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Middle School Girls Can Find Friendship and Fun as Girl Scouts

Last year at this time, a neighbor reported that two adorable Brownies had gone door-to-door through our area, selling Girl Scout cookies.

“Shoot,” I’d thought. “Those girls are motivated and they have the cuteness factor going for them.”

This initial (and silly) scarcity reflex kicked in because at the start of the pandemic, I inherited a Girl Scout troop of a half dozen sixth grade Cadettes, and over time, I’d grown mildly worried about our ability to replenish the troop’s funds each year.

For the older the girls get, the less enthusiastic they are about hawking cookies.

Most of my Girl Scouts have been together since first or second grade. They earned lots of badges then, but they’d also done fun things like knockerball, zip-lining, a trip to Mackinac Island, a visit to a waterpark, and an overnight stay by a lighthouse. 

But when the world shut down in 2020, the original troop leader’s daughter announced her plan to quit the Scouts. 

A game of parental chicken ensued, wherein everyone hangs back, waiting to see if someone will step up and volunteer to keep things going. No one did. So although I knew zero about badges, camping, or fickle preteens — and I’m organizationally challenged to boot — I meekly raised my hand.

“What am I doing?!” I immediately wondered. On top of all these handicaps, I had the limitations of a worldwide pandemic to contend with. What Girl Scout activities could I plan that would keep the girls connected, but not put them or their families at risk?

Fortunately, for all my deficits as a Girl Scout leader, my creativity kicked in.

I had the girls over for s’mores at our backyard fire pit. We made tie-dye shirts in my garage; assembled grab-and-go lunches for a local food pantry; rented a theater auditorium so we could spread out and watch a movie together; did a Halloween-themed hike; executed small gift drop-offs as Secret Scout Santas; and strolled through the zoo’s holiday light display together.

To my surprise, every single Scout — including the one who originally planned to quit — re-upped for another year. 

And then they re-upped again the following year.

So here they are today: six high school freshmen. They’ve earned only a handful of badges during my tenure (and that only happened because of another Scout mom volunteer), and the girls have diverged wildly in terms of their interests and personalities; but what Scouts provided for them in a time of terrifying, sustained isolation was a sense of sisterhood. 

And this, I would argue, was so profound and meaningful that these young women have stayed together longer than they otherwise would have.

Admittedly, we don’t have meetings anymore. (The girls have occasional “hangouts.”) For activities, we go indoor skydiving and sign up for aerial workshops at a Detroit-based circus gym — things teens won’t immediately dismiss as “boring.”

And for a single day this weekend, at a local grocery store, my teen Scouts will sell cookies at a booth to help fund further adventures. 

They probably won’t be wearing their vests, because that’s not cool (obvs). And if you see them, your “aww” reflex won’t go off like it does when you see pigtailed Daisies and Brownies smiling up at you from behind a cookie-covered table. 

My Scouts know all too well that their age puts them at a disadvantage.

Because for all the lip service about kids being forced to grow up too fast in our culture, people also often balk at seeing young women hold on to things (like Scouts) from their youth.

Which makes it all the more impressive and amazing that these six young women have repeatedly ignored those messages and stuck by each other anyway.

So if you see “senior” Scouts out selling cookies in the coming weeks, buy some cookies, not despite their age, but because of it.

Support them because of their dedication.

Jenn McKee is a Michigan-based writer (and library minion) whose work has appeared in Shondaland, Good Housekeeping, The Writer, Scary Mommy and more. Follow her mundane introvert adventures on Insta (@criticaljenn) or Twitter (@jennmckee).