As North Texans prepare for the coming school year, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, which coverage area includes Hopkins County, will mark their commitment to building confident, resilient girls with a premier virtual event, Start Strong—a panel discussion to help parents of rising kindergarteners start their students’ education on the right foot. Featuring the perspectives of experts in mental health, social and emotional learning, education, and parenting, the event is part of a larger organizational initiative to help address girls’ mental health needs.
“Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas exists to help girls become their best selves, and carrying out that mission has never been more critical,” said Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. “Girls today face immense internal and external challenges to their mental health. Organizations like Girl Scouts provide essential spaces for girls to build their confidence, overcome setbacks and challenges, and connect to caring adult mentors.”
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, today’s girls were facing significantly more challenges to their mental health than prior generations. According to a 2017 study, anxiety and depression are increasingly some of the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorders for children ages 3-17, with rates of depression 13% higher for girls than for boys. Also, significantly more girls have been victims of cyberbullying, have needed treatment for mental health disorders and have seriously considered suicide compared to 2007. All of this was before their worlds were disrupted by the novel coronavirus. This spring, Girl Scouts
This spring, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas softlaunched mental-health-focused programming and activities for Girl Scouts, parents, troop leaders, volunteers and staff. Programming addresses the age-appropriate needs of each audience and focuses on helping girls overcome challenges, connecting girls to approachable experts, building empathy, teaching healthy habits integrating mental wellness and employing tactics to help girls discover and develop a strong sense of self.
The council also launched a hands-on, activity-based patch program to help girls develop greater social and emotional confidence as they learn that it is OK to talk about mental health. The patch program runs through the year and is operated in partnership with “Okay to Say” and the Meadows Mental Health Policy Institute. Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas will continue to offer virtual mental health and wellness activities, virtual meet-ups, and introductions to experts and resources during the coming school year.
Chaired by Charles Knight, vice president of Pariveda Solutions, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas also formed a mental health and wellness advisory committee. The committee includes: Sheriff Marian Brown, Dallas County Sheriff ’s Department; Christopher Crow, CEO, StratiFi Health; Scott Flannery, CEO, North Texas & Oklahoma - UnitedHealthcare North Texas; Donna German; Kevin Hall, president, Grant Halliburton Foundation; Terry Bentley Hill, attorney, The Law Office of Terry Bentley Hill; Jennifer Hughes, psychologist, Center for Depression Research and Clinical Care, UT Southwestern Medical Center; Maria Johnson, director, Youth and Family Innovations, Center for BrainHealth, University of Texas at Dallas; Robbi Luxbacher; and Brandy Schumann, clinical associate professor, Department of Dispute Resolution and Counseling, Southern Methodist University.
To kick off their programming for the new school year, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas will host a panel discussion to help parents of kindergartners prepare for what is sure to be a unique transition this fall. The virtual event features Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas; Aimee Herron-Troy, MS, CCC-SLP, Center for BrainHealth, University of Texas at Dallas; Olga Hickman, PhD, executive director, Bachman Lake Together; and Dr. Elena Hill, assistant superintendent, Early Learning, Dallas Independent School District. The panel will be moderated by Shelly Slater.
"The transition to kindergarten can be challenging for the most well-adjusted preschool student, but with more time spent at home, new procedures and the cancellation of in-person readiness events, the future class of 2033 is in for a unique set of challenges,” said Bartkowski. “We want parents to know that Girl Scouts can help connect them to a network of resources to help their girls succeed.”
To register for the Start Strong panel, visit eventbrite.com/e/ start-strong-kinder-prepevent-powered-by-girlscouts-of-northeast-texastickets-112721539158.
READY FOR SCHOOL
In addition to troop programming, which is still taking place virtually and through socially distanced in-person activities, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas will host additional community activities this fall, including a four-week Kindergarten Readiness series. Make New Friends is
Make New Friends is a four-part virtual series that provides opportunities for girls to strengthen four competencies as they enter kindergarten. This series allows them to connect with the same friends each week, as well as with Girl Scout staff and volunteers who lead them through sessions around language and literacy, cognition, approaches to learning, and social and emotional learning. Registration is free and open to girls entering kindergarten this fall.
To register or learn more about the Make New Friends Kinder Readiness series, visit https:// www.eventbrite.com/e/ make-new-friendsvirtual-learningseries-tickets-114362762100
In late August, Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas will launch the “LookUp Challenge”—a partnership with Lookup.live. This weeklong challenge helps children and adolescents avoid digital overload by finding unique ways to unplug and look up. Several additional events focused on mental health and wellness are being planned for the fall, including family-friendly film screenings, mental health first aid for volunteers, peers support training for older girls and more.
Visit gsnetx.org to learn more about coming events.