By Katie Sobiech
What if the youth of this generation were given a platform for their voices, and an outlet to make their dreams of creating a better place come true? What would that look like?
One local girl says it would be that people stop treating her neighborhood like it’s a trash can.
The Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio’s (GSNO) Girltopia project allows young girls’ dreams to blossom and grow through their new “Take Action” projects.
“As we go into the New Year it’s going to be fully developed into Aake Action projects and they’ll be eligible to receive mini grants. It’s pretty cool,” Emily Fletcher, Director of Programs at GSNEO, said.
It’s not too late for girls, and volunteers, to still jump on board.
Girl’s Making Their Mark
The groups, which formed in September, each have their own unique touch in the community.
One group from St. Vincent St. Mary’s school started Project SMILE, which stands for “Spread Much Inspiration and Love Everywhere”.
“They’ve done research, gone to places in Akron and talked to people about problems in town – that they perceive are happening in the community. They’re hoping to work with and mentor young girls in building their self-esteem. They believe that if girls and young women have strong self-esteem then they’re less likely to bully or be bullied in school,” Fletcher shared.
Another group is looking into the issues of bullying and teen suicide to help address those challenges.
“And there’s another group trying to discover ways to stop littering and people throwing trash in their neighborhood. (One of the girls said) ‘My neighborhood isn’t a trash can’!” Fletcher recalled.
Making it Count
One of the most important facets of a Girltopia project is to make it count.
“We’re teaching girls how to measure what they’re doing and the reach that it’s having in the community,” Fletcher said.
They’re doing this by using evaluation models to create sustainable outcomes.
“(There are) 15 outcomes that we measure, that we believe give girls skills to be leaders in their own lives and in the lives of others,” Fletcher said.
The skills and outcomes are focused in 3 categories: Discover, Connect and Take Action
Taking a Journey
“In order to do that they have a curriculum ‘Journeys” and the journeys are in 3 themes ‘It’s Your Planet, Love it”- which is about environmental awareness, ‘It’s Your Story- Tell It’, which is about self -expression and media literacy, and “It’s Your World – Change It’ – which is all about world advocacy,” Fletcher said.
“The curriculum has the girls focusing on challenges, and assets and resources that they have available to them. They’re looking at the problem, trying to find the root cause to the problem, and then seeing what resources in the community they can use to address that problem and work towards sustainable, true change. Its more than community service, its sustainability that I think separates us as a ‘Take Action’ project,” Fletcher said.
After the grants are awarded in January, the “Take Action” projects will to on through the spring.
“Then we’re looking at ways to continue the program again. Girls can participate in the future and do different projects,” Fletcher said.
Girls are still able to join what’s happening now, though.
“We’re hoping to engage more community members and girls in this last phase. There are plenty of opportunities for girls to join,” Fletcher said.
They’re also looking to find how to engage community members as well. They’re looking for volunteers, mentors advisors that could help the girls with their Take Action projects.
This is a just the beginning, a pilot program. The Girl Scouts of Northeast Ohio are looking to replicate the process for years to come.