Suzanne Guo

A Girl Scouts Uniform vest. Girl Scouts at Los Altos answer questions about their experiences.

Girl Scouts Q&A

March 31, 2020

Happy cookie season, Los Altos! Every year, Girl Scouts provides us with a treat to make the end of winter a bit sweeter. But there’s so much more to this 108-year-old organization than their addictive cookies. Read on to see how robots, trans-Atlantic voyages, and female empowerment tie into the Scouting experience for two of Los Altos’s students.

Note: These interviews have been edited and condensed.

Sophia Shams

Sophomore Sophia Shams has been a Girl Scout since sixth grade and participates in Space Cookies, a special interests Girl Scout troop and all-girls FIRST Robotics Competition team.

Q: How has being a Girl Scout impacted your life?
A: Being a Girl Scout has given me increased confidence, and I think a lot of girls in my troop would agree with that. When you go to a Girl Scout event, people are coming up to you and talking to you, so being able to articulate what you do as a Girl Scout and then being able to embody the Girl Scout Promise is really important.

Q: How has being on an all-girls team impacted your experience with robotics?
A: Watching the way a lot of other co-ed teams interact, the girls tend to stay in the business and publicity side whereas the boys take over the mechanical side in the programming. I’ve seen this happen at a competition: a girl will try to pick up a drill and fix something, and the boys don’t want the girls anywhere near the robot. There have been girls that have joined my team because of that experience. Everyone in Space Cookies knows what it’s like to be treated as if you don’t know anything about STEM because of your gender, so it’s really allowed me to have more confidence. You learn from other girls how you should handle these kinds of situations.

Q: Some people think that Girl Scouts is sexist because of its focus on domestic activities. Do you think that’s true?
A: I definitely think that’s how it was. A few years ago, there was an activity where troops could design a badge. We were going through the badge catalog, and we were wondering, “How come there are so many badges in here, but there’s not a single one about STEM?” So we made our own, and then Girl Scouts contacted us with their own STEM badges. They sent them to us to look at and give our suggestions, so Girl Scouts is starting to make strides in the right direction. It’s a gradual process.

Q: What’re your favorite parts of being in Space Cookies?
A: Other than competing, I like [being around] leaders in STEM and working under pressure. Another thing would be the opportunity to become a better leader and learn new topics that you don’t get exposed to in school.

Margot Johnsen

Freshman Margot Johnsen has been a Girl Scout since she was in second grade.

Q: How has your experience as a Girl Scout changed as you’ve gotten older?
A: When you’re little, they try to focus more on lighthearted badges and teaching the core elements of Girl Scouts, like the Girl Scout Promise and the Girl Scout Law, which include things like being friendly and taking care of others. Then, as you get older, the badges get more practical. For high school Girl Scouts, we have financial literacy badges and woodworking badges.

Q: Could you elaborate on some of the practical skills you might expect to learn?
A: The financial literacy badges are often tied into Girl Scout cookies. There are outdoor skills badges, like fire-building and camping, as well as cooking badges. So a lot of them are skills that are fun and, especially for older girl scouts, career-focused. You’re experimenting with skills for different careers so you can try out things and see if you like them.

Q: What’s the biggest misconception about being a Girl Scout?
A: The biggest misconception is that it’s all about selling cookies. It’s really not. Most years I don’t even sell Girl Scout cookies because there are so many Girl Scouts in our area. Only a couple of months out of the year are focused on selling cookies. We do so many other things. In the past, Girl Scouts was a lot of, “we’re going to do sewing and learn these more feminine skills.” But in recent years, Girl Scouts has introduced a lot of STEM-related and outdoor-focused badges.

Q: Have people ever judged you because you’re a Girl Scout?
A: People see Girl Scouts as a frivolous organization that just asks you for money for cookies every year. But it’s so much more than that. There are a lot of really cool opportunities that people never hear about. This past summer, I went on a Girl Scout trip to Scotland and Ireland, and I got to meet girls from all over the country. Those elements of Girl Scouts don’t really get a lot of attention. I don’t think we’re all just the smiling faces that you see on the cookie boxes.

Q: Some people think that Girl Scouts is sexist because of its focus on domestic activities. Do you think that’s true?
A: Recently, Girl Scouts has really moved away from that. A couple of years ago, when the Boy Scouts started including girls in their programs, there was talk about whether Girl Scouts should extend their membership to boys. But I think that there’s a place for a scouting organization that focuses on empowering girls, considering that women are still marginalized in our society.

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