In certain areas of the country, becoming a Girl Scout is as common as joining Little League or taking ballet classes. It is an experience many suburban girls have.
But when you are growing up in an area where trees are replaced with industrial buildings and a majority of the residents are at or below the poverty line, it can be hard to pay dues or commit to a program that runs outside of school hours.
That is why the Girl Scouts of Greater New York created the Career Exploration Program, which is designed to broaden the career horizons of disadvantaged girls attending public middle schools. This year, they have expanded to Community Middle School in Hunters Point.
“Middle school is a pivotal time for girls when it comes to determining their future education and career prospects,” said Barbara Murphy Warrington, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Greater New York. “With CEP expanding, middle-school girls in three more schools and two more boroughs will now have the opportunity to experience the full range of careers available to them, and see just how many possibilities are open to them when their vast potential is realized.”
As part of the new program, on Nov. 7, the sixth-grade Hunter’s Point CMS girls visited the offices of TPG Architecture in Manhattan.
“We try to focus on having the girls meet women in the business world,” said Alyssa Negron, the director of the program at Hunters Point Community Middle School. “It’s of the utmost importance that they see women in these roles because society will tell them again and again that these jobs are for men and that men are more important — especially girls who struggle financially.”
The program, which takes place during school hours, has a set curriculum. In addition to field trips, the young ladies focus on leadership development, public speaking, entrepreneurship and navigating middle school.
“The girls at Hunters Point are very engaged and very excited about visiting workplaces and learning these things,” Negron said. “Whenever we start a new grade at a new school, it can be tough because they come in very young and you have to work to get them to trust you. But that’s also what makes the program so important. They feel they are in a safe haven.”
Though there are no CEPs for high schools in the city, Negron said that there is an active alumnae program.
“We try to keep in touch with the girls and arrange meet-ups and bring them in to talk with the other girls,” she said. “So while our program focuses on middle-school girls, we don’t abandon them once they graduate.”
Any girl who attends CMS is allowed to sign up for the program, though spots are limited.