The Girl Scout Cadette was excited, yet poised, as she entered the office of her congresswoman, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md). Deep in the Rayburn House Office Building on Capitol Hill, Tayona C. stepped through the big wooden doors into a brightly lit office suite with lush, royal blue carpeting.
Accompanied by her Aunt Paula, along with GSCM Manager Valerie Montague and GSUSA Public Policy and Advocacy representatives, Tayona was there as part of Girl Scouts’ Portraits in Leadership series. This series helps Girl Scouts from across the country meet their Congresswomen and learn about what inspired these elected officials to take on leadership roles. To date, female members of the United States Congress from more than 20 congressional districts have been interviewed by Girl Scouts as part of the Portraits in Leadership series.
Although Tayona’s home in Rep. Edwards’ Prince Georges County district is outside of the GSCM council area, she is a member of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars Troop 7856, which holds meetings at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women (in Jessup) with the girls and their incarcerated mothers. The Beyond Bars program also organizes such activities for the girls as college tours and career exploration, as well as traditional Girl Scout activities like camping and selling cookies.
But on this warm July day, Tayona was on Capitol Hill to ask Rep. Edwards about leadership, education, and how Girl Scouts has helped her in her role as a Congresswoman. At age 12, Tayona is the youngest Girl Scout to participate in Portraits of Leadership, according to Teresa Dyer of GSUSA’s Public Policy and Advocacy Office.
Rep. Edwards, who was in several Girl Scout troops as her family moved from place to place while she was growing up, said Girl Scouting helped her develop leadership skills and self-confidence. She told Tayona that Girl Scouting prepares girls to deal with life because “Girls Scouts give girls a chance to be around people who, like them, want to succeed in the classroom, want to succeed in the community and want to make the country better.”
“What advice do you have for girls who want to become leaders?” Tayona asked.
NOTE: GSBB is a nationally acclaimed program that began in 1992 When GSCM partnered with the National Institute of Justice to create a program that helps girl strengthen their relationships with the mothers while participating in Girl Scout activities that foster leadership and healthy decision-making skills. There are now Beyond Bars programs in 30 Girl Scout councils around the nation.