Because I am a Girl Scout I know what it means to take a pledge and to say it with pride and mean it. I know what it means to pay it forward and be a positive role model for the many Girl Scouts who are coming behind me, and will be leading the world with their innovative ideas, hard work, dedication and desire for a better world. I can also start a camp fire and change a tire – watch out now!
By Yasmine Arrington,
Executive Director ScholarCHIPS and Girl Scout Gold Award Alumna
Leaders Who Build Legacy
It is an honor and pleasure to be among you today at People’s Congressional United Church of Christ. I thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for allowing me to be here, to share with you, to represent Girl Scouts and celebrate 50 years of Girl Scouting at Peoples.
There is a well-known scripture – Proverbs 22:6 – “Train up a child in the way that he (she) should go, so that when she is old, she will not depart from it.” For this scripture is the story of my life. Every child needs positive role models, mentors and counselors who support them, love them unconditionally and demonstrate moral characteristics—what it means to walk by faith and not by sight, the importance of prayer, the importance of family, community and serving others. I’m talking about a kind of sacrificial love, that is hard to find in today’s world.
Today’s world is a world of “ME” and “Mine” – what’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine, where emphasis is put on having a certain type of body, the newest Fashion Nova outfits, who is the sexiest competitions on Instagram, who can show the most skin, who can get the most likes, who has the longest, prettiest lace fronts, who can accomplish the most first. Now do not get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with looking and feeling good and beautiful, but that should not take priority over everything else in life and at the expense of others’ well-being.
So, it is important more now than ever for our young girls, teenage girls and women to have role models who are strong, intelligent, modest, hardworking, humble and those who understand what sacrificial love looks like and feels like. Doing the right thing when no one is watching and when everyone is watching, doing for others when you don’t feel like it, and being a person who keeps true to her word and has integrity.
The year was about 2006. I was fresh into middle school at Paul Public Charter School in NW Washington, DC. I had become very close friends with Erika. We became the kind of friends you always talk to in school and hang out with after school. We were the kind of friends who talked about everything, exchanged music, sang and danced in our pajamas, watched television, ate snacks and went on vacations together. Little did I know that through this friendship God had prepared the way for my future.
Naturally as Erika and I grew close, her mother and my grandmother would talk. Little did I know that their conversations would lead me to becoming a Girl Scout. Erika was a Girl Scout at People’s and her mother thought it would be a good idea for me to join their troop. I also had a younger friend named Diossa, who was also a Girl Scout, who I met at my then home church St. John United Baptist Church.
In 2005, I attended a Girl Scout Troop’s Passion for Fashion show and I was so amazed an impressed seeing girls my age strutting the runway and performing – playing instruments and dancing. I knew then I had to be a part of this!
The next thing I knew, I was attending Girl Scout meetings and met an entire host of new girlfriends. I looked forward to our meetings, because I knew we would always be doing something fun, I would be able to catch up with my girlfriends – Erika, Asha, Asante, Yasmine, Dawn, Dorian and others and the icing on the cake for me is that there would always be delicious snacks!I joined Cadette Troop 6600 and Senior Troop 560 and Ambassador Troop 560.
We did so much in the years that I was a Girl Scout. I remember taking an etiquette workshops, going skiing and camping for the first time, going to the theater, learning how to maintain a car like changing a flat tire, selling Girl Scout cookies at my church, ironing, sewing and stapling badges to my Girl Scout vest and writing in my Girl Scout journal. I also remember going through the processes to obtain my Silver and Gold awards.
I also remember doing community service. One year, we made Christmas stockings for The Salvation Army. We put toiletries and goodies into the stockings for disadvantaged children. We fed the homeless by making food packages and served meals to the homeless at the Convention Center. Also, through Project Harvest we helped pack Thanksgiving boxes with turkeys and canned food items.
These were precious memories for me as a young girl and looking back, Girl Scouting prepared me to be the leader, world changer and risk-taker I am today. I had a rather difficult childhood with a mother who became very ill and passed away when I was 13 years old on my youngest brother’s birthday and a father in and out of jail, being raised by a single grandmother. Life for me “ain’t been no crystal staircase,” but Girl Scouting brought me joy. It gave me focus and a purpose beyond myself and it gave me a group of friends for that season in my life. It gave me an escape to a happy place, a productive place, a socialite place.
