Young girls in New York City’s shelter system find ways to connect, build confidence and become leaders through Troop 6000.
The Girl Scouts organization was established to help girls of all ages develop their self-esteem and leadership skills through outdoor activities, community service and practicing life skills. While many people are familiar with the Girl Scouts organization, not everyone knows about their Troop 6000.
Troop 6000 is a special division of the Girl Scouts that is designed for those girls who are currently in the shelter system in New York City. According to Troop 6000’s website, there are approximately 12,000 girls currently in the shelter system in the city. The goal is to get as many of these young girls involved in the program as possible, in order to give them a place to make friends, create and explore.
Each week, the members of this troop meet in different shelters around the city to engage in conversations and activities together such as hiking, STEM activities, cookie sales and entrepreneurship experiences. The goal is to give these girls a sense of community while they develop key skills and learn more about themselves.
“They can learn new skills and work within a close community to develop a strong sense of purpose and place in this world that isn’t defined by their current lack of resources and housing,” Dr. Beverly Bryde, dean of the school of education, said.
In a normal year, Troop 6000 would have weekly meetings, participate in team-building activities and earn badges for completing different tasks. However, this year has been different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of having these in-person interactions, Troop 6000 has needed to find other ways for their members to connect with each other.
“Girl Scouts gives them empowerment and the [troop] leaders give them a sense of connection with others and makes them feel seen, heard, and acknowledged,” Dr. Johanna Crocetto, assistant professor of social work, said.
Troop 6000 has gotten creative with how they can still have these connections, provide activities and experiences, and raise money for their troop. Right now, they have switched all of their meetings to a virtual platform.
“The Girl Scouts give them opportunities and social connections and an opportunity to build on skills and give back to the community,” Crocetto said.
According to the website, they feel that it is very important that they continue with these weekly meetings as the girls in the shelter miss seeing each other and feel isolated. Maintaining these bonds is critical to their wellbeing during this challenging time.
“Bringing girls together who have similar environmental challenges but unique and personal stories is a powerful way to blend empathy and support that can bring pride in community and the opportunity to share success,” Dr. Amber Gentile, Graduate Secondary Education Program Coordinator, said.
One of the fundraising activities that the Girl Scouts are most well-known for are their cookie sales, which take place each year. Since the pandemic began, the Girl Scouts have needed to find ways to maintain social distancing while continuing to raise necessary funds for their organization. In response to the pandemic, Troop 6000 has taken their cookie sales online and has created a webpage called Digital Cookie, where people can support the troop by purchasing cookies or donating money to the organization.
All of the money raised through the cookie sales go directly to Troop 6000 to support all of their troop activities. This is especially important for the girls in Troop 6000 because they do not have the ability to pay for the experiences that the group tries to provide. Opening cookie sales up to a larger audience online allows for the troop to reach more people, raise awareness about their mission and provide a support system for the girls.
“Including youth in a community that provides consistency, positive relationships, mentoring, and a solid support system is also key to overall development and positive outcomes,” Gentile said.
Even with all of the restrictions and obstacles resulting from COVID-19, Troop 6000 has remained resilient in their efforts to fundraise and provide young girls in the New York City shelter system with opportunities that they would not otherwise have access to.