The mission of the Girl Scouts of the USA is to “build girls of courage, confidence, and character that make the world a better place.” Here on Roosevelt Island, volunteer scout leaders Yitza Martinez, Heather Smith, and I are working with our many civic-minded organizations and individuals to do just that. And on behalf of the girls and parents in Troop 3001, we would like to express our appreciation to the entire community for supporting our troop over the past four years.
Started in 2012 as first-grade “Daisies,” Troop 3001 is now comprised of fourth- and fifth-grade girls representing the wonderful diversity of Roosevelt Island: our members include the children of longtime Island residents, United Nations families, and newcomers from all over the globe. We have girls residing in market-rate, middle-income, and low-income housing. Some go to PS/IS 217 while others attend public and private schools off-Island. As parent Khadijah Abdurahman says, “In a time of political divisiveness, a group of diverse girls focused on STEM through the competitive robotics team, managing complex household chores to earn the independence badge, or learning from visiting speakers – including an attorney discussing the Dakota Access Pipeline – is the kind of counterculture we need. The racially mixed group that shows up at each Monday meeting offers a mosaic of possibilities, rather than a stock image of what a girl ought to be.”
We’d like to offer a thank you to Manhattan Park for generously sponsoring a weekly space for our troop to work on badges and service projects. These badge-earning activities not only help the girls learn specific skills (such as first aid, cooking, painting, and exercise) but also help the girls discover their own talents, learn to work with others, and inspire them to take action to improve the world around us.
Many amazing Islanders have volunteered their time and expertise to help our girls learn new skills, including Eunkyoung Kim (RIVAA artist), Barbara Parker (Main Street Theater and Dance Alliance), Jeff Laszczych (Public Safety), the NY Fire Department, Diane Levitt (Cornell Tech), Yvonne Bravo (Cornell extension), Kelly Turner (The WIRE), Ghila Krajzman (GKNY Photo), Ivette Brown (Brownie Wellness), Scot Bobo (Main Street Sweets), Erycka De Jesus (BIG Reuse), and Julia Ferguson (RI Garden Club).
Undoubtedly, you have seen our girls in uniform around the Island taking action to make our local community better – and greener. With Christina Delfico of iDig2Learn, our girls have planted daffodils by Gristedes, planted butterfly gardens near the community garden and the lighthouse, planted a new garden near Blackwell House, planted apple trees next to Octagon Field, and learned about tree care with TreesNewYork. We’ve also cared for trees and pathways with the RI Garden Club. Our troop also helped rally the Island to vote for funding for Island projects in Ben Kallos’ Participatory Budgeting process – winning funding for a Green Roof at PS/IS 217.
Our girls help out at many community events on the Island. We’ve helped Santa and RIOC light our holiday tree for the past three years. With Lynne Shinozaki from RIRA, we have stuffed and hidden eggs and obtained donated books for the past two Egg Hunt events, decorated holiday bags of food for families in need on Roosevelt Island, and made Valentine’s Day cards for residents of the memory care unit at Coler Hospital. For the past two years, the girls in our troop have delivered hand-made birthday cards, as well as cupcakes and flowers donated by Wholesome Factory, to a group of homebound seniors identified by Louella Streitz from Disabled Assistance and Support for the Homebound, bringing smiles to these seniors on their special day.
The troop also uses their talents to help local organizations. We painted a mural with RIVAA artists at the Fall for Arts festival. We learned an African welcome dance and songs with the help of Barbara Parker and then performed at the Roosevelt Island Senior Association’s Black History month celebration. The girls also judged the first annual Halloween Dog Contest for the Wildlife Freedom Foundation.
In addition, this year our troop formed a competitive FIRST Lego Robotics team. Volunteer coach Heather Smith worked hard with seven girls on the team and brought home third place in robot design in the qualifiers, earning them a spot in the March 4 semi-finals! We are grateful to Island Kids for generously sponsoring the meeting space for our robotics team. (To thank Island Kids, the girls worked together to paint their bathroom – learning to spackle, sand, prep and paint walls.)
Most people recognize Girl Scouts for our cookies, and indeed it’s an important fundraiser for our Council and troop. All of the adults working with our troop are volunteers, and all funding for troop activities comes through parent donations and earnings from the cookie sales. However, the cookie program isn’t only about fundraising. The girls also learn key skills that will help them in the rest of their lives – setting goals, decision-making, money management, people skills, and business ethics.
The cookie earnings provide funds for supplies and badges, as well as an annual trip – giving girls a new experience outside the city. For the past two years, we have gone on a 2-night camping trip in upstate New York.
If you haven’t purchased cookies yet, it’s not too late. We will sell cookies at the Farmer’s Market on March 18. If you don’t eat cookies, you can donate cookies – this year the girls will distribute all donated cookies right here on Roosevelt Island.
As I reflect back upon all our girls have accomplished in these past few years, I am reminded that it really does take an “Island” to raise a new generation of active citizens and open-minded leaders. If you would like to share your talents and expertise with our youth, please reach out to me. Roosevelt Island’s four troops serving girls in grades K-12 are at capacity – we need adults to start new troops. A particular need is leaders for girls entering kindergarten in September. Starting a new troop is easy – it takes two committed adults. The Girl Scouts of Greater New York Council offers free training. I am happy to help you get started!