated the Girl Scout attitude for me. She talked about “choosing empowerment over shame.”

Psychologist and Troop Leader Dr. Cindy Sortisio

Dr. Sortisio is a clinical psychologist and was talking about the stigma many girls (and adults, for that matter) face when seeking help for their mental health. Those words, though, perfectly summed up what I have seen our girls do over the past year in numerous ways. I have heard countless stories of Girl Scouts feeling empowered to speak up for themselves and step up for their communities.

We have been talking about mental health a lot over the last year, and it’s because our girls and volunteers have asked us to. In 2019, the Girl Scout Research Institute partnered with ten high school Girl Scouts to conduct a study called Girls Speak Out About Mental Health. They found that girls are coping with a lot of uncertainty: 84% of Girl Scouts felt stressed about their futures. Fortunately, they also found that 65% of girls feel that Girl Scouts supports their mental health, and 76% percent felt their troop leaders do. Girls are asking Girl Scouts to do more, and we heard them. We’re creating new mental health programming and drawing a brighter line around the things we already offer, like exposure to the outdoors, supporting positive mental health. Our Girl Scouts are also tackling this issue, whether it’s a girl teaching kids about positive mental health practices for her Gold Award project or troop leaders taking the time to pause on badge work and check-in with their girls.

We wonder how we can all move forward after over a year of disruption, but Girl Scouts are already taking action. They are leading and helping their communities. Our mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. Our movement is proven to provide five critical outcomes for girls:

  • Strong sense of self
  • Positive values
  • Encourage challenge seeking
  • Healthy relationships
  • Foster problem-solving

Even in the most chaotic year in memory, girls in our council live those outcomes every day. Troops are brightening hospitals and collecting supplies for people who are struggling. Girls are teaching their peers about everything from social justice to mental health. So while our heads spin with the question, “How do we help our kids heal?” at least one answer seems to be: give them a community like Girl Scouts.

Troop #436 painted ceiling tiles for their local hospital.

I think it’s pretty telling that our most-attended virtual program during the pandemic was World Thinking Day, which focused on peacebuilding. Girls want to help the world heal, and our Building Beyond Tomorrow campaign, which launches today, helps them do it. The campaign will raise the funds our council needs to continue providing our girls and volunteers the support they need at the moment and keep us adaptable as those needs evolve. Your contributions will also ensure that we can provide financial assistance to anyone who needs it.

I hope you’ll join us by donating today. With your help, we’ll heal hearts, minds, and communities. With your help, our girls really will make the world a better place.

Learn more about Building Beyond Tomorrow and how you can help make a difference for girls on the campaign website.

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