Community Organization Brings History Lesson and Sheds Light on Present Volunteer Opportunities for Future Leaders

Wednesday, 09 May 2012 15:33 Written by  Iya Bakare

As 2012 commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts organization, Barbara Wilborn traveled to Chicago to celebrate and share experiences with Girl Scouts and troop leaders at St. Mark United Methodist Church in Chatham. Andrea Brookins, a troop leader in Chicago and a former Brownie, organized the momentous event with the veteran Girl Scout and others history makers.

Andrea encouraged the girls to meet other young ladies and women whom had at some point in their lives been, or were currently, Girl Scouts.

“Women who are trailblazers, firsts and history makers gave girls encouragement to reach for goals, and reminded them of the foundation that Girl Scouts have made in many women’s lives,” the Chicago native said. “As a former Girl Scout, I wanted to be involved in the community and thought I’d be a great role model. I wanted to mentor and encourage others, which was a great experience for me.”

“Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place,” says Maria Wynne, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana. “It empowers girls to recognize their strengths and realize their leadership potential.”

Born in 1929 in Savannah, GA, Barbara was one of 15 black girls in Troop 261, the first African-American Girl Scout troop in the country. Located in the birthplace of the organization, Barbara and her fellow troop members made history in 1943.

“I always wanted to be a Girls Scout and the values I learned from being one helped me to be a better person, so I wanted to share that with others,” Barbara recalls.

From the two-hour drive to the nearest campsite, to visiting black hospitals to play with the children, Barbara reminisced about fond memories of her days as a Girl Scout and the bond she shared with the other members of her troop. She described what the uniforms looked like, the cost of cookies and other details from those times. In 1951, she decided to take it to the next level and became a troop leader. She held that position until she married her husband in 1960, a few years after the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called the Girl Scouts “a force of desegregation”.

As many Girl Scout troops form in churches of various dominations all over the country, one constant remains: the core promise to serve God and to be a friend to others in times of need. Barbara says this promise helped to prepare her for one of the most important roles in her life: motherhood. As a proud mother of three, the Georgia native remained in Savannah and retired after she taught elementary school for 39 years.

Maria says both women and men, ages 18 and older, may volunteer in a variety of flexible ways. Adults can serve as troop leaders or they can mentor girls, which they can center around what fits their schedules. Statistically, Maria adds that there’s a need for support in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields (STEM) because although 79 percent of girls are interested in those subjects, only 13 percent pursue them due to a lack of moral and financial support.

“Girls need to interact with women who work in science and technology in order to understand all the career options available to them,” Maria adds. “They need supportive networks of people in their lives to encourage them as they pursue their interests in these non-traditional fields. Volunteers who share their knowledge and enthusiasm for STEM with girls by facilitating workshops and events can inspire girls to pursue careers in exciting fields that will be critical to the success of our global economy in 2020, 2030, 2040 and beyond.”

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare

Iya Bakare, GMO's managing editor, earned both her Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in print journalism. She earned her B.A. from Delta State University with a minor in English and graduated with a M.A. degree from Columbia College Chicago. In her spare time, the Chicago native continues to freelance and ponder ways to both inform and improve her community one story at a time.

She can be contacted at
Follow her on Twitter: @ibakare