By Cassandra Riese
Do you ever see issues in our society that you want to change? Do you want to get your voice out there and be heard? Do you want to show the world some of your Girl Scout power? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you should consider becoming an advocate and joining us for Girl Scouts 2021 Advocacy Day next year. Girl Scout Advocacy Day is a program where girls get to hear and gain inspiration from adults that have advocated for what they believe in. Then Girl Scouts get to take the reins and talk to lawmakers themselves and advocate for issues that they are passionate about. On Wednesday, March 4th 70 girls went to the state capital in Madison and spoke about issues they believe in, and how to make the world a better place one girl at a time.
The morning started with a welcome from Marci Henderson, the CEO of Girl Scouts of Wisconsin – Badgerland. Then we heard some inspiring words from Senator Kathy Bernier and Representative Greta Neubauer about how girls can do anything when they are true to themselves. But there were not only lawmakers and adult representatives for Girl Scouts speaking. There were also girls representing three different councils. Morgan, Jayda, and Cassandra gave speeches about their amazing Girl Scout experiences. The girl’s speeches featured several different topics, ranging from bullying, Girl Scout events, and even what their future holds. Wow! I, as the representative for Badgerland council, talked about my Girl Scout experience and how it has led to many opportunities, including being on the TV, radio, and even joining the Global Girl Scout Round Table at the 2020 National Girl Scout Convention being held in Orlando, Florida in October. At the very end the lawmakers participated in a Girl Scout Investiture Ceremony where they were made honorary Girl Scouts and they received a pin over their heart.
After the welcoming ceremony the Girl Scouts gathered for a group photo in the rotunda, took some fun photos and videos, and then headed to the Overture Center for lunch. There the girls got to hear from two amazing role models. The first speaker was Laura Downer, the University of Wisconsin Madison Student Body President. Ms. Downer saw issues on her campus in regards to how budget cuts affected the student population and decided she needed to take action to improve not only her school, but also improve things for people learning and teaching there. Then the girls got the amazing opportunity to meet and hear a speech from the Mayor of Madison, Satya Rhodes-Conway. She talked to the girls about her experience in politics, and to not give up in campaigns or anything you believe in. Way to show girl power Satya! Mayor Rhodes -Conway and Ms. Downer also took the time to take photos with any Girl Scout that wanted to. Then as if things could not get any better, it was announced that Governor Evers had made a proclamation that March 12, 2020 is Girl Scouts Day in Wisconsin to honor the 108th anniversary of Girl Scouts. What an empowering thing for Wisconsin Girl Scouts!
Now that the girls had been inspired, it was time for them to go meet with Senators and Representatives to advocate and share their voice!
Going into this event the girls not only had their own ideas to advocate for, they also got to advocate for the five Girl Scout public policy goals of 2020 which are,
- Promote Economic Opportunities for Girls in STEM
- Strengthen financial literacy skills for girls
- Expand our access to the outdoors and develop anti-bullying initiatives
- Promote education about global issues that impact girls and women
- And uphold a strong nonprofit community that supports Girl Scouts
Wow, what an ambitious but amazing list that Girl Scouts hope to accomplish together!
After splitting into small groups, the Girl Scouts got busy delivering a folder of information about the Girl Scouts initiatives for 2020 and what they advocate for, along with a complimentary box of yummy Girl Scout cookies. The girls also had scheduled meetings where time was set aside to meet with lawmakers and talk to them about issues that they are concerned about and what was important to them. Wow! You don’t get to do that every day! One group met with many different lawmakers including Senator Jennifer Shilling, the Minority Leader, who by no surprise was a Girl Scout herself and continues to advocate for them. Then when the group was dropping off a folder to Representative Jill Billings she took time to sit down and talk with the girls. The girls talked about many different issues, Aubrey a 12-year-old Cadette talked about water pollution in the Wisconsin River near her home and how it was affecting not only the fish, but the Eagles. She discussed how we can work to stop this through stricter laws involving disposal of chemicals. Way to go Aubrey! I talked about vaping and the issues it is causing in not only my school, but other schools as well, and how there are many ways we can help the vaping crisis.
Advocacy day is a day where girls can start their journey to find their voice and learn that their voice matters. As Girl Scouts continues to make an impact on girls, in turn those girls will make an impact in our cities, our state, and our country. Girl Scouts creates an everlasting circle of impact and everyday improvements. Let’s continue the growth to empower every girl and promote that she has a voice and change can start with her.