United Way of Greater Niagara plays a critical role in building the pipeline for the next generation of female leadership in Greater Niagara through its funding of community-based programs and camping opportunities for girls at Girl Scouts of Western New York.

With the support of the United Way, Girl Scouts takes the potential of each G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader), combines it with robust skill-building programming, and adds caring adult mentors and strong female role models. Whether girls are building a robotic arm, setting goals for their cookie business, building a shelter in the backcountry to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, or white water rafting on a camping trip, a Girl Scout has an exciting array of choices to suit her interests at every age.

I am proud that at Girl Scouts, girls get to lead their own adventure and team up with other girls in an all-girl environment to choose the exciting, hands-on activities that interest them most in important skill areas like STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), Outdoors, Life Skills, and Entrepreneurship. The skills girls learn in k-12th grade are transferable as they grow from young women to thriving adults.

Funding from the United Way is vital, as Girl Scout Research Institute studies show when girls participate in Girl Scouts, they benefit in five important ways and develop: a strong sense of self, positive values, challenge seeking, healthy relationships, and community problem solving. When girls exhibit these attitudes and skills, they become responsible, productive, caring, and engaged citizens.

Girl Scouts step-up, step-out, and take the lead to make a difference in Niagara County. Girls learn to think critically about different issues and solve problems through year-round immersive experiences in Girl Scouts.

Girl Scouts like Samantha Jaeger and Erin Fisher of Lockport completed high school this past June and exemplify the Girl Scout mission. Here are their opinions of their Girl Scout experience:

“Girl Scouting has made me a more responsible and respectful person. Being a Girl Scout has taught me to always help out when I can with my family, friends and my community,” said Jaeger who is a Gold Award Girl Scout and Alum from Lockport.

Fisher, another of our Gold Award Girl Scouts, shared, “I have been a Girl Scout as long as I can remember. Being part of such an amazing group, I can’t even begin to count the skills I have learned and the benefits of being guided by such a selfless group of women and men. I have become a lifelong learner, a leader, and developed a strong sense of self-worth. In Girl Scouts, I found my love for helping others within and outside of my community. Girl Scouts has allowed me to meet so many women that are leaders in my community as well. I am truly inspired to get started with my future.”

Sure there are plenty of other great programs around for girls, but only Girl Scouts has the time-tested methods and research-backed programming that help girls take the lead—in their own lives and in the world. The proof is in the results including 70% of today’s women senators, 100% of women Secretaries of States, 80% of female tech leaders, and 90% of female astronauts who have flown in space in the U.S. were all Girl Scouts.

Girls who tackle the most complex problems in their communities have the opportunity to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award which is the most prestigious award in the world for girls. Gold Award Girl Scouts serve a minimum of 80 hours through their dynamic individual service projects that make the community a better place — and it’s only available to Girl Scouts. It’s a one-of-a-kind opportunity for girls to engage in a rigorous process that calls for leadership at the highest level, as they tackle issues they feel passionately about. Gold Award Girl Scouts earn college scholarships, demonstrate high educational and career outcomes, and are active in their communities.

In June, I had the pleasure of awarding 58 young women with the Girl Scout Gold Award and six are from Niagara County. I am proud to share that both Samantha and Erin are among these esteemed young women. Their two projects have both a local and global reach and will continue to impact not only Niagara County, but also as far away as Africa.

Samantha’s Gold Award project focused on benefitting animals at the local animal shelter here in our community. Samantha performed educational presentations for school-aged children throughout Niagara County on the importance of pet adoption and overall pet care. She also made blankets for pets with an instructional book to recreate the blanket.

Erin’s Gold Award project provided elementary students at Azizakpe Elementary School located on a small island in the Volta River in Ada, Ghana, Africa with basic medical supplies and knowledge to be able to prevent more children from passing from curable tragedies. She purchased a medical pack with over-the-counter drugs and basic first-aid supplies and organized the building of a cabinet to house items at the school permanently.

The inclusive, all-female environment of a Girl Scout troop creates a safe space where girls can try new things, develop a range of skills, take on leadership roles, and just be themselves.

Samantha and Erin are college-bound, entering a new and exciting phase in their lives with the tools needed to succeed given their participation in Girl Scouts. Girl-led, expert-approved, and volunteer-supported, Girl Scouts helps girls discover their strengths and change the world.

It is inspiring to know that the United Way of Greater Niagara has a vested interest in powering the next generation of female leadership in Greater Niagara in partnership with Girl Scouts of Western New York, and we appreciate their investment in girls.


Alison Wilcox is the CEO of Girl Scouts of Western New York. To learn more about Girl Scout membership for girls and adult volunteering, visit gswny.org or call 1.888.837.6410.

Recommended for you