The Playbook Giving College Women the Power To Positively Impact Girls
Whether you started as a young Daisy, sold cookies as a Brownie, or went on to earn your Bronze, Silver, or Gold Award, you’ll always be a Girl Scout at heart. But chances are, you stopped actively participating before beginning college. That’s because many people don’t have a clear path for Girl Scout involvement in adulthood — unless they later become a troop leader for their own child. Justine Panian is one Girl Scout alum looking to bridge the gap, and help Girl Scouts continue their journey with the organization through college and beyond.
This Gold Awardee and MD candidate at UC San Diego is helping college-age women stay involved with the Girl Scouts through the Campus Girl Scouts program. Using The Campus Girl Scouts guidebook, anyone across the U.S. can create a club at their own college, too.
As a former engineering major, Panian wanted to encourage new generations of girls to become involved in STEM fields. With help from her university, she hosted events for Girl Scouts to visit the campus, interact with female college students, (many of whom are Girl Scout alums), and learn about post-high school graduation Girl Scout opportunities.
“We also did a women's career panel for older girls to teach them how to make a resume, how to do interviews, what to wear to an interview… just some of those soft skills that they don't really teach you in school,” Panian tells CircleAround.
Panian eventually went on to volunteer with other universities to help recruit college students to serve as Girl Scout troop leaders in low income areas. “Many girls want to be involved in Girl Scouts, but they might not have adults in their lives who can commit to being a troop leader,” Panian explains. “We would train college students to run troops and they would get class credit for doing it.”
Panian says a large number of trainees came from low income households themselves, many of them first generation college students. For some of them, the experience ended up being a huge stepping stone, and they were eventually hired by the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) after graduating from college.
“It’s a great mentorship opportunity,” Panian says. “The paradigm is usually that as an adult, you only get involved when your daughter is in Girl Scouts. We're really starting to push the envelope on that, and show that you can be any age and get involved.”
Women who were never Girl Scouts in their younger years can get involved as well. Panian is working to make the program as inclusive as possible, because she knows there’s historically been socioeconomic and cultural barriers of access for many girls.
“Most of the college students that work in our organization in San Diego tell me all the time that they never got the chance to do Girl Scouts … I don't want to only make Campus Girl Scouts available to people who were gold awardees, or Girl Scout alum … some of our best people are like, ‘I wish that I could have had this, and I wanna give this to a girl who can have it now.’”
Panian continues to serve on multiple GSUSA-related committees, including at the national level. She also attended the Juliette Low Seminar held in Mexico in 2019 as a representative of the U.S., where she shared her experiences leading, training, and event planning. Panian was then asked to be on a committee to help revive the Campus Girl Scouts program. She’s been an integral part of the planning ever since.
Panian is excited to launch the Campus Girl Scout Guidebook, as it contains a lot of material Panian explored and implemented herself during her time at the University of Alabama. “I wrote our constitution that had all of our rules, regulations, and structure,” she tells CircleAround. “I also wrote a giant document about how we did it, how we fundraised, how we recruited people, how we budgeted. I've been working on this initiative for eight years now, and it's just amazing to see it finally come to fruition.”
Panian feels grateful for the opportunities she’s had from staying active in Girl Scouts post-high school. “When you're in your twenties, the main opportunities are usually internships, but you’re mainly doing grunt work,” she says. “Then you get out of college and you're at an entry-level job where you're not really in a leadership position. The Girl Scouts have so many opportunities to build those skills way earlier than a lot of your peers. It allows you to go from being an older girl in the program, to becoming more involved with Girl Scouts later on in life.”
If you’re interested in participating as a Girl Scout in college and beyond, be sure to check out the Campus Girl Scouts Guidebook.