In January of 2022, the Steelcase Foundation awarded Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore (GSMISTS) a one-year $50,000 grant to support its New Troop Development Project, which sought to increase the number of troops and troop leaders from areas historically underserved by the organization, ensuring that all girls have the opportunity to participate in Girl Scouts programming.
Through the New Troop Development Project, Community Membership Managers walked alongside new Troop Leaders providing mentorship and leadership development support to ensure Leaders had the tools they need to best support their new troops. In addition, the organization
Hear from CEO Vivian TerMaat and Cindy Johnson, Director of Fund Development, as they share their insights into the work.
Please provide an overview of the project and how you became involved with it.
Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore commits to using our collective power to create sisterhood, justice, and fairness in making the world a more equitable place. Girl Scouts provides a place where all girls feel heard and where they have the resources and support they need to raise their voices and change their corner of the world. We offer programming accessible to all girls as we create a safe place for girls to communicate effectively on sensitive topics, emotional safety, and mental health.
The New Troop Development Project in Kent County came to be through intentional work at the board level. The GSMISTS Board of Directors, inspired by the Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) work being done nationally through Girl Scouts USA (GSUSA), encouraged the local council to develop a position that would focus on troop development in underserved communities. By utilizing 2019 ALICE data, GSMISTS staff could pinpoint schools that fit the criteria and build relationships with key stakeholders before developing troops since trust is essential to sustainable growth.
Please describe the work that you’ve engaged in so far and your hopes for the work into the future.
The New Troop Startup Specialist and Community Membership Manager, partner to provide support and build authentic relationships based on trust and cultural awareness with Troop Leaders, Girl Scouts, and their families.
The Community Membership Manager (CMM) is the first point of contact for girls and families as they cultivate Girl Scout memberships and assists recruiting, supervising, and developing volunteers who will ensure membership opportunities for girls ages 5 – 17 of all racial, ethnic, religious, and socio-economic and disability groups. The CMM develops trust and credibility with Girl Scouts, volunteers, and community partners by serving as the liaison with Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore to deliver the Girls Scout Leadership Experience as they achieve membership growth.
The New Troop Support Specialist works closely with new Troop Leaders, providing New Troop Start Kits and assisting with training and onboarding new Troop Leaders, leaving them in a better mindset to grow and nurture the troops. These kits include all the supplies needed to lead six troop meetings for Daisy and Brownie Troops (K – 2).
At Girl Scouts, we focus on community and sisterhood, appreciating everyone’s unique value, celebrating our differences, and supporting one another through obstacles and conflict. GSMISTS empowers girls to develop behaviors, skills, and traits critical for a lifetime of leadership, including a strong sense of self, display of positive values, challenge-seeking skills, healthy relationships, and community problem-solving skills, through the Girl Scout Leadership Experience (GSLE) that is centered on four program pillars: STEM, Outdoors, Life Skills, and Entrepreneurship.
GSMISTS offers financial assistance to families that request it to ensure funding is not a barrier to entry for girls. This includes membership, supplies, and uniforms.
What have you learned and what might you share with others who are engaged in similar efforts?
It all starts with listening and building genuine relationships within the community based on trust and respect. Keeping connections with the families and the Troop Leaders helps give all girls the opportunity to participate in Girl Scouts and the Girl Scout Leadership Experience.
After months of collaboration, GSMISTS established a relationship with the Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) to deepen a newly rekindled connection. The partnership has allowed sharing of communication and recruitment materials in English and Spanish to reach more GRPS schools and families and present with the GRPS Parent Action Leadership (Pals) organization.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Girl Scout programming provides progressive experiences in a safe space, in partnership with supportive adult mentors, to help girls develop the values of self-expression, community, inclusion, integrity, and discovery – skills to use for a lifetime of success and leadership. These school- and community-based Girl Scout troops provide an educational framework to prepare girls for life’s challenges, now and in the future, developing essential competencies such as self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making.