Girl Scouts lead discussion around issues girls today face

Photo 1Panelists Elaine Brown, mayor of Neptune Beach; Nicole Thomas, president of Baptist Medical Center South; and Imani Hope, director of strategic investments at Jacksonville Public Education Fund.

On Tuesday, Girl Scouts of Gateway Council hosted a panel discussion and community conversation on “The State of Girls: Emerging Truths and Troubling Trends,” a report from the Girl Scout Research Institute.

The report is a collection of data exploring the overall well-being of girls in the United States. Compiled and released by Girl Scouts of the USA’s Girl Scout Research Institute, this third edition of “The State of Girls” found that, regardless of an increase in high school graduation rates, economic conditions affecting girls in the United States have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. These conditions are leading to increased emotional and physical distress among girls, with obesity, marijuana use, and low self-esteem on the rise.

Our panel featured women leaders from the Jacksonville community: Mayor Elaine Brown of Neptune Beach, Nicole Thomas of Baptist Health and Imani Hope of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund. They weighed in on the report’s findings and led the conversation around what we can do as a community to improve the outlook for girls.

They addressed questions about girls’ physical and emotional health, education, changing demographics and economics. Each panelist offered her unique perspective on the issues, but all agreed there are a few anyone can do to make the world a better place for girls: mentor, share and listen.

Elaine Brown shared a story of a high school-age girl whom she met with several years ago. The girl conducted a brief interview with Brown, asking general questions about her political and professional background. They went their separate ways after the meeting, and several years later Brown received a letter from the girl, who said the meeting with Brown changed her life. Brown said the letter explained how inspired the girl was by Brown’s go-getter attitude and that meeting provided the encouragement for the girl to pursue her dreams and establish a strong career.

Girls need “exposure to successful women and to people who care about their community,” Brown said. “(We need to) share that you can be whatever you want to be.”

“Mentorship can look a lot of different ways,” said Imani Hope. “The biggest attribute is consistency and being a presence in someone’s life on a regular basis.”

The panelists also stressed that it’s important to focus our efforts on girls who don’t look like us. We as a community need to reach outside our comfort zones and outside the groups with which we normally interact and connect with girls and their families.

The demographics of the United States — and Florida particularly — are changing significantly. A third of girls in Florida live in first- or second-generation immigrant families, and we’ve learned that immigrant families make decisions differently than non-immigrants and that minority families operate differently from white families.

“In addition to education and engagement (for immigrant families and minorities), there also has to be learning on the side of providers and people who aren’t in those communities,” Hope said. “Look at teachers who teach students in populations they aren’t familiar with: They’re not just teaching (English Language Learners), but they’re also learning about their community and their culture.”

In order to learn about and understand other communities and cultures, we have to really listen to the girls and to their families and take into consideration what they’re telling us. All three panelists urged adults especially to listen to girls and to make ourselves emotionally available to them, not only to learn more about them but also to let them know we’re their allies and advocates.

Girls today are facing higher instances of emotional, behavioral or developmental issues, and even though reports of bullying at school have decreased, there’s a rise in cyberbullying. Nearly one quarter of high school girls reported that they have seriously considered suicide, and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported an increase in suicide deaths among teens and young adults in recent years.

“We have to start listening to young people. We have to start listening to girls and what they’re telling us,” Hope said. She pointed out that girls today are experiencing things that their parents never even considered, even younger parents.

A key part of helping girls be more open about their struggles is being more open about our own struggles as adult women, as well. This removes some of the stigma around issues like mental illness, eating disorders, poor body image and low self-esteem.

Panelist Nicole Thomas reminded everyone that there are resources available in the community, including Mental Health First Aid, which helps us learn to recognize troubling signs and symptoms in our peers and in children.

Panelists and the audience agreed that in general, women need to be less hard on ourselves and we need to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. Not only does this benefit each of us personally, but also it sets the example for girls that it’s OK to struggle and it’s OK to seek help when you need it.

While we need to take it easy on ourselves sometimes, we also need to be more willing to “toot our own horn,” as one audience member put it. She pointed out that when we can lift ourselves up, we also lift up other women and girls. Mary Anne Jacobs, CEO of GSGC, said women and girls have to “be bold! We have to be the ones to raise our hands and be courageous, and we have to teach our girls to raise their hands and to take the lead.”

Through programs like Girl Scouts, girls benefit from single-gender learning environments, where they can gain the confidence to step up and speak out. They also have access to unique STEM programs and other learning opportunities that help them gain skills and knowledge to create a more level playing field with men and boys.

Girls deserve access to all possible educational and enrichment opportunities to help them thrive, regardless of their socioeconomic status, race, immigration status or age.

As a community, we have to push for more of these opportunities for all girls, especially in schools serving areas with low SES or a large minority population.

As a community, we have to speak up on behalf of girls and let them know we want to make sure they have the best opportunities to succeed.

As a community, we have to have more conversations like this one to spark the change needed to improve girls’ well-being both in Florida and across the country.

Join Girl Scouts in making these changes and start a conversation in your community today.


STEM reading for parents of girls

A girl’s best ally is an informed parent.  Check out the following links for important STEM resources and reading for parents of girls.

Growing Girls Into STEM (Blossom Media)

Girls with Scientific Aspirations: Negotiating Femininity (Relating Research to Practice)

Keeping Girls Engaged in STEM Learning (Click 2 Science PD)

Tips for Encouraging Girls in STEM (PBS)

Inspiring Girls to Stay in STEM and #MakeWhatsNext (Microsoft Blog)

Some Successful Approaches to Keep Girls in STEM (Good Call)

5 Ways to Get Girls into STEM (Edutopia)

How Elementary School Teachers’ Biases Can Discourage Girls From Math and Science (New York Times)

Girls discouraged from STEM? (Inspiring Science)

The Problem With Girls In Math And Science (Drifting Through)

Girls Score Better On Math Tests Than Boys Unless The Teacher Knows Their Gender, Because Sexism Is Alive And Well (Bustle)

Gainesville-area Girl Scout sets record in Good Turn for Goodwill

A Gainesville-area Girl Scout bagged up hundreds of donations as part of the Good Turn for Goodwill program.

Kalia Bernis collected 329 bags of donated items to help Goodwill fulfill its mission.
All participants in the program were in the running for a variety of service patches, a service champion rocker, a pizza party and a St. Augustine Alligator Farm family 4-pack, plus gift certificates and other recognition.

Boy Scouts also participated in the collection drive.

To put the scouts’ efforts into perspective, Director of Marketing Tracy Collins led participants on a tour of Goodwill’s facilities.

“We had four groups come through, and it was a great learning experience,” Collins said in Goodwill’s “Bootstraps” publication. “It’s one thing when someone explains Goodwill’s mission to you. But when you see it for yourself, everything fits together.”

Seventy-five Girl Scout troop participated in the donation drive, collecting 4,465 bags of donated items.

2017 Gold Award projects

Gold Girls - Headshots

Viviana Barlett
Hazards of BPA in Your Body and Consuming Clean Water
My project addressed important topics such as water conservation, the negative effects of BPA, what BPA is and why it is so important that society is aware. I hope to have made such an impact that not only the adults of the community understand the dangers of BPA and how to save water but the children as well. It’s crucial that everyone understands! The children, teachers and parents of St. Paul’s were the first to benefit from my project. The next set of people from the community is the Beaches Leader, Ponte Vedra Leader and CreekLine Post newspaper editors who edited my article. Following them are my family, active parishioners from my church, daily readers of the newspapers and extended friends who liked and shared my Facebook page! My project consisted of many informative lessons of BPA.

Naomi Craig
I Can’t Breath: Understanding Asthma
My project addressed the lack of asthma awareness and education in my community. Asthma is a prevalent disease in my community that affects people of all ages, but the risk is higher for children, females and blacks. The disease has affected me personally in that I have lost two family members due to this chronic disease. It’s important that members in the community are aware of asthma triggers and symptoms, as well as ways to manage the disease. In doing this project, I had hoped to increase asthma awareness in the black community and reduce the number of
asthma attacks, hospitalizations, and deaths associated with asthma each year by educating the community.

Carlie Fritts
Castaway Island Preserve Butterfly Garden
My Castaway Butterfly Garden project addressed the weeding technicalities that needed to take place, cleaning and organizing the garden into three distinct parts, preparing and constructing a mosaic cement butterfly themed bench, and removing as well as replacing the old and rotting split rail fencing. I hoped to inspire the community that travels to the park to be in nature and to provide them with a place of serenity that they can appreciate. I also hoped to impact the City of Jacksonville by taking on one of their projects and transforming it into a whole renovation. In regards to who benefited, Castaway Park, Jacksonville City services, DuPont School, and everyday park goers were all impacted in a beneficial way in order to make their lives easier.

Amber Gillette
Operation Culture Shock
The issue my project addressed was cultural diversity in America, and making sure the next generation of children grows up to be knowledgeable and appreciative of the diversity in our world. I wanted to show children how people who differ from what we consider “normal” are not bad, they just have another way of seeing the world. Those who primarily benefited from the project were elementary school children at a local school, so these children could learn important lessons on acceptance and respect when they are young, and then carry them on to the next generation of adults.

Aisling Glocke
Packs of Hope
My project addressed the issue of mothers and their children entering shelters for the first time as a result of sexual assault and domestic violence and having no personal items. When I created this project, I had hoped to make the transitions into a shelter easier for mothers and their children by providing distractions for the children, such as coloring books, puzzles, and small toys, and basic necessities for the mothers, such as shampoo, lotions, and feminine necessities. Through my project I was able to benefit the mothers and their children by providing basic necessities and small toys.

Marilyn Heth
I’m Not Just an Allergy
Making children aware of health issues. And also to show them that they are not the only ones with allergies. Show them that they can still have fun and be cautious. I feel that all the children that attended benefited from bonding with each other. There was a variety of age groups and they all got along with one another.

Jennifer Levin
For the Love of Reading
I know a lot of kids that did not develop a love of reading, and I felt that reading should be a skill people need to develop early and learn to love. Reading is an important form of communication used everywhere for learning and to spread information. My project benefited and will continue to benefit anyone who comes in and out of Vince Carter Sanctuary in Bunnell. To build a love of reading, I created a library for children residing at Vince Carter Sanctuary, making sure they have access to a lot of books.

Khusbu Motiwala
Give a Book to Spread the Gift of Knowledge
My temple, religion, community, friends and family mean a lot to me. I want our new generation to be more involved to want to learn more. I created a library at my temple to attract more people to come and read and take books home. With the library, people will socialize with each other bringing the community together making more friends and learning. I want learning to be a bit more fun!

Rebecca Parker
Outdoor Stage for Duval Charter High School
My current school was built in a converted office building, so it does not have an auditorium. Not having this space has made award ceremonies, assemblies, programs and performances difficult. On top of that, the drama department does not have an appropriate place to practice and perform. Not only would a stage area benefit the drama department, but other clubs, the music department and administration might be able to use it if needed.

Madison-Rose Patterson
Build It and They Will Come
I believe the new Youth Room will serve as a sanctuary for youth of all ages to come and relax; where they can pick up one of the many books on the shelves, and just relax on the comfortable benches or chairs we made, or to just sit and enjoy the view. The Youth Room serves as a place in our church for the youth to go to relax and that is up-to-date with new hip look, as well as games, books and magazines.

Jenna Thompson
The Animal Foster, Rescue & Adoption Awareness Club
Nationally and globally, the homeless cat and dog population is huge, and overwhelming our local resources. Our government agencies can only do so much, so it is up to the small, grass roots nonprofits to step in and help alleviate the burden. I created a club at my high school and held education workshops at elementary school, and I reached out to the public through volunteer opportunities at a local pet store. Teaching children to be kind, caring and responsible with animals is one of the first steps in helping them to become kind, caring, and responsible with other people and the world they live in.

Vittoria Wakefield
Your Vote, Your Voice
My project addressed the issue of voter participation, focusing on millennial youth. I hoped to impact the lives of students, young adults, and even older adults who felt discouraged or uneducated about voting. I chose to do this because I have an interest in politics and wanted to express my interest and help others grow fond of the topic as well. I was able to reach many people of different backgrounds and still was able to catch the attention of a lot of youth voters in the process. All participants benefited because I was able to inform them on uncertain topics, or helped their voting confidence.

Caroline Waters
Beach Church Connect Center
My project addressed an issue that plagues new members of the Jacksonville Beaches community. I observed that my community did not have a place for these new members, especially the youth, to get connected with other members of their community, find service opportunities in their new hometown, and more. I hoped to impact these new implants in the Jacksonville Beaches by making them feel welcome and a part of their new community by providing a space for them to learn about service opportunities and meet new people. What surprised me was the fact that not only did my target audience benefit, but also other adults and myself. I constantly had other adults come up to me saying how impressed they were with my project and how great it was going to be for the new students of the Jacksonville Beaches.

Brittany Watkins
Reading Railroad
My project addressed the issue of education among children despite their socioeconomic class. The goal of the project was to advocate for children who are unable to advocate for themselves due to the societal beliefs that those who are not as fortunate as others don’t deserve the same opportunities, education included. I hoped to impact the children at the Sulzbacher Center by granting them with reading material that would engage their minds and enhance their education as well as give them a way to experience literature in a fun way with both fiction and nonfiction titles. The children at the Sulzbacher Center as well as the adults living in the family dormitories have benefited by having a collection of new and gently used books that will help to strengthen their minds as well as giving them a fun escape from their harsh realities.

List of volunteer awards

Honor Pin
Colleen Rosatone

Thanks Badge I
Adrenne Deason

Gateway Award
Barbara Breitberg
Sheila Casey
Mary Dennard
Deanne Dunlop
Joseph King
Lisa King
Holly Lucas
Débora McCarty
Janet McCormick
Carol McIntyre
Eilene Pancrazio
Charlotte Pisano

Appreciation Pin
Wendy Beland
Marlene Gray
Pati Lash
Amy Matthews
Janet McCormick
Michelle McCreary
Elaine Mitchell
Kimberly Noce
Charlotte Pisano
Tina Smith
Melody Stallings-Mann
Hope Wilson

Volunteer of Excellence
Kelly Anderson
Mary AnthonyErica Courtney
Deserae Cruz
Mary Dennard
Stacy Dickamore
Ragan Dupuis
Cyndi Fields
Michelle Gallo
Dawn Geevers
Roberta Guidice-Teller
Kelsey Hebert
Morgan Hebert
Dawn Hobbs-Collins
Kathy Hodge
Tracy Kaufold
Barry Keeney
Shannon Keeney
Melanie Kissane
Sabrina LaHaye
Lesia Mabrey
Susana McLellan
Hiroko McNair
Tamera Meyer
Jodi Murphy
Ashley Myers
Mary Ellen Olsen
Ilianay Ortiz
Eilene Pancrazio
Susie Plazz
Donna Provau
Bobbi Reynolds
Hannah Reynolds
Karen Russell
Jaime Schad
Edna Schaefer
Melissa Shrader
Jessica Skiver
Katherine Strickland
John Van Zyl
Ana Villacorte
Jennifer Wagstaff
Jennifer Wieda-Perry
Edward Wight
Christina Wilder
Amy Williams
Angela Woerman
Cotina Wright
Kimberly Wright
Angela Winternheimer

Tenure Pin – 5 Years
Monet Brown
Barbara Bunch
Sonya Cervantes
Erica Courtney
Deserae Cruz
Ragan Dupuis
Adrienne Herndon
Barry Keeney
Ashley Kennedy
Daisy King
Dawn Lane
Angenika Lattery
Sharon Linton-Gallon
Lea McClelion
Susan McInnis
Susana McClellan
Ernestine Randolph
Jennifer Wieda-Perry
Niea Wiggins
Angela Woerman

