It takes more than selling cookies to be a Girl Scout.
For almost 100 years, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America program has taught girls to become effective leaders and help the less fortunate in their communities.
Girl Scouts in Stuttgart can add volksmarching, exploring Europe and working with Scouts from around the world to that list.
“I think Girl Scouts gives them a unique opportunity, especially in Germany, to explore many things about themselves, their environment, and their interests in life — anything from learning how to write a letter to rock climbing,” said Marah Campbell, Girl Scouts Overseas committee chair.
Last year, the Stuttgart area Girl Scouts chapter had 23 troops and more than 300 registered girls, making it one of the largest chapters in Europe, Campbell said.
Like the program in the U.S., Girl Scouts Overseas teaches girls about leadership, confidence and character through self-discovery, connecting to others and community service.
However, Scouts in Europe have certain special benefits. Here, they have access to two Girl Scout World Houses: Pax Lodge in London and the Swiss Lodge in Switzerland. At the Swiss chalet, girls from all over the world come to learn about Scouting programs in different countries.
“They experience international aspects of Scouting,” Campbell added. “One troop last year paired with the German version [of a troop].”
They can also earn special patches specific to Germany, including an ‘Adventures in Garmisch’ and a German Christmas market patch.
The Stuttgart Girl Scouts also participate in world-wide Scouting events, such as Founder’s Day and Thinking Day — when every troop creates a presentation on a different country.
“It gives them an opportunity to learn about the world around them,” Campbell said.
Stuttgart troops range from Daisies (kindergarten and first grade) to Seniors and Ambassadors (high school), and include students from garrison schools and the International School of Stuttgart, as well as home-schooled students.
As Girl Scouts progress, they earn patches for their uniforms for learning about the program, trying new activities and participating in community service activities. Last year, one troop planted a flower garden at Böblingen Elementary School, and another collected clothes to donate to an orphanage in Poland.
Other patches are just for fun, such as being the best Girl Scout cookie-seller.
“My experience with my daughter is [that] she used to be really shy and drawn-in,” said Kathy Watts, Girl Scout leader and manager of the Girl Scout Hut on Panzer Kaserne. “This has really drawn her out.”
As Girl Scouts grow older, they have more freedom to choose activities and earn badges.
“A lot of people think that when you’re older, there’s not a lot of stuff to do [in Girl Scouts], but that’s when the doors open,” said Natasha Werner, 16, an Ambassador. “I was interested in space, so I applied to NASA. I went to space aviation camp.”
The highest level of awards includes the Girl Scout Bronze, Silver and Gold awards.
Heidi Martin, 18, earned her Gold Award by hosting a two-day workshop on self-esteem and self-image, called ‘Beautiful U,’ on Panzer Kaserne. The workshop featured sessions on public speaking, fitness and stress management.
“The girls were enthusiastic,” Martin said. “They just seemed to have learned a lot, and that was my goal.”
Besides learning leadership and life skills, Girl Scouts is a place for girls to relax and have fun, Watts added. “This is a way for them to have something for themselves. [My daughter] just felt like she was lost in the shuffle. This is her special time to be heard and to make friends.”
About the Stuttgart Girl Scouts
With nearly 400 members, the Girl Scouts of Stuttgart, Germany, is the U.S. Army Garrison of Stuttgart’s largest girls-only leadership development program. The program reaches girls between the ages of 5 to 17 at the four main housing installations of U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, as well as at the Stuttgart International School.