It’s cookie season! Yes, Girl Scouts are knocking on doors and manning sales booths all over communities to fill the hunger bellies of cookie lovers. But did you know that this youth organization isn’t really about pushing sweet treats? The Girl Scouts actually have a mission to help girls build courage, confidence and character — so that they can, ultimately, make the world a better place! And, to truly strive toward a better place, the Girl Scouts promote inclusion, diversity and so much more.
Girl Scouts Promote Inclusion With Every Bite
Cookies have been a part of the Girl Scouts’ sweet success since 1917, about five years after Juliette Gordon Low first started Girl Scouts in the U.S. The Girl Scout Cookie Program is just one initiative focused on life-changing experiences and adventure. Participants are charged with developing key life skills, such as goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics. Who knew that Thin Mints and Samoas (aka Caramel deLites) could be so influential, right?
The 2023 Girl Scout Cookie line-up features Peanut Butter Patties, S’mores and other classic favorites, in addition to a new Raspberry Rally flavor. Girl Scouts recognizes to importance of including safe and tasty options for those with Celiac disease, food allergies and diverse dietary needs. Customers can try gluten-free varieties (like Toffee-tastic and Caramel Chocolate Chip) and vegan selections (like Thin Mints, Peanut Butter Patties, Lemonades and Toast-Yay!); plus, every cookie variety is kosher and Halal certified.
“What makes Girl Scout Cookies even sweeter? Behind every box is a girl learning important skills to power her leadership journey and unlock a world of opportunities,” said Wendy Lou, GSUSA’s chief revenue officer. “Financial literacy is not only a critical skill required for entrepreneurship, but an essential life skill.” This is, perhaps, especially relevant to the disability community because, according to a new report by the National Disability Institute, individuals with disabilities continue to turn to self-employment at a higher percentage rate compared to working-age people without disabilities.
Each year, the Girl Scout Cookie season runs January through April. Sale proceeds benefit local councils and troops to further develop meaningful, year-round experiences for Girl Scouts of all abilities.
The Patchwork of Inclusion
Cookies may be the first thing to come to mind when one thinks about the Girl Scouts; then followed by their signature vest uniforms covered with colorful patches. These badges represent various activity achievements, learnt skills and/or supported initiatives. Among many diverse areas of focus, the patch program includes opportunities to support the disability community and/or promote inclusion.
Here are some Girl Scout patches that promote inclusion:
- Ability Awareness and Inclusion Patch (and Blind Awareness Rocker): Participants may earn this patch by becoming aware of the need for inclusion and finding ways to include and engage people with disabilities in their troop and community. Then, girls can also earn the Blind Awareness Rocker patch by learning about visual impairment.
- Food Allergy Awareness Patch: Participants may learn aspects pertaining to life with food allergies, with an emphasis on raising awareness of this public health issue which impacts 32 million children and adults in the U.S.
- Guide Dog Patch: Through collaborative and hands-on activities, this patch program teaches participants about the importance of guide dogs.
- Helping Hands Patch: Participants may earn this patch (and “give themselves a hand”) for every 25 hours of community service which could, of course, include efforts in support of disability-serving charities.
Girl Scouts Promote Inclusion, Understanding and Acceptance
The Ability Awareness and Inclusion Patch is becoming a more sought-after badge. Robyn Murray, Public Relations and Communications Manager for Girl Scouts San Diego, told AmeriDisability that, in January 2023, their local chapter held an Ability Awareness and Inclusion Patch Program Workshop where 70 Girl Scouts participated in inclusive initiatives. According to Murray, these Girl Scouts learned about:
- person-first language with a “strengths and weaknesses” activity,
- the importance of what’s on the inside matters with a “the most beautiful orange” activity,
- the similarities between each of us with a “similarities and differences” activity, and
- the true meaning of inclusivity with a “The Girl Scout Law” evaluation activity.
The Girl Scout Law reads as follows:
“I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”
Participants of the recent Ability Awareness and Inclusion Patch Program Workshop in San Diego were asked: “What does inclusion mean to you?” Responses included:
- Fairness and allowing people in;
- Everyone gets to do something, not just some people;
- Everybody working together;
- If you’re playing a game, include everybody;
- Where someone is alone and you say “do you want to play;” and
- Everyone feels involved, respected and embedded in the culture like they belong and can be their whole self.
The word ‘patch,’ as defined by Dictionary.com, is a small piece of material used to mend a tear or break, to cover a hole or to strengthen a weak place. And the Girl Scouts seem to apply patchwork just right. You see, we need to collectively patch the many gaps within our communities to strengthen our society as a whole; and that, of course, includes inclusion of people with disabilities. So whether you earn an Ability Awareness and Inclusion Patch, consume a silly amount of Girl Scout cookies or advocate for all in other ways, remember that inclusion matters. All disability advocates deserve a badge of honor!