Compiled by Jennifer Walker, Edmonton AB
Here in Australia we have the same problem with many girls leaving to go to the Scout Association (either Venturers or Rovers) around the age of 16-21yrs (although we actually lose more members between the Brownie age groups and Guide age groups when girls first start at high school). It is seen as 'uncool' to be in Guiding at this age in Australia, however Scouts is fairly 'trendy'. We are working hard to change this image in Australia - hence the new Australian Guide Program. Many girls will participate in both Scouting and Guiding and hold off making a decision about which movement to stay involved in. Often the girls are not encouraged to stay on within Guiding or are simply not appreciated enough.
I came up through the movement as a Junior Leader and young leader and experienced a lot of the negativity that has been discussed on the list. Leader meetings would be held during the day (how ridiculous!) so my co-leader (also young) and I could never attend - we were accused of not wanting to get involved with other leaders. We would invite other units to join in our activities and the leaders would not pass on the messages to the girls. Many of our program activities were frowned upon because they didn't involve 'traditional guiding'. It eventually got to the stage where we no longer tried to mix with the other adults in the district and we both eventually left. I never did go to Scouting - I just left the Guide Association until I felt mature enough to cope with older members. I still have not returned to being a leader - now I'm busy working with the 14-30yr age group: promoting them within the association; helping out with the development of the new programs; and encouraging young women to get involved with Guiding at a state level. It keeps me extremely busy but its worth it to watch young women discover that they can really contribute to the future of Guiding at all levels.
- Natasha Hendrick
I agree, some
Young Guiders are not appreciated and not given the praise they deserve.
But in this day and age, and where a unit is short on leaders I think that
new and young Guiders can be a life line. Often the fact that they may
not work and may not have children means they can do things that other
Guiders do not have the time to do. I am not saying that young Guiders
do not have things to do it's just that, for example, they might not have
to be absent for a week because it is their child's open day at school
etc. I think young Guiders can add fresh ideas to the organization but
we must not forget the experience of the older Guiders. In an ideal unit
you will have a bit of both worlds.
24 November 1997
As a young Guider myself (I'm 23) I was appalled to read about the experiences of other young Guiders. In our District, we have 15 Guiders, only one of whom has a daughter in her unit!
But I must admit that I haven't had it easy either. My own District, having known me since I was seven, have always been very supportive, but it's a different story when I go to trainings or events elsewhere. More "experienced" Guiders look down their noses at me, do not accept my opinions and even ask how I got as far as I did. (it doesn't help that mum is a District Commissioner, so obviously the only reason I get selected for anything is because of her, and has nothing to do with the long hours and hard work I put in).
I know I'm young, but I can't help that! So those of you who are lucky enough to be older and wiser, please don't assume that young Guiders are happy to sit in a corner and listen! We're Guides too!
--Kerry Dixon, North East England
24 November 1997
Although I do now have 3 daughters in Scouting, I ran into difficulties when I first volunteered. I was about 25 and my oldest was 1 1/2 years old. I thought I would try and get back into Girl Scouting so that by the time she was 5 or 6, I would be ready to take on a troop. I ran into problems - Why did I want to be a leader if I didn't have a daughter in a troop? No calls back. I was never even invited to a neighborhood or Service Unit meeting. After repeated phone calls they finally assigned me as an assistant leader to a Brownie Troop. The leader acted as if she was doing me a favor and put up with me, and treated me mostly as an extra body at the meetings. I told her I would like to take any training I could, but I was never told about them until they were over. I never did receive any Leader magazines or my registration card so now I question whether she ever turned in my registration ( I paid her in cash). At the time I equated the problems with being an assistant and I swore I would never do that again. It took about another 10 years or more for me to back down on that one.
Now I realize that I was fighting another one of those pre-set mind things. If someone wants to volunteer to work with other people's kids there must be something wrong with them. I also think most people still have trouble believing anyone would totally, willingly volunteer for this, even with girls in the program. When I moved to Omaha, my daughter was now 6, I had been her Daisy Leader, and before the boxes were unpacked I called the council and told them I wanted a Brownie Troop for my daughter and I would like to be the leader. Same response, total silence. When she finally spoke she repeated back what I had just said with wonder in her voice. People don't call and volunteer. They wait until no one else will do it and get forced into it. I guess we just don't all fit the mold. If they would do more recruiting outside the parents, this organization would fly. I thought we were getting better, but I guess there are still some pretty silly preconceived notions running around.
