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Spotlight: Girl Scouts take on Lego

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Submitted Photo Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest at White Sands National Park before the pandemic. The meetings are now on Zoom and adventures are shared with others on the Facebook Live platform.

Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest to host Lego derby in Roswell

By Christina Stock

Vision Editor

Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest (GSDSW), which includes Southern New Mexico and West Texas, live by the slogan, “Always be prepared.” Proof of their resilience and collective teamwork is seen this year during the pandemic.

In a phone interview, Rink Somerday, STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) director of GSDSW, talked about the upcoming Lego derby in Roswell and what GSDSW stands for.

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“Even with the pandemic and everything, Girl Scouts never closed,” she said. “We were still open, operating. We switched from in-person meetings to doing virtual meetings over Zoom or Facebook Live events, that sort of thing.”

Asked what the derby entails, Somerday said that after every participating Girl Scout receives her Lego package, they have to build the optimal vehicle. “The Girl Scout Lego Derby is a car race,” she said. “In a perfect world — if it wasn’t the pandemic — we would all do this in person, of course. We modified it a little bit where the girls pick up the package with the chassis and all the Legos that they need. They make their car at home, they can test it at home to see which design works better. We encourage them to test different designs; once they have a car they’re comfortable with and they think it’s a good design, we ask them to glue it together so the Legos don’t fall apart. Then they turn the car back in and we hold the race, which will be livestreaming on Facebook. That way the girls at home can see it. It’s a one and done race. Whoever goes fastest down the track in that age group of girls wins first place. There is a second place and then we have an overall grand prize for the winner who had the fastest car in the entire race.”

Asked how girls may become part of the organization, Somerday said that there is a unique opportunity this year to test if it is something the girl would like to join in: A free one-year membership is available, thanks to a grant. “We put them in to a virtual troop so they don’t have to worry about meeting in person,” Somerday said. “The virtual troop meets once a week for half an hour in the evening; older girls meet 45 minutes because older girls can handle a little longer screen time. We don’t want to do much screen time because most of them get a lot of screen time during school.

“Then, once we are back to normal and meeting face to face, we’ll get them with an in-person troop, and they can have the whole experience for a year and hopefully find something they really enjoy and renew for the rest of the time that they are girls or adults. I was a Girl Scout as a girl myself and now I am an adult. I was an adult Girl Scout before I started working for them,” Somerday said.

The Girl Scout troops are also very diverse Somerday said. “Even if you are in a troop here, you’re not just regulated to stay within our council, especially now that there are virtual activities throughout the country. We had some virtual activities over the summer and also a summer camp which was, of course, done from home. But we had Girl Scouts from all over the country signing up for some of our councils’ programs and some of our girls have gone out and done other councils’ programs. If you are in Girl Scouts, you are in the community with the whole nation of Girl Scouts.”

The GSDSW troops cover one of the largest territories, from the Arizona border all the way through the south of New Mexico and into the Big Bend area, which includes Alpine and Terrelingua. “It’ll take you about 10 hours from one side of the council to the other if you want to drive it,” Somerday said.

There are six levels for Girl Scout troops. The youngest are Daisies, kindergarten and first graders, and new for the last four years is the oldest branch, which are called Ambassadors and are 11th and 12th graders.

“We also have what we call individual registered members (IRM),” Somerday said. Those are girls that aren’t in a troop. You can be a Girl Scout and not be in a troop and still participate in anything Girl Scouts. That’s great, especially down here in Southeast New Mexico and West Texas where we have little communities where there may not be enough girls to make a troop or have an adult that is interested in being a leader, but a girl really wants to be a Girl Scout, that’s a perfect solution.”

Troops and individual Girl Scouts can join events and explore. Just recently, Somerday said that they had an event called Girl Scouts Love State Parks. This was a national event to encourage Girl Scouts to go out and explore their local state parks. Some parks were explored on Facebook Live.

“Our meetings are on Zoom and Zoom is a free platform so you don’t have to pay anything to get on it. We try to make it cost-effective. We want everyone to be able to join, we don’t want cost to be a barrier,” Somerday said.

For girls who want to join, there are different troops depending on interest, Somerday said. Some are more outdoor and adventure-focused, others enjoy more arts and crafts projects or technology.

“Girl Scouts is by girls for girls,” Somerday said. “It is girl-led so as a parent I would take confidence in the fact knowing that my girl has a voice that she is given. Girl Scouts installs character, confidence, courage and know that it is the premier girl organization. We were just voted in Parent Magazine the No. 1 after school organization.”

For more information on the Lego derby, visit gsdsw.doubleknot.com/event/girl-scout-lego-derby-roswell. Deadline for Girl Scouts to sign up is Oct. 9, by 4 p.m. For information on becoming a Girl Scout, visit gsdsw.org or call 915-566-9433.