Let’s be honest. Teenage girls are not lining up in droves to join Girl Scouts. The typical Girl Scout career begins in kindergarten or first grade, and fizzles out around fifth or sixth grade. But for Stephanie Banda, Girl Scouts was more than a fun after-school activity—it was a lifesaver. At 13-years old, Stephanie was faced with two options—juvenile detention or joining a Girl Scout program called Adelante Jovencitas (Young Women Moving Forward).
Adelante Jovencitas serves girls in all areas of the juvenile justice system, including those in detention or newly released from detention, in residential treatment, on probation, at alternative high schools, or at risk girls. The program addresses issues affecting young women in areas such as education, health, homelessness, gang activity, substance abuse, violence and sexual exploitation. Perhaps more importantly, it provides them with a group of girls who they can build friendships with and caring, consistent adults.
At the time, Stephanie had quit sports, was skipping school and lying to her family. Her plan was to attend Adelante Jovencitas until her mom forgot about the program. Then she could return to the life she was living.
Although initially reserved and detached, something clicked for Stephanie as she participated in the program. She began to take advantage of an...