On a recent field trip to a Microsoft Store near Detroit, Joselyn Garcia, a 9-year-old Girl Scout from Lincoln Park, was excited to make a PowerPoint deck with fellow Girl Scout Juniors. They happily learned how to make slideshows with photos they took, words they wrote and visual effects they chose.
The girls loved learning how to create something unique and sharing their work on a giant screen in the store. It was cool to visit a new place and play with products used by grownups. But the biggest rewards? Loads of confidence and a Girl Scout badge for digital photography.
“It was a lot of fun and it made me feel smarter,” Joselyn says of the two-hour workshop.
Girl Scouts of the USA and all Microsoft Stores in the U.S. are now launching free Microsoft Store badge workshops for Girl Scouts troops across the country. The partnership aims to give girls vital digital skills and foster leadership qualities to help close the gender gap in STEM fields.
The organizations will also launch a new leadership series at the stores with former Girl Scouts and female STEM experts to inspire older Girl Scouts to pursue an education and career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).
“This partnership empowers girls to achieve more through digital skills and provides role models to look up to so they can become leaders of the future,” says Sandra Andrews of Microsoft Store. She referred to a Microsoft study that found that girls who do STEM activities and know women in STEM professions are more likely to understand the career opportunities — and how to pursue them.
Andrews also says the goals of Microsoft Store and Girl Scouts align well together, with the stores engaging local communities and Girl Scouts engaging 1.7 million girls — a diverse membership — with programs to expand horizons and strengthen communities.
“The ability to activate those troops with amazing hands-on technology and help all demographic and economic groups with digital skills really makes this partnership special,” she says.
The workshops will help Girl Scouts — Daisies, Brownies, Juniors and Cadettes — earn five STEM badges in computer expertise, digital photography, movie-making and two in robotics. With a potential to expand globally, the program began earlier this year with a pilot project in a few states and 200 girls. Moving forward, troop leaders can arrange workshops with a community development specialist at local Microsoft Stores.
For Mari Townsend, a Girl Scouts girl engagement consultant in Detroit, the workshop with Joselyn was a powerful opportunity for all her Girl Scouts who attended. They felt special and important going on a field trip to the store, she says, and left with a brighter outlook and new digital skills.
“It was a great jumping point to their future,” Townsend says. “It allowed them to express themselves, and it changed the way they see themselves in the world and what they’re going to put forth.”
She works with five troops in Southeast Michigan, where many of her girls go to schools with few computers and live with parents who work multiple jobs. She sees STEM badges as one of many opportunities for growth that her girls might not otherwise have.
“I always say to my girls, ‘I’m opening this door for you, but it’s about what you do after the door is opened,’” she says. “STEM badges have given us an opportunity to explore ideas often not possible in a classroom. They have certainly inspired my Girl Scouts to aim higher and dream big. In our troops, we dream big or start over.”
A glimpse at the world-changing power of Girl Scouts emerged last week, with a celebration of the 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scouts, the organization’s highest distinction. The 10 teen activists were honored on International Day of the Girl at an event at the Microsoft New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue.
They created innovative and sustainable solutions for some of today’s most pressing issues, including LGBTQ representation, mental health, food deserts, ocean pollution and access to education.
“These National Gold Award Girl Scouts have truly distinguished themselves as visionary leaders,” says Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA. “They have made a lasting difference in the worlds of STEM, education, agriculture, the environment, civil rights and beyond.”
Lead image: Girl Scouts Yashica Kodemala, Dhwani Prathi and Aditi Namineni (left to right) work on earning a robotics badge with help from Sharon Salazar, a product adviser at the Microsoft Store at NorthPark Center in Dallas.