The Girl Scouts of the USA 55th National Council Session (NCS) was unlike any before: nearly 1,200 voting delegates, along with girls, volunteers, staff, and board members from across the country, gathered virtually to celebrate Girl Scouts and consider six proposals affecting the Girl Scout Movement.
Twelve fantastic Girl Scouts from Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GCNWI) played an important role in the weekend and NCS proceedings: Leah, Alonda, Caroline, Dex, Alany, Emily, Ariana, Kate, Erin, Dakota, Carlie, and Laura. Two of the girls’ mentors, Alaina Greene and Karen Schillings, provided the opportunity for the girls to take the lead and make real change in Girl Scout legislation. Read on to hear from Alaina Greene, a GCNWI staff member, who helped the girls take the lead and start their own girl-led forum!
Girls are Shaping the Future
Guest-post by Alaina Greene, Troop Support Specialist at GCNWI, member of the National Convention team, and mentor to the GSGCNWI girl delegates.
I am still processing the amazing weekend I just experienced with our delegation, as we attended the 55th National Council Session. It was a groundbreaking, challenging, fun, and Movement-shaping weekend that I am sure you’re excited about—but I am here to tell you about the work of our council’s amazing girl delegates leading up to that weekend.
The GCNWI girl delegates applied to the three-year position last winter, before we knew we would have to pivot to a virtual platform. By the time our nine girl delegates and three alternates were elected in the spring, we were deep into social distancing, and our Orlando trip was no longer possible.
Even with the rapidly changing circumstances, the girls were excited to participate in decisions that would shape the future of the nation’s Girl Scouts. “I enjoyed all of the fun experiences with the badges, but I wanted to see how I could get involved beyond traditional Girl Scouting,” Kate explained in conversation about her NCS experience.
Dakota wanted her opinions to be heard and actually make a change: “I wanted to show the other girls in my troop that if you want to do something big, all you have to do is try.”
“At first,” Alonda revealed, “I didn’t understand any of it. I know now that the things we do and say shape the future for girls.”
The girl delegates’ mentor Karen Schillings—who also serves as a Council Historian, Chair of Adult Recognitions, AND a troop leader—finds this to be the most valuable part of chaperoning the girls through the NCS process: “I want to hear the girl’s point of view.”
And these girls took on the responsibility with great enthusiasm: “They seem to sense that their role as a delegate is historical and will have an impact, not just for today, but for the future of the movement,” Karen reported.
So we persisted, and remained engaged not only in numerous Zoom calls with each other, but countless forums, caucuses, and trainings hosted by GSUSA. They were tasked with learning about their role as a national delegate, including a deep understanding of the six proposals that were up for consideration at NCS, and parliamentary procedures.
Even with the unconventional virtual structure, the girls rose to the challenge and exceeded expectations.
As we inched closer and closer to NCS, our girl delegates started to express that the national forums they were participating in weren’t exactly what they wanted. They didn’t want forums moderated by adults—they wanted a forum where they could talk to other girl delegates without having an adult direct the conversation. From this sprang the idea of a girl-led delegate forum, hosted by our GCNWI girl delegates.
In under a month, our girl delegates brainstormed, planned, and re-planned a forum led solely by girls. Four GCNWI girls hosted, and delegates from across the country were invited to attend. Delegates from at least 11 councils joined the forum to share their opinions.
Did everything go smoothly? No. In fact, our girls had to shift quickly, and our facilitator, Leah, had to get creative with her tactics. Conversations struggled at the top, but soon, more and more attendees were unmuting. Delegates were sharing their ideas, but also voicing when they were uncertain, something we all know can be intimidating to say to a group.
“As a host for the girl delegate call,” Leah said, “even if things went differently than I had prepared for, I had to go with the flow. I’m proud that I was able to help give those girls a meaningful experience.”
“One thing I’ve noticed,” Karen explained, “is that girls are capable of significant accomplishments if we just give them the support and confidence they need to lead. When we, as adults, show that we believe in them, they ultimately believe in themselves.”
I am so proud of the work our girl delegates put into this, both behind the scenes leading up to the day, and during the forum. The teamwork, leadership, and innovation they demonstrated allowed them to create the safe space for the dialogue they hoped for.
Attendees of the forum commented that they were so happy to have the opportunity to attend and connect with other girl delegates. At the end of the Forum, they all said, “See you next weekend at NCS!”
In the past year a lot of our plans have changed, and many of us have been forced to shift. What has not changed is the determination and spirit of our girls. They continue to blaze new trails and inspire.
“It’s important for girls to take leadership positions so they can make a change in their lives, instead of letting someone else do it,” Dakota said.
“Girls have a specific point of view that adults don’t—it’s important for girls to be able to share that point of view,” Leah explained, and Alonda added, “I feel like there’s not enough recognition for young girl’s and women’s leadership.”
Carlie also agreed: “Girls are often told it’s bad to be loud, and Girl Scouts teaches us that our strength is our voice, our actions, us. Creating spaces for girls to learn voting, business, public speaking, and diplomatic skills is crucial to creating a world that is meant for us, too.”
Kate concluded, “I’m excited to be a part of something that will impact not only my community, but girls throughout the United States.”
Save the Date for the next National Council Session!
Girl Scouts are welcome to attend the next National Council Session in July 2023 on their own, as a troop, or you can apply to be a delegate.
Applications will open in 2022 for the 2023 National Council Session. Adults and Girls that are 14 and up will be able to apply.
Thank you to the Girl Delegates and Alternate Girl Delegates:
And thanks to Karen Schillings and Alaina Greene for their mentorship!
Look out next week for a blog post all about the adult Delegates whose achievements have been three years in the making.