DECATUR — Angel Howard has been around Girl Scouts nearly all her life.
“My mom started being a leader when I was 2 or 3,” said Angel, now 17 and an Ambassador, the highest level of Girl Scouts.
It is thanks to Girl Scouts, Angel said, that she is able to speak in front of a group, decided to become a preschool teacher and has a chance to work with younger girls as a role model and mentor.
Training girls in skills they can use as adults is what Girl Scouts does, and thanks to a $20,000 grant from State Farm, Girl Scouts of Central Illinois will be able to expand its Financial Fitness for Girls program this year.
The program helps develop five skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics. Using the cookie-selling campaign, girls learn these skills with a practical application.
“We do financial literacy every year with our girls in the Girl Scouting in the School Day program,” said Sonja Chargois, program specialist. “It encompasses them participating in the Girl Scout cookie sales. They learn about finances, where they come from, the importance of work, saving money, giving money, how to budget money, how to count money back.”
Girl Scouts earn “cookie dough” for their sales, money applied to an account in their names that they can use to buy Girl Scout merchandise, pay their membership dues or use for extra activities, said Robin Howard, Angel’s mother, who is also a program specialist. By applying financial literacy lessons to the cookie sales program, girls can figure out how much “cookie dough” they need for the year and how many cookie sales they’ll need to accomplish to meet that goal, for example.
Setting and achieving goals also gives them a sense of accomplishment and is particularly important for girls from low-income families, who may not have another avenue for learning money management, Chargois said. Girl Scouting in the School Day sends leaders into schools to give those girls an opportunity to be Scouts over their lunch break, because their families might not have the means or transportation available to take them to after-school or weekend activities.
Starting this training so young — the girls are in fourth to sixth grade — ensures that they are confident in the skills in plenty of time.
“They’re ready,” Chargois said. “You get them encouraged that they can be confident that they know how to take care of their money. When I started working, I didn’t have anybody to teach me the importance of opening a bank account and how to take care of my money, and I wish I’d had that.”