BY MARY GARRISON
Once 202 members strong, the Girl Scouts of Clay County took a staggering blow to membership, having dropped to just four participants three years ago. However, after a few clever strategies and new faces, the program is once again on the rise.
According to Emilie Hutcheson, membership manager for Girl Scouts of Clay County, in the last two years, membership has vaulted to 35 Scouts and then 107 in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 years, respectively. While Hutcheson said there were several contributing factors to the initial decline she was unable to put a direct finger on, the increase is one on which the organization intends to build.
"We're shooting for about 250," Hutcheson said. "We want to make sure every girl in Clay County has the opportunity to do something with the Girl Scouts. We want that opportunity to be available to any girl who wants to participate."
The Clay County group has begun some new initiatives to help make those avenues possible, one of the most crucial of which, Hutcheson said, lies within the in-school program.
According to Angela Brown, in-school program coordinator for Clay County Girl Scouts, some 68 girls at East Side and South Side elementary schools participate in the once-monthly extracurricular program. Students meet during their activity period of the day in place of regularly scheduled activities such as P.E., and participate in the Girl Scout curriculum. Brown said the program had done a great deal to bolster membership within Clay County, as it offered a convenient alternative to outside troop participation for parents.
"Parents juggle a lot," Brown said. "It's much easier for them because they know they're already there getting to do what they would without having to worry about evening or weekend meetings. They know they're in a safe spot with officials they know and trust. They get a newsletter so they know what's going on. … It's really working out well. … (Parents) don't want your children to miss out on the chance to be a child and do things other kids get to do."
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