HAMLET — Katy Shelley, outreach specialist for the Richmond County Girl Scouts, held a “Craft and Create a Party” gathering in the fellowship hall at All Saints Episcopal Church on Friday.
“I teach summer outreach for kids who may or may not be Girl Scouts,” Shelley said. “Our theme for this year is anti-bullying, and I think I like it better than any of our programs before because it’s the positive side of bullying. It focuses on the theme of how to ‘Be a Friend First.’”
Shelley, who will teach kindergarten beginning this school year, forewent a family vacation spanning 30 states in order to facilitate the summer sessions.
“As of right now we have served 316 girls this summer,” said Jamie Gerald, membership director. “We have to have at least 10 girls to have Katy do an individualized class. Outreach and troops are separate, so outreach is for girls who may not have the opportunity to have the Girl Scout experience. Maybe they don’t have the parental involvement, or there may be other factors.”
Gerald said the outreach program Shelley runs is funded by a grant from United Way of Richmond County.
“I’ve had these at 14 places this summer,” Shelley said. “The one at Freedom Baptist was the biggest.”
Kathy Shelley, mother of Katy, said having a session at All Saints was a good fit for the church and community.
“Last year when Bishop Anne (Hodges-Copple) came, she was saying we needed to find new ways to do outreach,” Kathy Shelley said. “A lot of the things we’ve done are private. We ended up picking up a troop.”
“Troop 80,” Gerald said.
“It was the perfect way to start with some outreach to the kids in the community,” Kathy Shelley added.
Gerald, who works full time for the Girl Scouts, also covers Scotland and Hoke counties. Her position is year-round and gets busier when school is in session. She said she averages around 60 hours per week.
“I’m in the schools all the time,” she said. “We go to Cordova Elementary School once a month so the girls there can be Girl Scouts, too. And the Boy Scouts go to Cordova. But sometimes when we’re there, if they aren’t there, we take the boys, too. We don’t just leave them behind. They say, ‘We’re going to be Girl Scouts today,’ and I just tell them, ‘Let’s just call it Scouts.”
Katy Shelley said in years past she has created the lessons for the outreach program from scratch.
“This year the program sort of gave us some direction,” she said. “The one we did this year, every Girl Scout got a journal, a little pink book. Each week, they put a journal entry with a given topic in it, and then the lessons and crafts at the next meeting had to do with that topic.”
Each outreach is a 6-hour course taught flexibly, based on what works best for the group Shelley is working with. One example of her favorite lesson involves the following prompt:
“This week, write or draw about a time when you helped someone feel better about him or herself.”
Gerald, referring to key concepts in the outreach curriculum, said it is important for young girls to learn how to build themselves and others up, rather than tearing people down.
According to an informational letter given to parents about the program, “‘Understanding Real Friendships’ is a structured curriculum designed to help preserve the exuberant, confident voices of young girls and strengthen their skills to assertively express their thoughts and feelings in ways that respect others … (and) reject bullying behavior.”
To learn more about becoming a Girl Scout, contact Jamie Gerald at 910-384-6641.
Reach reporter Melonie McLaurin at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @meloniemclaurin.