Graduating high school, going off to college, and starting a career are some of the first steps young people take towards adulthood. From taking the SAT and completing college applications to writing a great résumé and planning a career path, there’s a lot that high school students have to think about. And even though parents, teachers, and school counselors constantly remind students of these milestones, they oftentimes still feel overwhelmed and unprepared. Youth Truth surveyed graduating high school students and found an astoundingly low 45% felt confident about their college and career readiness. The Nation’s Report Card stated that less than 40% of students score at college and career ready levels on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Given these intimidating reports, it is no wonder our older Girl Scouts are looking for strategies to help them better prepare for the future.   

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For over 30 years, Girl Scouts of Northern California’s annual Lead the Way leadership conference has been an essential part of preparing for that future as high school girls gather together to develop personal and professional skills. Taking place in either late January or early February, this girl-led conference is continually being refreshed to meet the needs of today’s high school girls. In 2017, a group of Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts from the Lead the Way Planning Committee as well as participants from previous conferences gathered to look at national research results on what girls and families need as well as survey results on what the Lead the Way conference had been offering. From the data and feedback, they changed the focus of the conference from strictly leadership skills to leadership, college preparation, career preparation, and life skills. All of the skills that girls have reported needing yet not getting in other venues of their lives. 

Lead the Way

The planning committee developed an event packed full of interactive workshops and learning opportunities, in addition to a STEM night, yoga and other stress relief activities, and even a keynote speaker, to help young women feel inspired and better prepared for that moment when they leave the nest for their next great grown-up adventure. They wanted an experience where they could practice managing themselves without their parents, teachers, or leaders, an experience that would mirror college or the work world so they have a better understanding as to what’s to come from adulthood. They wanted a weekend where they were supported by adults who have been in their shoes, who can teach them the vital skills and techniques that are not taught in school. These adults are selected for their vast experience in their field; one such speaker is a female mechanic that has been working in this male dominated field for over 10 years. 

Lead the Way is set up to allow young women to build their own course schedule based on their needs, interests, and desired skills. During this weekend-long conference, high school girls will participate in workshops ranging from personal development like confidence development and time management, to college and career prep like networking and application writing, to helpful life skills like team building and public speaking. By the end of the experience, these young women will leave with new knowledge, new skill sets, and a newfound sense of confidence to help them find their way. 

To help you get a better idea of how beneficial this girl-led conference is, here’s what some of our Girl Scouts are saying about the Lead the Way experience: 

“I feel like I am one step closer to being able to thrive in my future and in our current world.” 

“Attending Lead the Way made me feel like I can leave a mark for anything I do. That I can do something GREAT.” 

“Lead the Way motivates me to work towards my goals and gives me resources to succeed which empowers me to lead and work hard.” 

“I felt like I could immediately apply it to my life because I have so many questions about those things that cannot be answered in school.” 

“It prepared you really well for subjects that can be hard to figure out on your own.” 

“I learned about things that otherwise I would have to learn on my own and learning though Lead the Way consolidates all this information.” 

Whether you’re a troop leader or a parent, at Girl Scouts, we all play a part in preparing girls for the rigors of life and helping them become successful young women. One vital way to make a difference in your girls’ lives is to support them and simply be there for them – talk to them about what they want to do, how they can prepare for college and careers, as well as what they need to do or what skills they need to develop in order to achieve their goals. And if you’re looking for expertise on topics of skill building, networking, or college and career planning, our annual Lead the Way conference is here to help prepare and inspire girls to forge ahead into the real world! 

What to do next:

  • Lead the Way takes place February 2-4, 2018. Get your girls ready for the future and register today.
  • Visit our website and discover more leadership opportunities for Girl Scouts.
  • We all want our girls to grow up and do great things, so whether she’s a Daisy or an Ambassador, encourage her to lead like a Girl Scout with these civic engagement badges.

Marla FeierabendMarla Feierabend—Marla, Program Director, manages Girl Scout programs with a focus on leadership and awards for 6th to 12th graders across Girl Scouts of Northern California’s 19 county service areas. Marla has a Bachelor of Science from Western Washington University and a Masters of Science in Recreation and Leisure Management from San Jose State University.