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Central Illinois Girl Scouts Are Keeping Girls Interest Despite Decline In Membership

Central Illnois Girls Scouts membership declined 5% in the last three years, compared to the national average of 12%.

Central Illinois Girl Scouts are seeking new methods to recruit girls to combat a drop in enrollment.

The organization has been a staple of childhood activity for 104 years. It is facing pressure from the many choices developed in society over the last couple decades. Nationwide membership has fallen more than 39% in the last 15 years from 2.9 million girls to 1.76 million. 

Girl Scout membership has dropped drop 12% over the last three years nationwide. Membership in the 38 county Central Illinois region dropped only 5%. That includes Quincy, Springfield, Decatur, Lasalle-Peru, Champaign-Urbana, and Bloomington-Normal. Chief Operating Officer of Girl Scouts-Central Illinois Kelly Day spoke on WGLT's Sound Ideas about why Central Illinois Girls Scouts have seen less of a decline in membership compared to the national average. 

“One of the things that we have implemented and are seeing success with is a program called Girl Scouting in the School Day,” Day said. “We actually have staff and volunteers that go into schools during the school day and provide a Girl Scout program opportunity for those girls. It’s a shorter time frame, but it gives them a taste of Girl Scouts and it also gives them the opportunity to join a troop or become an individual registered girl.”

Individual registered Girl Scouts can attend camp and interact with other members while balancing other extracurriculars in school and other youth programs, said Day.

Day said the Girl Scouts remain relevant to today’s generation of girls because they offer leadership growth opportunities as always. She said they are fine tuning the program by offering badges for girls in STEM and incorporating technology while keeping the outdoor tradition alive. 

She also asserted maintaining a same-gendered organization is necessary to build female leadership. 

“We have lots of statistics that show that girls excel when they are in a single-sex environment and they are much more willing to raise their hand and not have to compete with the boys,” Day said. “I've seen it firsthand with my own daughter. When she was in Girl Scouts with other girls, she was much more willing to try something new, but when the boys were around, she was not as willing to do that.”

Girl Scouts Central Illinois will host an All Systems GIRL event Sept. 14 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to recruit new members at all service centers in the region, including Bloomington.

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Darnysha Mitchell is an Illinois State University student and reporting and social media intern at WGLT.