Radical organization?

"We're sometimes seen as stodgy or behind the times, but we're as radical today as when we started in 1912." Shelley Jacobson

Radical organization?

The Greater Minneapolis Girl Scout Council is proud of the label.

That's what the newspaper headline read in 1912 when founder Juliette Gordon Low formed the first Girl Scout troop.

If it's radical to help girls and young women prepare for financial independence, the label still applies. In 2006, about 5,500 girls participated in financial literacy programs offered through the Girl Scout Council of Greater Minneapolis.

In a world where 90 percent of all women will be solely responsible for their own financial self-sufficiency at some point in their lives, noted CEO Shelley Jacobson, it's important for girls to learn how money works.

"Unfortunately, there are still a lot of fairy tales out there," she said. The financial literacy program delivers a healthy dose of reality-in fun and creative ways-to girl scouts of all ages.

For the kindergartners and first-graders, known as "Daisies," there's "Penny Power," where girls learn about how many pennies it takes to buy various items. Brownies (second- and third-graders) participate in a program about spending their allowance. In fourth through sixth grades, Jacobson said, "girls go through the process of creating a budget-housing, food, transportation-then pick a career and look up how much it pays." The results can come as a shock.

"They often say, Whoa, guess I can't do that," Jacobson said, and take a hard look at their career choice, spending choices, or both.

The financial literacy programs, based on a curriculum put out by the national Girl Scouts, are updated and modified locally. A couple of years ago, Jacobson said, girls were given a certain amount of (hypothetical) capital to create their own small businesses. If they needed more, they had to see the "banker."

Two young businesswomen did just that, Jacobson recalled, and were told they could not have more funds because their account was overdrawn. Two younger girls overheard the exchange. "One whispered soberly to the other, 'You should never spend more money than you have in the bank!'" recalled Jacobson, with a laugh.

Reflecting the diversity of the Minneapolis area, the Girl Scout Council has several affinity groups, or "initiatives": a long-standing Latina initiative, and newer Hmong, Muslim, African American and Faith Community initiatives.

Sometimes people question that approach, Jacobson said, suggesting that integration is preferable to having specific programs for, say, Hmong girls.

In reply, Jacobson says that girls are integrated in so many areas of their lives that "they want a place where they can feel safe talking about their issues as young Hmong women." A group of Hmong teens, she said, might include a married 15-year-old with a child, alongside a peer who is challenging traditional ways and planning to go to college.

What's on tap for 2007? Jacobson said the Council is excited about its plan to partner with the Association of Women Contractors to put on a "Girl Build" at one or two summer camps. Whether the girls will do repairs or create a whole new building remains to be seen; in either case, it's not what people often picture when they think of Girl Scout activities.

"Our image is our greatest asset, and our greatest liability," Jacobson said. "We're sometimes seen as stodgy or behind the times, but we're as radical today as when we started in 1912."

Be a Changemaker

The Girl Scouts are always looking for a few good women to volunteer their time. There are a variety of opportunities available working directly with girls of all ages (girls range for 5 to 17) in your geographic area. To volunteer with the Greater Minneapolis Council, go to www.girlscoutsmpls.org/ volunteers.html, email volunteer [at] girlscoutsmpls [dot] org, or call 763-971-4059.
If you live in the St. Paul metro area, go to www.girlscoutscv.org, email girlscouts [at] girlscoutscv [dot] org, or call 651-227-8835.

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    always nice

    it's always nice to see new inventions and cultural integration.

    I think it is great to be

    I think it is great to be teaching financial literacy. I can't remember how many times Ive seen women and young girls with now idea how to manage money.And the worse is when the women have relied completely on the men their whole lives. Women need to take charge, and Im glad someone is leading the way! Grace

    growthflex

    Thanks for your comment. In a world where 90 percent of all women will be solely responsible for their own financial self-sufficiency at some point in their lives. I like this comment from your article.