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Amber Childres

Dedicated Volunteers Bring Girl Scouts to At-risk Teens

HOUSTON (March 30, 2009) – Dedicated to building girls of courage, confidence and character, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council has teamed up with The Center for Success and Independence (TCSI) where weekly troop meetings play an integral part of the treatment plans for at-risk youth.

“The Girl Scout Promise and Law is really at the heart of what the center does,” says Troop Leader Joan Gilliland, who has volunteered there since the summer of 2004. “Together we help these girls develop a sense of their own leadership ability and experience a sense of their own self-worth. Girl Scouting shows them that through taking action they can change something in the world. In other words: discover, connect and take action!”

TCSI is a psychiatric residential treatment program serving both male and female teens that have a diagnosed emotional, behavioral or substance abuse disorder, or have suffered trauma including abuse, neglect and abandonment. The center offers a long-term program with a minimum stay of 90 days in treatment, although the average stay for a client is six to nine months. Gilliland, a teacher, and Bonnie Homier, a surgical nurse, hold weekly troop meetings for the girls, all of whom are allowed to leave the center under adult supervision. Gilliland says the meetings can be quite challenging in the beginning because some new girls might not be open to the program. In the end, however, the girls respond quite well.

“We started the year with the Journey books, and the girls love them,” Gilliland says. “Even though I felt we were achieving success in the past, the Journeys’ design enhances girl participation, develops leadership skills and guides the girls into assuming more leadership. At the end of each meeting, Bonnie and I ask the girls who would like to lead the next meeting. It is amazing. We have girls, who have always been withdrawn, volunteer to lead the meetings. I am so proud of their progress.”

Staff members at the center report that the girls respond well to activities that increase awareness of bullying, stereotyping and stress management. Some of the troop’s activities include making beaded jewelry, wreaths and fleece blankets, the latter proving to be a great team-building exercise for the girls.

“As my husband reminds me, we are truly trying, in a short time, to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place,” Gilliland continues. “As troop leaders at the center, we get to meet and make a difference in the life of a girl, over and over and over. And there are some very strong and striving girls, many of whom are struggling to overcome the terrible places they have been.”

Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 3.7 million girls and adults. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Chartered by GSUSA to provide Girl Scouting locally, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is one of the largest Girl Scout councils in the country serving more than 65,000 girl members and 17,000 adults in 26 southeast Texas counties. For more information call 1-800-392-4340 or visit