Girl Scouts of Rhode Island (GSRI) has found a new home on Greenwich Avenue in Warwick, complete with a leadership center to support 8,900 area girls on their scouting journey.
Last Thursday, a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at the new facility, complete with a press conference to announce the plans for the 10,000-square-foot Girl Leadership Experience Center. The headquarters, at one time Alpine Ski, will provide services for girls in Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts and Pawcatuck, Conn.
GSRI CEO Jean-Ann McGrane joined CEO of Girl Scouts of America Anna Maria Chavez, former Girl Scout and Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts, and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian for the announcement inside of the new facility.
“My Brownie years were the best years of my Scouting,” said Roberts, who was just one of the examples McGrane used to show what the young girls in the Scouts can grow up to become.
“It’s no surprise there are women in leadership roles that were in Girl Scouts,” said Roberts.
Avedisian expressed his surprise in a report from the Girl Scouts Research Institute showing 61 percent of girls in America are deeply ambivalent about leadership or say it is not important to them. The report also says of the 39 percent of girls who said leadership was important, only 21 percent believed they had what it takes to be a leader.
“The research really makes me realize that we need to double those efforts [of GSRI],” said Avedisian.
It is McGrane’s hope that the new facility will provide opportunities to connect the young girls in Scouts with role models from the community, whether it is women in public service, business or another area.
“This space will become a girl-led hub of connectivity,” said McGrane, adding that the center will be connected to both community and school-based programs.
McGrane describes the center as a blank canvas, because it is exactly that. At this point in time, the center is empty, open space with a few meeting rooms and space designated to become a “girl’s lounge.”
It is McGrane’s hope that the girls within her organization will play a major role in determining what the space will become in the months and years to come.
“We want to figure out what we want to do,” said McGrane, explaining that the six newly determined “areas of excellence” will be incorporated into the space.
The “areas of excellence” are the results of a Visioning Task Force Study from GSRI to provide members of the chapter with “a cutting edge, 21st century environment,” according to GSRI’s press release from the event.
“We turned 100 last year, in 2012, and we want to encourage more girls to join Girl Scouts,” said Chavez. “We needed to keep up with the times.”
The six areas are: making a difference, life skills, travel and adventure, camping and outdoors, global citizenship, and STEAM.
STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math, which are seen as the subject areas that need to be mastered for success in leadership. Art was added to the original program, STEM, following the efforts of Congressman Jim Langevin and the Rhode Island School of Design.
McGrane explained that she hopes to incorporate the areas in a variety of ways, such as bringing in the technology to connect Scouts in Rhode Island with girls in other parts of the world or other learning opportunities.
“Our vision is to connect girls with other girls around the world,” said McGrane. “There are some schools that have this technology, but not all girls have that access. It’s hard. Our goal is to reach all girls.”
She added that the next step would be to look at the space, reach out to leaders in the community and, of course, bring in more girls. McGrane believes this new center and headquarters will help.
“It makes for easier access to many of the council members,” said McGrane. “People will want to come here. We want girls to say to mom and dad, ‘Hey, can we go to Girl Scouts today?’”
Despite a shift in vision and attempting to keep up with the times, one aspect of Girl Scouting is not going anywhere: selling Girl Scout cookies.
McGrane explained that the Cookie Program is the largest financial literacy program in the country, and she would even go as far as to say the biggest in the world.
“It is a $75 million business,” said McGrane, adding that it teaches girls the most basic skills, such as counting change to cold-call sales all the way up to entrepreneurial skills. “It is really training girls for the business world.”
According to Chavez, Girls Scouts has added a number of new badges, 13 of which are tied to financial literacy.
“We have learned that girls don’t really understand what the issues are in terms of financial literacy,” said Chavez, referencing yet another study conducted by the organization.
Chavez explained that this study showed that girls “aspire to have a fully-rounded financial life” but do not believe they have the skills to achieve that. Chavez hopes encouraging financial literacy in Scouts will help change that.
McGrane said many of the most influential women in both Rhode Island and the United States were once Girl Scouts, including the past three women Secretaries of State. With a new place to call home and foster the necessary leadership skills, she hopes GSRI will continue to produce strong women leaders.