Come One, Come All:
Girl Scouts Celebrates Black History Month 2010

Jade Powers, a 19-year-old with Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, and Melanie Perry, 25-year-old troop leader, also with Girl Scouts of Central Indiana. Jade and Melanie discussed their own relationships with Black History Month and the impact of Girl Scouting on their lives.

Jade speaks before an audience of 1,500 at the closing ceremony of the 2008 Girl Scout National Council Session.How long have you been a Girl Scout?

Jade: I have been a Girl Scout since I was in first grade. My mom started a troop at my school to give the girls something to do. I am now a freshman at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

Melanie: I've been a Girl Scout since 1990. I started as a Daisy Girl Scout in kindergarten, and I continued with Girl Scouting through elementary, middle, and high school and am now a lifetime member.

What's your favorite part of Girl Scouting?

Jade: My favorite part of Girl Scouting is getting to meet new people. I also really enjoy going to summer camp, especially horseback riding camp at Camp Gallahue in Brown County, Ind.

Melanie: Girl Scouting has provided me with numerous opportunities for leadership development, and I've been able to use the skills in my everyday life. Besides leadership development, I've truly enjoyed the travel opportunities, and the many chances I've had to meet other outstanding girls and women. And the cookies aren't bad either!

Melanie in Kenya's Cura village with Girl Guides from the local girls' school.What Girl Scouts-related accomplishment are you most proud of?

Jade: The Girl Scout-related accomplishment I am most proud of is being named a Girl of Distinction this past year. I am also very proud of having been the MC for the closing ceremony at last year's national convention in Indianapolis. It was an amazing experience—there were so many amazing women there and I was just happy to be a part of it.

Melanie: If you'd asked me this question about six months ago, I would have said it's a toss-up between earning the Gold Award and sitting on the board of directors for Girl Scouts of Greater St. Louis (now Eastern Missouri). However, in August 2009, I was selected to represent the United States at the 2009 Juliette Low Seminar (JLS) in Nairobi, Kenya. Being selected for the JLS was a great honor and the experiences I had over the eight days of the seminar were some of the most transformative in my life.

Describe your "dream job" as you now imagine it.

Jade: My dream job would be to be a professor of art history and religious studies. I love sharing my love of art with others and watching as they are introduced to new pieces. I love learning about the intentions behind a particular work and examining the role that religion plays in so much of the art created. I would also love to have a farm full of cows, chickens, and horses. I wouldn’t eat them—they would be my pets. And of course I will have my turtle, Sugar. (I’ve had her for ten years.)

Melanie: If I could have any job, I would start my own nonprofit organization to assist low- to moderate-income families and individuals with obtaining decent, affordable housing and an increased quality of life. The organization would not only help people find good homes, but would have education, health, and community involvement aspects as part of securing the housing.

What would you do if you won the lottery tomorrow?

Jade: If I won the lottery tomorrow, I would travel to every country in the world and see all the major art museums while also visiting all types of famous places of worship. But I would make sure to use only a certain amount of the money for travel. Of the remaining money, I would give a portion to Building Tomorrow, a program that [funds the building of] schools in Africa. I would also give to the Dream Act, which is designed to make the immigration process faster and more efficient and serves as a way for people to receive an education. There are many other worthy causes and I would support several of them in some way as well.

Melanie: If I won the lottery, I would donate a portion to nonprofit organizations I support. Of course I would save a significant amount, and then the rest would be used for my family and future. I would love to have a decent amount of land with an historic old farmhouse, so I'm sure part of the money would go towards that purchase.

Have any particularly memorable experiences around Black History Month (BHM)? Family traditions or ways you've acknowledged it in past years?

Jade: I attended Holy Angels Catholic School (that was where my troop first began) in Indianapolis, and the mission of the school was to make every day Black History Month in order to give the students a foundation for success. As you can imagine, that month of February was enlightening and amazing. I believe that it is through my experience at Holy Angels that I have such a strong connection with Black History Month and love learning about the amazing things my ancestors did. Also, my family has always shown an interest in Black History Month through recognizing that it's the accomplishments of everyday people and recognized heroes alike that have led to the contributions that are celebrated. Both of my parents studied black history in college and made a point of sharing what they learned with me and my sister. I remember when I was younger, my mom would take my sister and me to the library, and each day we went during the month of February, we were challenged to learn about a different amazing African American.

Melanie: My family has always appreciated the history and contributions of black people in the U.S. Even though we do not have specific traditions for the month, the importance of BHM was always stressed. In many ways, the significance of BHM was emphasized yet the lessons learned and historical figures remembered were important year-round.

Have any specific plans to acknowledge/celebrate Black History Month this year?

Jade: At my school I am a member of Association of African American Studies, and I am sure we will be doing things throughout the month. For example, I am sure there will be a speaker and special programs. I enjoy listening to others express their views, but find it especially interesting when I get to hear them speak of the accomplishments of our African American forefathers and the continued contributions that are being made.

Melanie: Now that I am a Girl Scout leader and have a racially diverse troop, I plan to have the girls do a little research on black women in Girl Scouting—in the U.S. and abroad.

How has Girl Scouting shaped your view of and/or participation in BHM traditions?

Jade: Girl Scouting has shaped my views of and/or participation by always being supportive of every type of girl. I have learned so much about different people and cultures and been excited to have people learn about mine. Also, Girl Scouts of Central Indiana does an excellent job of involving many African American women. This shows young girls that they can be anything they want to be, which is a large part of the purpose of Black History Month—to empower African Americans to succeed through the recognition of challenges and the celebration of achievement. With so many African Americans participating and leading in the Girl Scout community, Girl Scouting is doing just that.

Melanie: More than having a direct impact on my participation in BHM traditions, Girl Scouting has shown me that every generation of young girls and women—especially black girls and other girls of color—need real-life role models. Women they can look up to and learn from who interact with them on a daily basis. Famous individuals can serve as great role models; however, I believe there is nothing like having a personal relationship with the individual you are learning from and modeling your life after.