Student learns lessons through lifetime involvement with Girl Scouts
Aubrie Hill, The Oklahoma Daily
Rachel Pilant was born a Girl Scout.
“My grandma was a Girl Scout, my great-grandma was a Girl Scout, my mom was a Girl Scout, I’m a Girl Scout,” Pilant said. “At one point we had the most living generations of Girl Scouts – we still do – in the United States at five.”
The Girl Scout organization was founded in 1912 to teach young women the values of courage, confidence and character, or what the organization calls its “three C’s,” according to the group’s fact book.
There are more than 3.3 million Girl Scouts, but only 900,000, or 27 percent, are adults who are involved in the program, according to the fact book. This number includes paid officials, troop leaders and adult volunteers.
Pilant, 21, falls into the adult volunteer category, a small group of women who have stayed involved throughout the years, she said. Fifteen years, in her case.
“First I joined because I had moved to a new town and wanted to make friends,” Pilant said. “I stayed in because it’s not something I am going to stop. I am going to keep doing it no matter what. … It’s just a really fun atmosphere because it’s a bunch of like-minded women.”
Now a history senior at OU, Pilant is originally from Locust Grove.
At OU, she used her leadership skills to create the Oklahoma Campus Girl Scouts, a student organization for other lifetime Scouts like herself or for people with like-minded ideals, she said.
“She’s very hardworking,” organization secretary and engineering junior Emily West said of Pilant. “She has great leadership qualities. She has really gotten Oklahoma Girl Scouts started over the past year, just the fact that she got it started from scratch. It was pretty much an entire year she spent getting it organized and funded.”
West said she was grateful for Pilant’s initiative because she would not have had another way to stay connected with Girl Scouts, which she has participated in for the past 11 years.
What makes Pilant unique is that she is able to see problems with Girl Scouts and think of her own solutions to keep more girls involved, organization Vice President Sarah Vance said. On a summer road trip with Pilant, conversation always turned to Girl Scouts and ways to improve it.
“She’s really enthusiastic about Girl Scouting, and she takes the time to focus a lot on it,” said Vance, Spanish graduate student. “She loves Girl Scouting a lot. She really enjoys that it is changing and recognizes the need, but she doesn’t always agree with the way Nationals changes it.”
Because of the Girl Scouts Pilant said she was able to see the world through sponsored trips to Taiwan, the United Kingdom and India.
“I think the things that stand out most are learning about other cultures, not just in the U.S. or just in my travels,” Pilant said. “Especially being from rural Oklahoma, it exposed me to a lot of different cultures I wouldn’t have otherwise been exposed to.”
Most girls do not make it to the age where they can start traveling internationally, Pilant said. The national structure of Girl Scouts does not offer much for girls aged 11 to 14, causing most people to quit.
Girls quitting at that age is detrimental because it is an age when they are feeling the most vulnerable and could benefit the most from the lessons of Girl Scouts, Pilant said.
“It’s amazing we can pinpoint it to that year, but that’s when numbers in troops fall from 25 to five,” Pilant said. “It’s just that’s when people start really doubting themselves and self-esteem goes down. Girl Scouts carried me through that.”
Pilant admits to wanting to quit several times over the two-year period when she was 12 and 13.
Now, she said she’s glad she did because of her international travels and for her enhanced camp experience.
Even though her leadership and hard works are the qualities that first come to mind, her friends said they also enjoy her softer side, most often seen at Camp Tall Chief, where Pilant, West and Vance worked together for the past four summers.
Though Girl Scouts provides cultural exposure, leadership experience and fun, all of these tie into one underlying quality of Scouts – cultivating mature, independent women. This is the common thread in all activities and what Pilant said she hopes to continue in her future work with Girl Scouts and Oklahoma Campus Girl Scouts.
“Girl Scouts all have varying religious, political ideas, all sorts of ideas, but everyone agrees that girls should go to college, girls should have equal pay, things like that,” she said. “It’s all about women’s rights and women’s education.”