This Girl Scout troop was led by Mrs. Vida Anderson. Mrs. Vida Anderson was inevitably a mother figure to our troop and especially me. I did not realize it at the time, but Mrs. Anderson’s consistency, dedication and love in working with us individually and collectively did something phenomenally positive to my young psyche. Seeing her bring boxes of snacks in week after week, coordinating our workshops, activities and awards was astounding to me. I must admit, I remember how seemingly hard Mrs. Anderson was on us at times. The Gold Award process was particularly daunting and stressful. But in looking back, I realized that it was her focus, discipline and dedication on these tasks we were required to complete, started me in the practice of doing this with my own goals and dreams.
In addition to having a grandmother who is very supportive, hands-on and always stressed the importance of education, it was my Girl Scout Troop leader Mrs. Vida Anderson who held near and dear to her heart to serve others, and helped me to push through even when I have felt discouraged, tired or like giving up. Mrs. Anderson instilled in me a consistent work ethic and proposal writing skills that prepared me to spend hours and hours in high school writing college application essays and scholarship application essays. And now it has helped me to be able to get in the zone and spend hours and hours writing, editing and submitting grant proposals for my nonprofit.
Today, I work as the full-time Executive Director of a DC-based nonprofit called ScholarCHIPS, Inc. ScholarCHIPS provides college scholarships, mentorship and a support network to youth who have incarcerated parents and are pursuing their college degree. To date, ScholarCHIPS has awarded over $110,000 in college scholarships to 51 scholars and counting!
Here is a fun fact: ScholarCHIPS was my Girl Scout Gold Award project. Mrs. Anderson and I worked extremely hard to follow the guidelines to make sure my project was appropriate and well thought out to be approved. I remember the day when we had the ScholarCHIPS Kickoff Event – my former teachers, community members, friends, family and church members came to hear my grand idea to raise scholarship dollars for youth with incarcerated parents going to college. The woman who approved my Girl Scout Gold Award project, Ms. Sam, was so impressed with my idea, that she showed up to the launch event and supported me! We had a phenomenal keynote speaker and I read one of my original poems about having an incarcerated parent and gave the official first pitch of the idea to raise $30,000 to give out three $10,000 scholarships.
My idea was very ambitious and seemingly impossible, but people donated that day and many miracles took place after that launch in October of 2010. We started giving out scholarships in 2012. My senior year of high school Mr. Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Redskins heard my story and was so impressed that he wanted to match how much we had raised thus far. Also during my high school days, Petula Dvorak columnist for the Washington Post wrote an article on my idea, and ScholarCHIPS received more donations.
But there’s even more to be in awe about and grateful. Mrs. Anderson’s collaborative leadership work and thought partnership did not end once I graduated high school and received my Gold Award before going off to college. When I asked her to consider being one of the founding Board members of ScholarCHIPS, she enthusiastically accepted.
Mrs. Anderson has worked tireless hours as a volunteer and as the board chair of this organization, making sure that it properly functions and supported me in my growth as a leader. She is always providing me with advice and feedback, uncensored and very honest. I thank God for Girl Scouts because I never would’ve met Mrs. Anderson if not for a friendship I had in middle school, which led to a conversation between our parents, which led to me finding myself in Mrs. Anderson’s troop. Since then, I have been back to People’s to talk with other Girl Scouts about the importance of Girl Scouting, and the Gold Award process.
The mission of Girl Scouting is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. It certainly did this for me.
It is an honor and a great privilege to be a Girl Scout! Because I am a Girl Scout I am a woman of character, of integrity, of honesty, focused on thinking of others and serving others. Because I am a Girl Scout I am a risk-taker, not afraid to overcome any challenge I face, not afraid to think outside of the box, not afraid to travel to new places and to be an entrepreneur. I am not afraid to have big dreams and have people think that I am crazy, because my dream seems almost impossible and seemingly outlandish to achieve. Because I am a Girl Scout I know what it means to take a pledge and to say it with pride and mean it. I know what it means to pay it forward and be a positive role model for the many Girl Scouts who are coming behind me, and will be leading the world with their innovative ideas, hard work, dedication and desire for a better world. I can also start a camp fire and change a tire – watch out now!
This is certainly my testimony with Girl Scouts. I encourage you to reflect over your time as a Girl Scout, and think about your daughters and when you have daughters and nieces of your own why you would want them to be Girl Scouts. For some girls, it may save and even change their lives for the better.
Girl Scouting truly did change my life for the better. Girl Scouting served as a springboard that gave me the tools to leap into my future as a leader and world changer!
This speech was delivered at People’s Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. on Sunday, March 10, 2019 in celebration of 50 years of Girl Scouting. Yasmine Arrington is the Executive Director of ScholarChips, a nonprofit that supports college bound students with parents who are incarcerated.