Courtesy of Julie Averbach

The Yale Campus Girl Scouts do more than just sell cookies — though they offer those as well. Since the pandemic started, the group has partnered with the Boys & Girls Club of New Haven to lead virtual programs promoting creativity, curiosity and confidence among the city’s young women.

Campus Girl Scouts, also known as Troop #60630, began seven years ago and became an official student organization within Dwight Hall in 2018. Led by Yale students, the troop consists of young girls who call New Haven home. Before this point, the troop met at Wilbur Cross Elementary School in Bridgeport. However, receiving Yale recognition meant troop leaders could use Yale resources for pre-pandemic activities, which included bookbinding in the Silliman College bindery, visits to the Yale Farm, human rights workshops with the Yale Chapter of UNICEF, meditation with the Yale Undergraduate Mindfulness Education Initiative and K-pop dance lessons in Benjamin Franklin College’s dance studio. The scouts also sold their famous cookies in the dining halls.

“Campus Girl Scouts is really hoping to do two things,” said Caroline Pryor ’21, a member of the Campus Girl Scouts. “To bring Yale students into New Haven communities, and to bring New Haven girls an experience that makes use of Yale resources.”

Since the pandemic began, programming has moved online to preserve public health, and troop leaders have adapted accordingly. Using Dwight Hall funding, Campus Girl Scouts provide their members with tangible materials such as biographies, art supplies and gardening kits to supplement the virtual sessions and combat Zoom fatigue.

According to Pryor, the shift online has expanded the group’s reach. She said that virtual sessions enable young girls who were unable to attend in-person meetings to become Girl Scouts and added that the new partnership with the Boys & Girls Club has also helped the group grow its membership. Pryor said she is unsure whether this partnership would have been possible under non-pandemic circumstances.

“Campus Girl Scouts has been a great partner of the Club throughout the pandemic, and their weekly virtual meetings continue to provide our middle school girls a reliable place to socialize with peers, explore new interests, and engage with positive female models,” wrote Won Jung, the director of programs for the Boys & Girls Club of New Haven, in an email to the News.

Julie Averbach ’22, president of the campus group, has served as a national spokesperson and summer intern for the Girl Scouts of the United States and received a Gold Award, the organization’s highest accolade. Averbach said that though she champions the Girl Scouts organization, she recognizes its shortcomings and wants the Yale Campus Girl Scouts to help mitigate these issues and redefine the modern troop.

“The conventional Girl Scouts model typically presumes that a Girl Scout’s mother will fill the role of troop leader,” Averbach told the News. “The issue is that, in today’s world, most mothers work full time and are often not in a position to run a troop.”

Averbach said she thinks college student volunteers, like the Campus Girl Scouts, can help maintain the viability of Girl Scout programs while easing the burden on working families. While interning with the national organization in 2019, Averbach created an official guidebook outlining how college students can lead troops in their local communities, with the Yale Campus Girl Scouts serving as the model.

This connection between young women and young girls benefits both students and scouts. Claire Donnellan ’24 said she appreciates how leading troop meetings allows her to escape the “Yale bubble.”

According to Amy Wrzesniewski, a professor at the School of Management whose daughter belongs to Troop #60630, “having undergraduates at the helm of the troop has made all the difference in engaging the girls in a meaningful way.”

Troop leaders also said they are working to create a more inclusive environment. Unlike Averbach, Pryor was not involved with Girl Scouts before arriving at Yale.

“As a girl of color,” she said, “I somehow didn’t feel it was really ‘my space,’ and so being a part of the work to expand our troop has been really impactful for me.”

Both Pryor and Averbach affirmed their commitment to serving girls of color. Troop #60630 has written letters to Vice President Kamala Harris, created posters inspired by inaugural poet Amanda Gorman and promoted #BlackGirlMagic. According to Averbach, two troop members launched a bake sale at their school and raised $300 for Black Lives Matter.

According to the Girl Scouts of America website, “Placement of transgender youth is handled on a case-by-case basis.” They maintain that “if the child is recognized by the family and school/community as a girl and lives culturally as a girl, then Girl Scouts is an organization that can serve her in a setting that is both emotionally and physically safe.”

Averbach said that the Campus Girl Scouts accept all girls who wish to join, regardless of their race, sexual identity or gender orientation.

The group meets every Monday from 3:15-4:15 p.m.

Jordan Fitzgerald | jordan.fitzgerald@yale.edu

JORDAN FITZGERALD
Jordan Fitzgerald edits for WKND and writes about admissions, financial aid & alumni. She is a junior in Trumbull College majoring in American history.