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Teen Leaders Across Rural America
"As a teenager, how can I start something that will help my community?"
"What will it take to convince others to help?"
"How can we keep our good idea going?"
These are just a few of the questions teen girls are asking—and answering in powerful ways—through Challenge and Change: Challenge Yourself, Change the World, a leadership development program from Girl Scouts of the USA. Currently being piloted with teen girls in 22 communities across the country, Challenge and Change is a program of Girl Scouts in Rural Communities funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Challenge and Change strengthens rural communities. Through this project, girls become change-makers as they envision and start long-term community service projects. They get plenty of help along the way through a comprehensive curriculum, instruction by specially trained Girl Scout program staff, and mentoring by community champions. Girls even receive seed funding to launch their projects.
Teaching Social Entrepreneurship
Girls selected to participate in Challenge and Change begin with a five-day retreat where they learn leadership, problem solving, and entrepreneurial skills through a comprehensive multimedia curriculum. Led by trained facilitators, the 35-hour training inspires girls to learn more about themselves, discover what effective leadership looks like, connect with local experts, and dig into issues affecting their communities.
Girls also learn to apply the strategies of successful social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurship is a growing global approach to solving social problems by applying business strategies that ensure long-term results. Girls see social entrepreneurs in action by watching and analyzing episodes from "The New Heroes," a PBS documentary series about social entrepreneurs from around the world. To bring the topic closer to home, girls also take field trips to meet social entrepreneurs in their own local communities.
Challenge and Changes teaches girls skills to identify community problems, recognize and build on local assets, and design a sustainable solution and action plan. After the retreat, girls return home and recruit a community action team—including an adult who serves as their community champion—to turn their good idea into a sustainable, long-term project.
What kinds of projects are growing out of this new program? The challenges girls tackle range widely. But they tend to start with girls' personal interests and concerns. For example:
Challenge and Change aligns with the Girl Scout Leadership Development Program, where girls discover their personal best, connect with others in an increasingly diverse world, and take action to solve problems and improve their communities. The Challenge and Change curriculum draws on extensive research in youth development, leadership and social entrepreneurship.
Future plans for Challenge and Change include expanding nationally, and potentially internationally, to support young change-makers in communities around the globe.