As San Antonio Independent School (SAISD) students wrap up this school year this week, a group of young women is celebrating the conclusion to an exciting pilot program at SAISD.
They have just held closing ceremonies for the national pilot of Gamma Sigma Girls, a partnership between the Girl Scouts of America and SAISD.
Gamma Sigma Girls is a unique leadership development program offered by Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas that combines the proven outcomes of the Girl Scout Leadership Experience with a “sorority-type” setting, targeting girls in high school who have a limited history of Girl Scouts. 261 girls from 10 campuses took part in the program this year.
“After joining Gamma Sigma Girls, I realized that there are people like me who enjoyed helping others, who didn’t need a reason to volunteer other than the joy of knowing you helped someone,” said Irene Sauceda who is a student at Jefferson High School.
Throughout the academic year, the young women of Gamma Sigma Girls took part in activities focused on community service, advocacy and college readiness. Each chapter chose how they wanted to give back to the community with projects included volunteering at the H-E-B Feast of Sharing, Habitat for Humanity and donating to the Battered Women and Children’s Center.
The young women became the first GenTXperts in San Antonio at a special event at College Café in March. They also had a special program designed to get the word out about dating violence.
“The Gamma Sigma Girls made me feel as if I had a place in a group of extraordinary women….Being a Gamma Sigma Girl made me realize that I am no longer alone,” said Sauceda.
The unprecedented partnership between Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas and SAISD has been featured in the New York Times and is nationally recognized as a best practice by Girl Scouts of the USA.
Ann Maria Chavez, Southwest Texas Council chief executive was quoted in the New York Times saying, “Gamma Sigma suggests a club with sorority-like traditions like pinning and candlelight ceremonies that appeal to girls.”
Traditional badges are out. Gamma Sigma will have speakers, workshops and experiences intended to bolster girls’ self-esteem and decision-making, Ms. Chavez said.
What succeeds in San Antonio — which has 18,400 scouts in an area that extends to the Mexico border — will resonate, she said, because the area’s 60 percent Hispanic population mirrors “what is happening across the country, and what the rest of the country will look like in 15 to 20 years.”
“This will help girls get involved and think about who they are and where they want to go with their lives,” said Ms. Chavez, who also noted that “it’s not easy to reach girls that age.”
On June 2, the Gamma Sigma Girls led a closing ceremony at Jefferson High School where they celebrated community service in which they not only served the community, but created a community.
The girl-led ceremony featured several testimonials from this year’s Gamma Sigma Girls. A common theme was the strong bond of sisterhood that Gamma Sigma Girls fostered.
The program will be back next year and the Girl Scouts hope to build on its success.