By Domonique Jenkins
We started our meeting as usual, with an opening circle. Yet this one was different; it was bittersweet.
“On My Honor, I will try…” Those were the words that were gently spoken by our oldest scout, Jamie, as she opened her last meeting as a Girl Scout in Troop 7856.
This year, Jamie became an 18-year-old high school graduate. She has been a member of Girl Scouts Beyond Bars since kindergarten and this was her last meeting. She has visited her mom, Anne Marie, at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women even before she was able to participate in the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars (GSBB) program. But it was through this program that Jamie was able to share intimate moments that don’t happen during a regular visit when a mother is incarcerated. During the past 13 years as a GSBB troop member, Jamie has gone camping, participated in destinations (visiting both Kenya and Costa Rica), and attended annual GSBB sleepovers with her mom.
At the urging of GSCM Program Specialist Domonique Jenkins, Jamie stepped into the circle and began reciting the Girl Scout Promise and Law. Domonique nudged Anne Marie to join her daughter in the circle but Anne Marie held back until Jamie reached out her hand and gingerly pulled her mother into the circle with her. They recited the rest of the Girl Scout Law arm in arm.
With their arms still interlocked, Jamie and her mom rejoined the circle and Jamie explained why she had been selected to open the meeting. “It has been a great 13 years here with my mom and this is my last meeting,” she explained.
The meeting continued, with activities for the mothers and girls, learning more about being “Financially Fit” and then lunch.
And then the moment came, time to say goodbye to her mom and sister Girl Scout troop members. Jamie hugged her mom and eased out of the door. It is what happened next that solidified how impactful and necessary this program truly is. Justice, who has also participated in the Beyond Bars program since her early elementary school days, turned to Jamie, linked arms and said, “We’ve been in this together for awhile…” “Yep, soon it will be your turn,” Jamie said to Justice, who will be the next girl in the troop to graduate from high school and age out of the Beyond Bars program.
The two girls are of different races, from different counties, with different post-high school aspirations. But, unified through Girl Scouts Beyond Bars, they remained linked arm in arm as they walked out of the prison gymnasium, up the stairs, down a long hallway, through the gate house, all the way to the front entrance of the prison, while talking about their years and experiences in Girl Scouts Beyond Bars. It is moments like this, that most people don’t see, that make this program worth every donation and more. It is moments like this that serves as a reminder that this program is “Making the World a Better Place.”