New York, NY—In the spirit of National Get Outdoors Day on Saturday, June 11, today Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) announces the Richard King Mellon Foundation’s $1 million commitment to GSUSA to encourage girls to embrace the outdoors. Over the next two years, the funding will help launch pilot outdoor internship programs at five Girl Scout councils across the United States, create a summer Girl Scout Destinations trip to a national park, and develop outdoor program content for the Volunteer Toolkit—Girl Scouts of the USA’s new digital platform for troop volunteers.
GSUSA is proud to collaborate with the Student Conservation Association (SCA) toward meeting these goals. SCA’s mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders and inspire lifelong stewardship of the environment and communities by engaging young people in hands-on service to the land.
According to the Girl Scout Research Institute’s More Than S’mores: Successes and Surprises in Girl Scouts’ Outdoor Experiences, girls benefit immensely from exposure to the outdoors. Data showcases direct connections between outdoor experiences and Girl Scouts’ understanding of their leadership potential. Despite the benefits of experiencing the outdoors, about 60 percent of girls are not getting regular outdoor exposure in Girl Scouts.
“At Girl Scouts, we strongly believe outdoor experiences provide opportunities for girls to discover, connect, and take action in ways that serve to build courage, confidence, and character,” said Anna Maria Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. “This generous investment by the Richard King Mellon Foundation will supplement our ability to offer these immersive experiences, which expand girls’ understanding and curiosity about the natural world and beyond, while fortifying their leadership skills.”
The relationship between the Richard King Mellon Foundation and GSUSA creates a path for GSUSA to elevate current outdoor and conservation activities, which in turn will enhance the Girl Scout volunteer experience. Girl Scouts will also benefit from the grant by exploring national parks via Girl Scout Destinations trips during summer 2016 and 2017. Over the course of two weeks in July 2016, ten Girl Scouts will experience cascading waterfalls, marvel at awe-inspiring vistas, and observe fascinating wildlife while working side by side with park rangers, as the girls tackle environmental stewardship projects at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. The location of the 2017 Destinations trip has yet to be determined.
“Outdoor experiences like these are truly transformative,” states SCA President and CEO Jaime Berman Matyas. “They instill life skills and character traits that build on one another, strengthen over time, and foster self-confidence. SCA and GSUSA are working together to create new opportunities for personal growth and exploration of this country’s greatest treasures, our national parks.”
The participating councils include Girl Scouts of Alaska, Girl Scouts-Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Girl Scouts of Greater New York, Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan, and Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania.