Photo courtesy Boost

Op-Ed: The pandemic has been tough on youth. Summer programs can help them transition back to a new normal.

As a 4th generation Girl Scout, I know firsthand the transformative power that this program has on young girls in the Paso del Norte region. While the data on outcomes is impressive – higher self-esteem, healthier life choices, stronger academics – the proof is really seen in the girls.

We witness youngsters that come to their first meeting clutching their parent’s hand, too shy to leave their side, and twelve months later, that same girl is leading group activities and showing new girls around.

Fast forward a few more years and they are giving speeches; leading community service events; starting business plans, or submitting college applications. They have become fully realized leaders in their communities.

The Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest is not alone in this transformative work. There are dozens of organizations in the Paso del Norte region that are also creating lifelong impact by providing youth with key programs and services when they need it most. Some offer after-
school programs, others offer summer camps or weekend activities, but we all have a shared interest in providing youth with a safe environment outside of the school setting that is staffed by trusting and caring adults and full of activities that produce better health, academic, and life outcomes.

We also refer to each other as out-of-school time (OST) providers, and this summer we are here to serve you and your children as part of the BOOST Network’s Spring into Summer initiative.

The last 14 months have been difficult for youngsters and parents alike. The social isolation, remote learning, and daily stress around the pandemic has definitely taken its toll on the health and emotional wellbeing of our children. That is why we are thinking about this summer as a transition period to help youth get reconnected.

At Girl Scouts, so much of what we do is focused on relationship building – we help young girls learn about friendship, compassion and
caring – and helping young people build connections with the world around them. As schools begin to reopen this fall, OST programs like ours can help make the transition back to in-person learning easier for youngsters.

There has also been so much emphasis placed on the deficits that the pandemic has created in our young folks, but very little on the skills they have picked up during the past 12 months. For some kids it might have been picking up new digital and tech skills, for others it was about becoming disciplined and independent to make progress on their studies, and for others it might have been keeping up with the news and learning compassion.

At the Girl Scouts, we call these life skills – things that make young people well-rounded when they grow up. This summer, we want to lean into those life skills and think about how we can raise an entire generation of resilient young people.

That doesn’t mean we won’t also teach them science or math, we just do it in a way that is fun. I often use the expression with parents that we, as OST programs, find ways to “hide the veggies,” so kids actually enjoy eating them. For example, this summer we will be offering an
archery program for young girls, and there is physics behind the skill of archery. We will be engaging kids in cooking lessons, there is math and science in cooking as recipes require precision and fractions. When girls explore the outdoors, we teach them about geology and ecology.

And of course, to the question on so many parents’ minds: is it safe for my children? The answer is absolutely. We are taking the necessary precautions to create a safe and clean environment for our staff and young girls. But we are also adjusting to ensure nobody feels pressured to rush to in-person events.

Much like other OST providers in the region, we will still offer virtual, hybrid and in-person programming because we want to meet families where they are and where they feel most comfortable.

Girl Scouts is well-suited for K-12 girls, offering programs that fit a variety of interests. For other girls and boys, their passion may be found at dance or theater, or karate. The great thing is that  for families that are interested in trying to do the best to restart (or jumpstart) their kids’ lives this summer, there are dozens of OST providers and programs for you to explore – and you can find about them at the BOOST Network

Author: Melissa Wardy

Chief Development Officer at Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest


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