Girl Scouts defying stereotypes

Defying stereotypes

How one local troop leader sees Girl Scouts as an opportunity for personal growth, professional development and social connection.

Meet Jennifer Gibson

Mother-daughter traditions may look a little different these days, including at Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma. When diversity and fun come together, girls throughout our state benefit. One local difference-maker is forging a path for her daughters to make friends and memories along the way. Jennifer Gibson occupies many roles: wife, mother, homeschooling teacher, tattoo shop owner and Girl Scout troop leader.

“Girl Scouts has always occupied a special role in my family. My mother and grandmother were troop leaders and I was a Girl Scout as a child in the ‘90s,” said Gibson. “Participation in Girl Scouts taught me how to be a sister to other girls. One of my co-leaders was in my troop as a child. Forming lasting friendships is a vitally positive aspect, especially as girls grow.”

Making the commitment

Gibson is starting her 10th year as the mother of two Girl Scouts. Anna, 15, and Maggie, 11, participate in Oklahoma City’s Troop 12, which is composed of 10 students, ranging from Brownies (second grade) to Cadettes (grades six through eight) and Seniors (grades nine through 10). The diversity of ages adds to the girls’ ability to work with others. Jennifer mentioned the unique dynamic as a collaborative opportunity within the troop as older participants help younger ones.

When the Gibsons’ previous troop disbanded, Gibson decided to shift her level of involvement.

“I decided to step up and be the leader instead of volunteering again. It’s just once monthly for meetings and then we schedule all activities separately, so the time commitment isn’t what parents assume,” she said. “Girl Scouts doesn’t take nearly as much time as you would think. You make Girl Scouts what you want and can do but don’t be afraid of the time commitment. It can be as little or as much as you want.”

The comparatively low cost of Girl Scouts as an after school activity program is also an advantage.

“We try to keep our fees as low as possible and off-set our t-shirt fees and group activities with money from Girl Scout Cookies. There is very little out-of-pocket expense and scholarships are available for membership, uniforms and camp,” she explained. “Participating makes different experiences accessible to many girls.”

Life skills and vital lessons

A common misperception Gibson recognizes is a false correlation between Girl Scout activities and stereotypically feminine pastimes. While Girl Scout Cookies are widely loved, teach entrepreneurial skills and help offset the cost of troop activities, Gibson clarified their role as one of many programs rather than a focal point.

“Girl Scouts is so much more than Cookies. There’s an assumption this is all very girly and they’re not learning skills but I think it all depends on the troop you’re in and what they’re doing. Finding the right troop for girls and activities makes the troop run better,” she said. “What your troop is doing won’t necessarily be the same as what all troops are doing. Activities can fit interests, which are often a diverse range. Cookies have their place to help offset the cost of projects and experiences but this is not a club dedicated to homemaking or someone’s idea of traditional female enterprises.”

Choose your adventure

Gibson noted her daughters happened to enjoy learning some essential life skills such as how to sew on a button, but recognized they have had the opportunity to try a variety of activities, from STEAM [science, technology, engineering, art and math] to community service and leadership.

“Anna and I both thoroughly love camping. Girl Scouts has brought that bond to us. We love to go to Roman Nose State Park and Lake Arcadia and Camp E-Ko-Wah near Marlow. Being in Girl Scouts has helped Anna blossom and given her more of a voice,” said Gibson. “For Maggie, it helped give her really good friends. Because we homeschool, they don’t have the option of meeting people at school so it’s an excellent way to meet other girls.”

Gibson has also seen positive effects throughout her personal and professional life.

“Committees with Girl Scouts have helped me be better and more proficient at leadership,” she said. “The stereotype for both being a tattoo shop owner and a Girl Scout leader is just really two opposites of the spectrum. People wouldn’t put those two roles together ever but I enjoy the fact I am breaking down stereotypes. Being a troop leader has brought our interactions with being a Girl Scout full circle for me. Regardless of your job, you can still give back in a meaningful way and be a good mentor.”

Quality time

Gibson recommends participating in Girl Scouts to others.

“Joining Girl Scouts with your daughter and being involved brings a different level of connection, not just for you and for her, but also with the girls in your troop,” she said. “You won’t regret the time you spend together.”

Girl Scouts Western Oklahoma