Girl Scout initiative empowers young ladies to become innovative leaders

| 02 Aug 2017 | 01:46

By Laurie Gordon
— It isn't just about cookies, camps and crafts anymore. Girl Scouts is now about so much more, including teaching girls to be strong young women who lead by example and are preparing to take on the world.
G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) is changing the way people think about the Girl Scouts. The program, which is being instituted this summer at Camp Lou Henry Hoover, in Newton, and other Girl Scout camps and programs around the nation is an initiative to encourage girls to stand up, take charge, and change the world, for themselves and for all of us.
“The G.I.R.L. Initiative teaches girls to be all of those things that it stands for,” said Deb Hooker, the Camp Director and Property Manager at Camp Lou Henry Hoover. “This philosophy underscores everything we do now giving girls the power to share ideas and take charge of activities.”
One of the programs at Camp Hoover is the Counselor in Training Program (CIT). “This two week program starts with a week of learning how to lead and work with younger girls," Hooker said. “That's what they did last week. This week the CITs are out in the field around camp leading activities and working with the girls at camp.”
Mia Singleton, 15, of Hillside, New Jerssey, has spent the last two summers going to Camp Hoover. A member of the Counselor in Training Program, she said, “It's a lot of fun plus a challenge to work with kids of all ages and get them doing different activities of all kinds.”
Emma Zwizkel, 14, of Montville, New Jersey, started going to Camp Hoover as part ot its Mini Camp and has been going ever since. She said of being a Counselor in Training, “It's fun to be in charge and a leader in general.”
Isabelle Holt, 14, from Montclair, New Jersey has an older sister who went to Camp Hoover and as soon as she was old enough to attend, she started going too. Now a Counselor in Training, Holt said, “It's a big responsibility and you always have to be energetic and enthusiastic. Even if it's an activity you don't love, you have to be eager about it and getting the younger girls involved.”
Carolina Lopez, 14, from Livingston, New Jersey, is in her fifth year at camp and is also a CIT. “It's a lot of fun making new friends here and having new experiences,” she said. “The challenge with being a CIT is keeping up your energy and making sure everyone has fun.” Lopez said of the new G.I.R.L. initiative, “I have especially seen it through the Pajama Drama activity here at camp. The girls have really been taking initiative to plan what they want to do.”
Another program at Camp Hoover that is incorporating the G.I.R.L ideologies is called Packing and Paddles. Girls in this program this year are ages 13 and 14 and head out for two and a half days hiking on the Appellation Trail then canoeing for a few days. Sounds like fun and it is... but there's one catch. They have to pack for themselves and if they forget something, oh well, time to make do without it.
“Last week's group forgot a can opener,” Hooker said. “They had to get pretty creative.”
All of these programs are fantastic learning experiences, in addition to taking place in the great outdoors.
Camp Hoover is starting to implement STEM-like activities and by next year will be offering opportunities to explore flight programming and other mathematical, technological, scientific and mathematical activities and education. They are already doing geo-caching. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, Whether they're discovering how a car's engine runs, learning to manage finances or caring for animals, the girls will explore different aspects each year at camp.
Camp Hoover wouldn't be where it was today without it's director, Deb Hooker. Hooker started going to Camp Hoover when she was about nine years old.
“As a Girl Scout the camp brochure came home and my parents thought it would be great to send me,” she said, “They sent me to my first session on the bus from Westfield and I have pretty much never left.”
Up until she was 16, Hooker attended Camp Hoover for one week at a time – participating in programs such as General Camp, Canoe Adventure, Computer Camp and Older Girl General.
“I loved my time at camp and was always sad when I got home. I would spend all my days after camp singing songs and annoying my parents.”
During the summer of 1987, she had the opportunity to work the last week as a lifeguard on the waterfront.
“This began my 30 years as a member of the Camp Hoover staff. I have been directing Camp Hoover since 1995 and wouldn’t give up a minute of my time there. Since 2001, I have also been a year-round employee with the council,” she said.
Girl Scouting in the United States of America began on March 12, 1912, when Juliette "Daisy" Gordon Low organized the first Girl Guide troop meeting of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia. Camp Lou Henry Hoover is named for the United States' First Lady from 1929 to 1933. She served as the national president of the Girl Scouts of the USA from 1922 to 1925 while Herbert Hoover, the nation's 31st President, served in the cabinet of Presidents Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge. She served as president again after leaving the White House, from 1935 to 1937. Lou henry Hoover funded the construction of the first Girl Scout house in Palo Alto, California, and was passionate about the organization.
Back when Girl Scouts started, times were very different. Now, young ladies are emerging as go-getter,s innovators, risk-takers and leaders thanks to the Girl Scouts and G.I.R.L. They're learning about science, technology, engineering and math as well as about all there is to learn about survival and the outdoors. They're learning life skills and how to be entrepreneurs. But don't worry, they are also still selling those wonderful cookies.
Next year, Camp Lou Henry Hoover will be starting a Capital Campaign to do vital renovations and construction at the camp.
“We need to do major repairs and update the camp to accommodate the STEM programs,” Hooker said.
To make a donation or become part of the Camp Hoover Capitol Campaign, visit Camp Hoover's web site at www.gshnj@org