The Hornets' Nest is not your mother's Girl Scout council — or maybe it is. The Girl Scouts have been blazing trails since 1912, when founder Juliette Gordon Low started a movement to redefine what was possible for girls everywhere. The nearly 12,000 girls served by our local council continue to redefine what is possible for themselves and the communities they will someday lead.
The Hornets' Nest Council calls itself a "hive of activity." This year more than ever, many of those activities have a distinct racial justice lens, and Council leaders are determined to make sure every girl has access to Girl Scout programs, regardless of her neighborhood or zip code.
"The Girls Scouts have always been seen as a primarily upper middle class, not very diverse organization, but our council history and our partnerships with community organizations show a long history of girls of all backgrounds, including African-American girls, who have been involved for years and years. The problem is that those stories were never lifted up," says Hornets' Nest Council CEO Angela Woods, who has led the organization since 2014.
Serving girls and adults in eight counties across North and South Carolina, Hornets' Nest Council works to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. Angela Woods takes that mission seriously. "These girls are the next generation of leaders. I'm depending on them to change this world."
Black Girls Matter
Especially in the Charlotte area, and particularly in the year 2020, that change is critical — and the Girls Scouts are taking action. In June the Council held a Black Lives Matter vigil to show their support for racial justice. Girl Scouts and their families stood together for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time period that a police officer knelt on George Floyd's neck before he died. At the top of each minute, participants reaffirmed their solidarity against racism and hate. Councils from across the country joined the vigil virtually.
The Council is also offering a Black Girls Matter program series for Girl Scouts and troop leaders, with the next event on August 26 led by Dr. Michelle Meggs, director of the UNC Charlotte Women + Girls Research Alliance. Virtual Diversity, Equity and Inclusion programs in partnership with the Educational Equity Institute will be coming up next month.
Even with this current slate of racial equity programming, there is always room to grow. The organization delivers services by neighborhood and school, so if those places are segregated, the Girl Scouts are, too. This is clearly a problem in Charlotte, where socioeconomics and neighborhoods and infamously linked.
Hornets' Nest wants to create intentional spaces where girls and their families from different neighborhoods can gather. "If we are going to be an open organization, we have to do this work, and we have to look at what has historically kept us from engaging girls across our entire footprint," says Angela.
Girl Scouting at Home
Like so many nonprofits, the Hornets' Nest Council was hit hard by COVID-19. "It's been devastating," says Angela. "Our relationships are built one at a time, face to face. In March when we all had to start working from home, I never imagined a scenario where we would still be at home in August." The council has pivoted to virtual programs like the Black Girls Matter series, along with campouts, STEM workshops and more. "It's been trial and error," says Angela. "It feels like we are innovating and doing start up programs every day."
The pandemic may even present new opportunities to bring more family participation into Girl Scout programs and cut across segregated neighborhoods. "As we are putting virtual programs together we are asking parents what is critical and centering our programming around family gatherings," says Angela. "We know that girls and families need our programming, and we are opening up and being really flexible in terms of being topical with our programming."
Don't Forget About the Girls
As we continue to fight for racial justice, struggle through a pandemic school year, and tackle whatever else 2020 has in store for us, Angela Woods implores us to keep helping organizations that serve girls. The girls who participate in Girl Scouts, EmpowHERment, Girl Talk, and other effective nonprofits could grow up to spark social movements, solve global health crises, or create art that helps change the world. "Girl Scouts is a leadership organization," says Angela. "We don't tell girls what they should be. We empower them to believe they can do whatever they want. They need to know they will be supported however they choose to lead."
Visit hngirlscouts.org to find out how you can support the efforts of the Hornets' Nest Council. They are always looking for women, especially those in their 20s and 30s, to serve as role models for a variety of careers. You can change a girl's life simply by showing her the careers available to her.
Thirty percent of Hornets' Nest Council members receive financial support so they can participate. Your donation can help dismantle barriers to access for girls in our area, with 100% of every dollar donated staying local. Learn more here.
VOTE NOW: Girl Scouts Hornets' Nest Council is in the running to win $5K this month thanks to the Amy and Brian France Foundation who have partnered with SHARE Charlotte for this year’s Spotlight Series and YOU can help when you VOTE NOW! You can also check out the other organizations eligible to win this month’s prize, here!
Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net.