CONCORD, NH – Girls with the nerve to change the world grow up and do it. One group of high school students has set their sights on making the world a better place through advocacy and they are learning how to achieve their goals through Girls Rock the Capitol, a six-month-long internship with state legislators in New Hampshire and Vermont.
The program is offered by Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, the council serving girls throughout the two states. It allows participants to sit in on legislative hearings and pair up with a state representative to work on a bill close to their heart. Some were already Girl Scouts, while others joined specifically to participate in the internship. The current group’s interests vary widely, including drug addiction, climate change, the minimum wage, gender equality, adoption and foster care, abortion, the economics of education, and more.
Jocelyn Green, 15, of Litchfield, has been a Girl Scout since she was little, and is now a Girl Scout Senior in Troop 14016. She says she looks forward to going into politics, and wants to fix the adoption and foster care system in the U.S.
“It is cool to see what my future is,” she said. “Just having these programs for girls to follow their passion is amazing. I’m learning more here than I would some days at school.”
The group comes to the New Hampshire State House once a month to see the inner workings of state government and work with their mentor. They have even had the opportunity to testify in front of lawmakers.
“I attended a hearing on the abortion ban repeal,” said James Oshima, 15, of Madbury, who was one of those who testified. “They should think about young people like us. I get passionate when people don’t want to give women bodily autonomy.”
Getting to see exactly how policymakers come to agreement – or not – has been instructive to the group.
“I sat in on critical race theory meetings of the board of education, said Mei Dasgupta, 15, of Chelmsford, Mass. “They had conflicting opinions. They were on the same side saying conflicting things. There were some young people who were very impassioned.”
Camille Webber, 15, of Brentwood, said her mentor, Rep. Fran Nutter-Upham of Nashua, told her that kind of passion doesn’t always pay off. “My rep taught me that when you come at an argument with passion, it’s hard to find common ground.”
The group found a few things surprising as they learned how things work over the past few months.
“I was surprised at the guys who want to secede from the union,” said Oshima.
“I had no idea they have public hearings every Thursday. We sat in on a couple meetings on animal cruelty, and that provided facts I never thought about,” said Green.
“It’s supposed to be about what’s right, but you have to go with what the party believes,” said Dasgupta. “If (you) vote against the party, they’ll move you to Fish and Game.”
“I’m trying to formulate a bill for clean energy,” said Webber. “I was told ‘You’ll never get it passed.’ It was a little shocking to me, but also not.”
“It can make you feel helpless,” said Libby Johnson, 16, of Pelham.
Despite the polarization in politics, at least one girl sees hope.
“It pays to understand why someone believes something,” said Green. “We have to realize they’re just opinions. After hearing about the death penalty, I feel stuck in the middle.”
Girl Scouts is dedicated to showing girls that they can call the shots and encourage them to reach for their dreams. Girls Rock the Capitol is just one way Girl Scouts discover how they can take action to make the world a better place. The program runs from January to June each year, and girls are invited to explore that program and many more. Girl Scouts are able to earn a variety of badges on government and advocacy, and most take on service projects to better their communities starting from the youngest ages. Find out more about Girl Scouting’s leadership opportunities at www.girlscoutsgwm.org.