What does a dad do when his daughter’s troop takes a vote to elect him the new troop leader when their current leader had to step down? For Girl Scout dad, Rob Barnett, there was no choice when he was called to duty…and now he’s the leader of Troop 8709 in St. Joseph, Missouri. This former Eagle Scout, Navy veteran, musician, Harley builder is a jack of all trades who believes the most important job in the world is that of being a dad.
Troop 8709 has an incredible network of parent volunteers and that has always included the Barnetts. When the former leader had to step down, the troop felt the decision of picking their next leader should be girl-led. At the time, Rob was their basketball coach, so the girls were used to being on a team with him. “I wasn’t at the meeting at the time, but the girls took a vote and asked me. I said yes because even though I’m a guy, I always try to be part of my girls’ lives. And Scouting has been part of my life,” Rob said. Luckily, the troop has a wide range of interests, meaning “Coach Rob’s” background that ranges from musical theatre to building motorcycles to primitive camping was put to good use.
When Rob was young, he was very active in Boy Scouts and believes the skills he learned and values from his experiences are the same things Girl Scouts teaches his daughters. “Girl Scouts gives them a good moral compass. It gives them a foundation of what’s right and it’s coming from something other than me just telling them to do it,” Rob said. Both of Rob’s daughters, Morgan and Alexandria (Allie), were in Girl Scouts starting as Daisies. Morgan is now a freshman at Missouri Western State University where she is a cheerleader and studying to be a doctor. Alexandria is a freshman in high school and just bridged to Senior Girl Scout with Troop 8709.
For the Barnetts, having the girls involved in Girl Scouts was simply part of the learning experience they wanted for their daughters. “[Girl Scouts] teaches them to be individuals, give thanks and that you don’t have to conform. It shows them that you can just do what you need to do and not worry about what other people are doing,” Rob said. Through Girl Scouts, he has been part of his daughter earning her Silver Award, the troop creating new events for younger girls and even working on business skills like fundraising to take a Girl Scout destinations trip overseas in 2017.
Now that Rob is a leader, he is not only appreciating his Boy Scout leaders, but he now has an appreciation for the challenges that come with being a parent and leader. “The hardest thing about being a parent and a leader is that you have to step back. It’s still my little girl and I want to jump in and help. But sometimes you have to let them sink a little bit so they can figure out how to start paddling back up,” Rob said. The troop is fortunate to have a team of supportive parents, including Rob’s wife, Chasity, Rob’s co-leader Sarah Graham is incredibly supportive and helps Rob with some of the “girl” stuff that the troop wants to do at times.
One of the proudest moments he had recently was watching his daughter, Allie, work with younger girls on a diversity exercise for World Thinking Day. “They were teaching these little girls that diversity is more than just hair color, skin color, nationality…it’s personality, it’s likes and dislikes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get along. And the look in the eyes of the little girls…that was a great moment for me to see, not just with my daughter, but the other girls too,” Rob said. The troop has a “Cupcake Fun” event in March 2016 where the troop will show younger Girl Scouts different cake decorating methods in a “Cupcake Wars” style event.
For Rob, the troop is more than a group of girls – they’re an extended family. “They’re like my daughters, all of them, so I want them to know they always have a safe haven,” Rob said. His dedication to these girls reaches beyond troop meetings. He attends band concerts, sporting events and other activities outside of Girl Scouts that the girls participate in. “My Boy Scout leader was there for more than just Boy Scouts. It was my sports, choir concerts, everything. And I remember what that meant to me,” Rob said.
As a male troop leader, Rob knows he plays a special role in the lives of these girls. “In a world of glass ceilings, I think that it’s important for me, as a dad, to show girls that it’s okay to be a leader. They’re just as capable as a guy. I want them to know that gender does not control where they end up in life – they control where they end up in life,” Rob said. What a powerful message he is teaching the troop. Having such a dedicated leader is part of why Troop 8709 has such a rich Girl Scouting experience!
We love hearing stories of men who are willing to stand up and say they’re “Man Enough to be a Girl Scout!” Thank you to Rob Barnett and all the parent volunteers for Troop 8709! If you’d like to share a story about a great Girl Scout male caregiver, comment below!