By Elizabeth Keys
STILLWATER, Okla. —
There’s more to Girl Scouts than cookies.
“Girl scouting has made a powerful impact on my life,” said Cheyenne Edwards, a Girl Scout Gold Award Ambassador.
She said the Girls Scouts have made her a better leader in school and the community with the process of obtaining patches, teaching her to set goals, go after them and relish in the joy of accomplishment while moving outside of her comfort zone through new places and opportunities.
But the fun of developing new skills would not be available to all youth without the Stillwater Area United Way contributions.
Ingrid Williams, a Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma officer, said United Way donations help maintain programs like the Stillwater Summer Day Camp. Youth may apply for assistance to attend.
“Developing courage through the accomplishment of feats like canoeing, hiking and wind surfing at camp ... has led me to fearlessly try new things,” said Girl Scout Juliette Low Leadership Society Scholarship winner Kelsey Speer.
She said Girl Scouts have been most influential on her character with the principles of always being prepared and helping people at all times.
The Girl Scouts creed of taking responsibility for what you say and do, along with valuing every sister scout, is emphasized in the program “Powered Up,” which encourages the 85 percent of bystanders to bullying to stand up for the target and make their world a better place. Girl Scouts of Eastern Oklahoma presents the bullying prevention initiative in local schools to help youth speak up in a positive way.
Troop 391 leader Carla Goad said finding your own voice, learning to dream big and beginning a legacy of achievement while navigating life’s twists and turns has motivated her family to stay involved in scouting. Her daughter, Elizabeth, is in her local Girl Scout troop, and her boys have always been involved in scouting.
Nearly 500 students are registered with Boy Scouts of America in Stillwater according to local Youth Services Executive Lori Brown. Many events involve the entire family with 1,200 attending the two Cimarron Council Spookaree events planned by older boy scouts in October.
“With all the distractions these days, scouting is an opportunity to get out and get into nature,” said Life Scout James Gragg of Troop 818 at First United Methodist Church.
He said he is fortunate that his family helps him participate in scouting but there are many youth throughout the community who don’t have the resources to join scouting without financial assistance and it’s “better to be doing something productive.”
United Way funds allow disadvantaged youth to participate in events, Brown said. Contributions help maintain outdoor facilities and support training for adult volunteers to make sure the children are safe in any environment. Without the United Way’s support, “we couldn’t do what we do for these boys,” Brown said.
Stillwater has one of the most diverse “boy” scouting communities with organized groups including Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, along with Venture Crews, Teams and Explorer Posts which can include both males and females. Explorer Posts often center around a particular career with the Perkins Police Department coordinating a group. She said there are just as many adults involved with scouting as kids.
There is a trickle effect from scouting as many involved participate in other activities, sending good citizens out in the community modeling courtesy.
“Youth are losing the ability to treat each other with respect and kindness — but all these young men are making an impact on the community,” Brown said.
Scouting emphasizes giving back with troops adopting various service endeavors, along with individual Eagle Scout projects which benefit the community. Service learning keeps many youth busy with activities.
“Some boys wouldn’t have anywhere to go — and scouting directs all that energy to make a positive difference in the world,” Brown said. “United Way is instrumental in supporting scouting programs.”