Carolyn Ayers, Tierra Del Oro GSC, CA
As many of you already know, I emigrated from England to the US in mid-March of 1997. Both my husband and I have faced many many challenges since arriving here, most of which we've got around, but there was one which really surprised me - Girl Scouts. I was certainly not prepared for the difficult time I had in trying to become a Girl Scout Leader. When I first contacted Council, I was asked which school my daughter goes to. I replied that I don't have a daughter. Stunned and confused silence at the other end of the phone. I was referred to a school co-ordinator who asked me how old my daughter was. When I told her that I don't have a daughter, she didn't know what to do and promised to phone me back. She never did. I went back to Council, found out that I needed to speak to the membership specialist, who, although extremely pleasant, really didn't know what to do either. As I was not working at the time, we arranged for me to visit her office and I spent the entire afternoon there. Although it was an enjoyable afternoon, I still had to specifically ask about local contacts in my new home town. She told me about two service unit meetings which I attended. The first was very welcoming and agreed to me visiting troops (which incidentally didn't entirely work out either, but that's another story!), and helping at Day Camp. However, at the second I was told I was in the wrong place, because I don't live in the catchment area for any of their schools (I live about a mile outside) or have a daughter attending any of the schools in their area. What daughter? In fact, I don't have any children. Why? I just haven't got to that stage in my life yet. I'm 28 years old, was in full-time education until I was nearly 23, got married 3 years ago, changed full-time jobs one year later, and then 8 months ago, emigrated half way across the world!
I have been in Guiding (UK) since 1976 - 21 years ago - and Guiding / Girl Scouting is an important part of my life. I had a leadership role in Guiding for 11 years, and a County Adviser role for 4 years. I have seen how hard it can be to find leaders, so I find it quite difficult to believe that this area has so many leaders that they don't need any more.
I am now slowly settling in with my new troops and service unit. I am beginning to be accepted for what I am as opposed to what I am not. I do still find though, that I am introduced to new people as "the Brit with no kids", and that several large-scale events assume that you are a parent (for example, if I help at day camp, my daughter gets a free place - how nice!). What is the point of this message? - Maybe you have a leader in your area who is in the same situation as me. How welcome has she been made? Are you constantly pointing out how she doesn't have any children? - Is there any way to contact other Girl Scout leaders of my age group in the US? For example, does Link exist in the US? Or are there any other groups for young Girl Scout Leaders in the US?
24 November 1997
I am only 20. I have no children and am working my way through college. When I moved to a new council I called before I even got there and asked to be placed with a troop. I know the first couple people I talked to didn't really know what to do with me, but luckily one of the people at our Council knew of a Service Unit that needed an older girl Troop Leader. That part was easy. It is a little harder working with the other leaders, because when they are talking about thier daughter's school or their husbands I have little to say, and somehow it seems awkward mentioning my boyfriend. I have had other leaders assume I was one of my girls (I work with Cadettes), and I have had others who assume I have much more know how than I do. While I know Girl Scout ways, it is much harder for me to make some of the judgement calls that go along with being a leader that are instinctive for most parents. As someone else said, I am committed to a cause, not a particular girl, and probably will be throughout my work with the program. But that is ok, and I just ignore the people who don't take the time to get to know *me* and only see my age and lack of a child.
Amanda Owen, Tejas GSC, Texas
30 November 1997
For four years now the only adult help I have been able to count on is a college student and a young adult with no children. I have had other college students who had no commitment to the program. They came for a few meetings or the semester and then were gone. Sometimes the problem for students is their lack of transportation; it is very embarrassing to have to wait to be picked up like "one of the girls". Many times the leaders don't treat them as equals or don't give them any responsibility. They feel useless and unneeded, hence no commitment. As a Trainer in this Council, I have trained many of these college girls to be the 01's, and most of them will stay. Proportionally, I would guess they have the same retention rate as those parents who are only in it for one year, or they get tired or when something else comes along.
Both of these ladies who have helped my troop are Gold Award recipients, and have a strong sense of commitment and belief in the program. Maybe we should ask about that when they volunteer. Maybe people who just need to volunteer some time for a class would be better used at the council office putting labels on flyers, or helping at events in a limited capacity.
We will miss our college student when she graduates this spring. She taught the girls a lot. She has been very open with the girls about how much different it is for her as an adult leader. She had organized events for younger girls many time as a Cadette/Senior, and had been in charge many times. But, as she has told the girls, it is a whole different ball game to be the adult in charge and be the one the buck stops at. It has been the topic of more than one discussion for the girls and the adults.
In short, perhaps we need to find a way to prepare the girls to assume the adult role when they are out of high school. It's not just leadership, our college student tells me, you have to stop being "one of the girls", even if it is an older girl.
Return to Young Leaders Index Page || Return to Guide Zone Welcome Page or Main Index Page || Send us Mail || Top of Page