New ‘badges’ mobilize girls to change the world

GREATER WESTFIELD – Girls across Western Massachusetts are excited about the challenges that await them this fall as the Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts debut 42 new badges that explore topics from high adventure to coding and space science.

“The badges enhance the organization’s existing girl-led programming, offering girls everything from adventuring in the snow or mountains to learning how to use coding to solve problems they care about,” said Dana Carnegie, communications manager, Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts.

Carnegie added that Girl Scout programming has long promoted independent decision making, which helps girls challenge themselves to move beyond their comfort zones, and build confidence in their leadership abilities.

Open houses to introduce parents and girls to local Girl Scout troops are planned at the Westfield Athenaeum on Sept. 18 from 6 – 7:30 p.m., and in Southwick at the Woodland Elementary School on Sept. 25 from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m., and at the Powder Mill Middle School on Sept. 26 from 6 – 7:30 p.m. 

Girl Scouts is open to all girls from kindergarten through grade 12. 

“Anyone over the age of 18 can become a Girl Scout volunteer,” said Carnegie. “Girls cannot experience the positive impact of Girl Scouts without adult volunteers, and each adult who volunteers has the opportunity to make a real difference in the life of a girl.”

Girl Scouts encourages girls to seek out high adventures – including whitewater rafting. Recently, several Girl Scouts from Southwick Troop 11220 took the plunge with experienced guides from Crab Apple Whitewater that has a base camp along the Deerfield River. (Submitted photo)

Cheryl McCarthy of Southwick, a Girl Scout volunteer for 28 years, echoed that sentiment.

“I was a Girl Scout and when my daughter started kindergarten I introduced her to the Daisies,” said McCarthy, who currently serves as a coordinator along with Lois Davis for the Girl Scouts Southern Tri Towns which covers Southwick, Granville and Tolland. She also served as a troop leader for 13 years.

“At the upcoming open houses in Southwick we will have information about Girl Scouts as well as registration forms,” said McCarthy, adding she will also answer questions if anyone is considering serving as a volunteer with one of the troops.

McCarthy noted that Girl Scouts provides a “positive atmosphere” so that girls can discuss pertinent issues with their peers without feeling pressure from outside influences.

Brownie Talia Marx of Troop 64804 in Westfield checks out the “Coding for Good” Girl Scout badge program. (Submitted photo)

“The programs are really great too with its focus on adventures, engineering, science and technology,” said McCarthy.

For two “best friends” in Southwick – Brie Senez and Nicole Nooney – these new focuses have created excitement to take on new challenges.

“We select badge projects as a group,” said Senez, 15, of Southwick Troop 11220. “I learned about coding from Girl Scouts so I understood it before doing it in school. By going to Girl Scout camp and attending special events I learn new things all the time.”

Nooney, 12, of Southwick Troop 12916, concurred.

“I’m interested in one of the new badges about cyber security,” said Nooney. “I want to learn more about this program so I can keep my friends using social media safe as well as understand who I can safely interact with.”

Brownies Savannah Thompson, Madison Hibner, and Aurora Labrie, all from Troop 64804 in Westfield, look at the Trail Adventure requirements for a new Girl Scout badge program. (Submitted photo)

While both Senez and Nooney are also interested in “high adventures,” they also focus on projects that can ultimately help their town and its residents.

“You can have fun, help the environment and help your community,” said Nooney, noting that her troop had purchased braille books from cookie sales funds because a troop member has a sister who is blind and will now be able to enjoy them while she is at school. After extensive research by the troop members, the girls decided that the braille books should cover several grade levels. The girls donated the books during the 2017-2018 school year.

In Westfield, Troop 64804 members were asked about their plans for the fall and in particular, the “Coding for Good” badges.

“If we get to do video games, I’m in,” said Talia Marx. 

For Jaezyah Dunlevy, she is “looking forward to trying new things,” and Chloe Fisher is up for “having new adventures.”

“The Trail Adventure and Snow or Climbing Adventure are choose your own badges where the girls can decide which sport they’d like to focus on,” said Patricia O’Connor. “This troop decided they want to do both tracks for both badges.” 

O’Connor, a longtime Girl Scout volunteer, works with Daisy Troop 64936 and Ambassador Troop 40222.

Junior Girl Scouts Jaezyah Dunlevy, Chloe Fisher, and Rylee Rumplik examine the Snow and Climbing Adventure materials from the Girl Scouts program. (Submitted photo)

“Providing countless opportunities for trying new things and exercising leadership skills through activities like building robots, participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program, playing sports, and more, Girl Scouts is an exciting way to engage girls all year round,” said Carnegie.

For more information on other troops, upcoming events in the area or to become a Girl Scout volunteer, visit www.gscwm.org.

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