Tenure Pin – 10 Years
Marion Darby
Julie Griffin
Shanda Houston
Brigitte Jones
Melanie Kissane
Marla Teal
Laura Witte

Tenure Pin – 15 Years
Jennifer Burch
Sherri Darr
Denise Jefferson
Susan Powell
Christina Wilder
Morgan Hebert
Kelsey Hebert
LuAnn Hebert

Tenure Pin – 20 Years
Megan Murphy

Tenure Pin – 25 Years
Deborah Palmer

Tenure Pin – 30 Years
Patrice Grodell
Doretha Smith

VTK update: Get girls outside!

We’re giving you and your girls options…outside options! As of Oct. 28 we added outside activities to 10 badges in the Volunteer Toolkit. Research shows nature-based activities challenge girls and support their social development by encouraging them to become more self-aware and to cooperate, communicate, and solve problems more effectively.

New Get Girls Outside! Badge Activity Options:

  • 2 Daisy Petals: Lupe, Clover
  • 4 Brownie Badges: First Aid, Snacks, Making Games, Senses
  • 4 Junior Badges: First Aid, Simple Meals, Staying Fit, Detective

Please click on the new Get Girls Outside! banner at the top of the Year Plan and Meeting Plan tabs on the VTK — both tabs are filled with details on the new Get Girls Outside! features and how to access them.

Nature-based activities often place girls in new physical, psychological, and social situations that motivate curiosity and foster a sense of discovery, so Get Girls Outside!

VTK Bug Fixes Addressed in our Recent Maintenance Deployment:

  • Calendar Download Function Now Properly Syncing: Users reported that the download calendar functionality of Year Plan tab was downloading, but with no data associated with it.
  • Combine Meeting Firefox & Safari Error: “Time is invalid” error now corrected for those browsers.
  • Time Zone Issues Fixed: All VTK users regardless of time zone, had VTK Year Plan times visible as Eastern Standard Time. This issue has now been corrected.
  • Update Meeting Dates/Times Fix: Several users have reported an inability to seamlessly adjust individual dates and times. Users will now be able to seamlessly adjust times to individual meetings.
  • Year Plan now the default tab upon logging into VTK

Log on to VTK

Find your GSGC community!


In 2015, Girl Scouts of Gateway Council transitioned from a service unit structure to communities. These seven communities are organized by geographic location within our council.

  • Community 1 is made up of Gateway staff and Juliette members. You won’t hear us refer to “Community 1” very often, but you’ll hear “staff” and “Juliettes” instead.
  • Community 2 is made up of Columbia, Hamilton, Union, Bradford and Suwannee counties.
  • Community 3 is made up of Clay and Putnam counties.
  • Community 4 is made up of Alachua, Levy, Gilchrist and Dixie counties.
  • Community 5 is made up of St. Johns and Flagler counties.
  • Community 6 is made up of Duval County south and east of the St. Johns River.
  • Community 7 is made up of Baker and Nassau counties, and Duval County north and west of the St. Johns River.

Each community is headed by a community leader; communities 3, 5, 6 and 7 are led by staff members. Community 4 is volunteer-led. The leaders work with a team of volunteers to plan events, coordinate product sales, help girls find troops and provide support to all the volunteers and girls within each community.

Further, each community is divided into villages, each with a volunteer team to provide more localized and personal support to volunteers and girls.

If you click the links above, you’ll find the pages for each community on the Gateway Council website. Those pages contain important contact information for the community leadership teams, as well as the events going on in the communities.

To find the community to which you belong, just know which county or part of town you live in! The geographic borders aren’t that important, though: Girls can attend events and programs in any community to make new friends and get out of their comfort zones! Plus, volunteers can attend trainings in any community; the information is consistent across the council.

If you have questions about the communities, use the contact information from the website to get in touch with you community leader/troop support specialist.