By Jane Parikh
Toni Rafferty and her Girl Scouts designed and entered two floats into this year’s Fourth of July parade for the fun of it and took first place for their entries out of a field of 88.
Rafferty, an Area Manager for Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan’s Area 40814 in Schoolcraft, said her fifth-grade girls’ troupe decorated their float with trefoils and posters describing what they want to be when they grow up.
Jobs like “veterinarian” and “physician” spoke to the Girl Scouts’ “I Can’t Wait…” membership recruitment campaign. Their goal is to encourage girls to say what they really want to do in Girl Scouts.
Rafferty is an advocate for giving girls the opportunity to have choices and make decisions for themselves. “Girl Scouts taught me how to be that strong leader and to not be afraid to step up and take charge,” she said. “My dad was a strong supporter and told me that just because I was a woman, it didn’t mean that I couldn’t do any work that a man could do, and do it just as well.”
As an Area Manager, Rafferty and her Area Management team volunteer their time to support the work of the adult volunteers planning events for the girls. Recent activities have included an Investiture and rededication ceremony, and a blanket-making party to make blankets which were donated to children.
Rafferty said Schoolcraft will have at least eight troops this year representing girls from kindergarten through high school. Rafferty added the title of Area Manager to her resume last year. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is a Christian Education director for her church and a volunteer at the local library. She said her volunteer jobs keep her busier than most people with fulltime paying jobs.
To those adults who say they don’t have the time to volunteer to be a leader or help with the troop, Rafferty asks a simple question: What are you doing with those 90 minutes every other week?
“Many people don’t realize that troop leaders have the flexibility to schedule meetings and activities with their girls around whatever other commitments they have,” said Michelle Jackson-Long, GSHOM Membership Specialist. “We are here to support them along their leadership journey with their girls.”
Leaders often say they learn as much from the girls as the girls learn from them, Jackson-Long said. This includes the opportunity to experience what it’s like to be a kid again. Parents also are encouraged to join in and participate in the fun alongside their girls. “You can go on a hike or work on a badge or craft with your girls,” Rafferty said. “My favorite part of Girl Scouts as a child was camping. We camped at Camp Linden and we pitched tents, learned how to make tarps to cook under and use outhouses.”
Rafferty, who began her Girl Scout journey as a Brownie, said she wanted her daughter, Jozie, to have the same life-changing experiences that she had.
Rafferty says the Girl Scout programming has changed considerably over the years to emphasize the importance of building girls of courage, confidence and character who will make the world a better place. Yet one foundational value remains the same: it’s a girl-led, girl-driven organization.
“It’s for our girls,” Rafferty said. “Girls in Girl Scouts get to experience events and activities that they’re not going to get anywhere else and they become exceptional leaders as a result.”