For Martha and Marlen, working at Girl Scouts isn’t just their job, it’s their passion. Collectively, these two are troop leaders and mentors for more than 100 girls in 10 troops in the Outreach Program and are mothers of five Girl Scouts themselves!
It was Juliette Gordon Low’s vision that all girls could be a Girl Scout, learn new skills they may not have an opportunity to anywhere else and make a difference in their community and beyond. Through the Outreach program, Girl Scouts of NE Kansas & NW Missouri employs program leaders like Martha and Marlen, to provide the Girl Scout experience to girls in 24 schools located in the Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas school districts.
Martha and Marlen are both team leads for troops at schools in the KCK district. In this leadership role, they are serving girls, managing a team, working with the school administration and are translators for Spanish speaking students and parents.
Martha and Marlen have similar backgrounds; they are both Mexican immigrants, relocating to United States and ultimately to Kansas City, Kansas with their families when they were children. Martha was 5 and Marlen was 11.
“Our background really connects us with the families in KCK. It helps that were able to understand the culture and the culture differences and it helps that we were both raised in the community,” Marlen said.
They are building trust within their community and showing that Girl Scouts is a program that provides an abundance of opportunities to girls.
“We’re not just serving the children, we’re serving the families,” Martha explained. “We know the struggle of being an immigrant, coming to the states and adjusting to this new culture. We are able to help and provide programming that will help their daughters have a better future and become leaders.”
There’s a stigma in their Hispanic culture that boys are superior to girls and that men are the ones who hold the leadership positions within the family and community. In the United States these families are being exposed to the idea that men and women are equal, but Girl Scouts is actually showing them that.
“Girls are coming to Girl Scouts to become leaders; so they can learn everything and see that they can do anything that boys do,” Marlen said. “In Girl Scouts we teach them that girls are just as equal as boys.”
Martha and Marlen are working to inspire young Latina women, through Girl Scouts, that girls can be anything that they want to be. However, Martha and Marlen will tell you it’s Girl Scouts and their girls that are inspiring them.
We see the impact the Outreach Program has on the girls, but we don’t always think about the impact that working with girls has on adults, especially Martha and Marlen.
It wasn’t until three years ago that the government passed legislation that gave Martha and Marlen the right to work in the United States. When their families immigrated to the United States more than 20 years ago, Martha and Marlen were undocumented. However, they both grew up here and as they have become adults, they have established themselves within the community.
“We’re immigrants and we work hard. We went to school here and we want to be part of this community,” Martha said.
Working at Girl Scouts is only the second job that Marlen has had, and she is learning more about herself in this role.
“Girl Scouts makes me feel secure and helped me find my patience. I didn’t think I was patient, but I realized I am,” she said!
For Martha, the opportunity to work at Girl Scouts has made her realize her purpose.
“My mom always told me that one day I would become somebody important, but I never really knew what she meant,” Martha said. “As I go on and enjoy my job with Girl Scouts, I realize that I AM somebody important to the girls I work with.”
Martha and Marlen aren’t just Girl Scout staff members or troop leaders. They are mentors and role models to the girls they work with. They are the ones teaching the girls, and showing them, that they can be anything they want to be.