By RIO ZIEGLER
When you spot a Girl Scout in your local community, you are looking at a change-maker. Tuesday, February 12, was a day of advocacy for the Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast as they set sights on the Virginia State Capitol to inform legislators of the steps Girl Scouts are taking to influence legislation that impacts girls’ lives. Several Girl Scouts from Hampton Roads, along with the Council’s CEO Tracy Keller and board member Katherine Glass, attended Girl Scout Legislative Day.
The Girl Scouts were welcomed to the General Assembly Building for a milk and cookies reception with Virginia lawmakers who responded enthusiastically to questions from Girl Scouts and enjoyed sparking a political interest in the minds of possible future political leaders.
It was vitally important for Girl Scouts to make legislators aware of research in efforts to support the Girl Scout mission of creating a healthy and safe environment for girls. The Girl Scout Research Institute has conducted a series of studies under the Healthy Living Girl Scout Research Portfolio focusing on topics that examine healthy living and its relationship to the emotional and physical safety of girls and youths.
Part of the Healthy Living Portfolio, anti-bullying, had a pressing significance on Girl Scout Legislative Day. A month before Legislative Day, the Virginia Senate had worked on reenacting and amending a bill led by Senator Barbara Favola that outlines various policies and procedures to help school officials stop students from being bullied. Girl Scouts provided legislators with informational packets for them to refer to when deciding on policies that affect this matter. The Girl Scouts were pleased to see their advocacy efforts succeed when a week after Legislative Day, the Senate passed HB 1871 defining bullying on a 37-3 vote.
Delegate Matthew James from Norfolk with Norfolk resident and Girl Scout Junior Sianna Eldert during Girl Scout Legislative Day at the Virginia State Capitol.
While in Richmond Tracy Keller, CEO of Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast, met with Virginia’s Secretary of Education, Laura Fornash, to discuss Girl Scout initiatives including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. A study in the STEM Portfolio, titled Generation STEM: What Girl’s say About Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, has found that women continue to be underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. The Girl Scouts are working to fill these gaps by implementing programs that encourage girls to participate in hands-on learning experiences with women professionals in these industries. After learning more about these Girl Scout initiatives, Laura Fornash suggested ways in which Girl Scout programs, research, and initiatives could be shared with the Virginia School Board and Parent Teacher Association members.
Girl Scouts will always be advocates for the concerns of girls. Girl Scout leaders can never stress enough how important it is to teach their Girl Scouts to participate in advocacy.
“For our society to be the best it can be, we must value the unique talents and contributions that each individual can contribute. For a variety of reasons, some voices are not heard so it is important for those of us who can help to advance those voices to do so,” board member Katherine Glass said.
The Girl Scouts have the responsibility of being the pre-eminent voice of the girls in our country, and communicating with our legislators at Legislative Day is the way in which Girl Scouts are taking the first steps toward achieving this goal.