By Barbara Baird, Women’s Outdoor News
We recently were introduced to the Frontier Girls Club . I was contacted by founder Kerry Cordy, who thought the Frontier Girls Club would be an interesting interview about this fledgling organization that turns girls into outdoor women.
Barbara: What’s the background of the organization and what role did you, Kerry, play in it?
Kerry: Six years ago in 2007 Frontier Girls officially came into existence. What began as a simple, stand-alone group, put together as an alternative to Girl Scouts, has now reached more than 40 states.
Growing up, I belonged to a fantastic Girl Scout troop run by my mom. Our troop was a multi-level group of eclectic girls who had little in common outside Girl Scouts, and yet we had one of the strongest troops in town. Thanks to my mom, seven of us earned our Gold Award, the highest award available in Girl Scouting. I loved Girl Scouts so much that as soon as I turned 18, I became a camp counselor at one of their summer camps. When I was blessed with two daughters, I couldn’t wait to become their Girl Scout leader and as soon as Katie, my oldest, started kindergarten in 2002, I opened my Girl Scout troop.
Like my mom, I had a hard time saying no to any child who wanted to join my troop and soon my troop spanned from Daisies to Juniors (grades K-5) with nearly 20 girls.
In 2004 I had my first Cadette join (a 6th grader) and was introduced to the Girl Scout’s Studio 2B program. I was appalled. This was not Girl Scouts as I knew it. I started researching the National Girl Scout council and finally came to the conclusion that this was no longer an organization I felt comfortable supporting. At the end of the school year in 2005, I quit. The next year was spent trying to find an alternative. I tried opening an American Heritage Girls troop, but my co-leader at the time was Mormon and could not sign their statement of faith. How could I look her daughter in the eye and say, “Sweetie, you can still be in my troop, but your mom can’t help anymore because she does not believe exactly what I do.” I wanted a program that upheld the things I thought were important: patriotism, moral character, community service, and a love of learning, but simply couldn’t find a perfect fit.
In the fall of 2006, I decided to open my own private troop and call ourselves Frontier Girls. My father had recently passed away, and since there was so much interest in my troop, I used the money he left me to hire a lawyer and set up a non-profit organization. The papers were officially filed on January 19, 2007. The next year and a half were spent writing and creating the Frontier Girls program. My troop of 30 girls went through two uniform changes, countless badge and pin changes, requirement changes and more, until we finally had a program we thought was ready to share. In the fall of 2008 we started opening troops in other states.
Unfortunately we soon learned how expensive it was to run a non-profit legally in a variety of states. By 2010 I had invested everything I was legally allowed to and we were still in debt over $7000. The board voted to close the non-profit and sell me back the name and logo. As of September 1, 2010, Frontier Girls, Inc. became Frontier Girls Clubs and is now a privately owned business. With the freedom to invest more money into the program, we finally began to grow and by the end of 2012, we had well over 100 troops in 40 states.
When I started Frontier Girls, I made a commitment to write a badge for anything the girls wanted to learn about, as long as it was not a controversial subject. Since then, we have added hundreds of badges with thousands of possibilities for individual specialization. For example, we have a Natural Wonders badge that you can use to earn individual badges for every natural wonder you study. You can earn a Waterfalls badge, Canyons Badge, Geysers badge, etc.
Over the last several years, girls, parents, and leaders from around the country have submitted ideas and suggestions, written badges, and supported one and other to create a fantastic program that has something for everyone. While Frontier Girls may have been my brainchild, it is what it is today because of the love and dedication of our many members. We are truly a grassroots group. Much of what has become official Frontier Girls programming started as an idea from a girl, parent, or troop. We added the preschool level in 2011 thanks to Troop #109 in Hawkins, Texas, who not only showed us it was possible to integrate preschoolers, but also wrote an addition to our handbook to help others do the same. Now, our Penguin level (preschool) is one of our fastest growing age groups. Junior high and high school girls also flock to our program, as it allows them to integrate their other interests into badge work within Frontier Girls. Flexibility is key.
Barbara: How would you say that you’re different than the Girl Scouts?
Kerry: The Girl Scout program has changed dramatically from when I was a girl. They are no longer a skills-based organization, but a leadership-based organization, and they have discontinued most of their badges. Instead, their new Journeys program, which follows state standards for schools, is their main focus. While there are many beneficial things about Journeys, for those looking for a traditional scouting style experience, this is not it. It is too much like school. There is way too much, “read, reflect, and discuss” and not nearly enough “do” anymore. Many great Girl Scout leaders still run their troops in the traditional manner, but it is no longer the focus of the Girl Scout program.
The main focus of Frontier Girls, however, is the badges. It is about exposing the girls to as many new things as possible and then stretching the knowledge and skills they learn to new levels. While teamwork and leadership are a big part of Frontier Girls, and we offer higher awards that focus on leadership, the badges are what really makes our program special. We have traditional badges such as Camping, Hiking, and First Aid, but then we have eclectic badges such as Gemstones, Kites, and Worms. Frontier Girls badges are divided into nine Areas of Discover.
Discover the Home
Discover Health and Safety
Discover the Outdoors
Discover Science and Technology
Discover the World
Whether you are looking to earn a badge on Responsibility, Watercolors, Budgeting, Hunting, or Dairying, we have a badge for you. If we don’t, we’ll write one. Frontier Girls also promotes patriotism with our Liberty Award, community service with our Servant’s Heart and Make a Difference Awards, leadership with our Leadership Award, character with our Fruit of the Spirit Award, and life skills with our Life Skill Achievement Award.
Barbara: It’s an interesting concept … of being able to complete a Boy Scouts’ badge. A lot of takers on that idea?
Kerry: I have done my best to make Frontier Girls as flexible and family friendly as possible while still maintaining the integrity of the program. By honoring the Boy Scout requirements, it allows families to work together on badges without worrying about two sets of requirements. Since the Boy Scout requirements are usually as in depth, or sometimes even more so, than the Frontier Girl requirements, we feel that the skill and knowledge level is about the same regardless of the exact requirements used.
While Frontier Girls does not have an official national partnership with Boy Scouts, many Boy Scout troops across the country now run a sister troop of Frontier Girls. These troops camp together, have ceremonies together, do community service and parades together, and more. It only makes sense when the siblings are frequently present for meetings and such anyway. With a Boy Scout/Frontier Girl partnership, the girls have something to do at the same time and place as the boys. They are still separate, but work together, so it is the best of both worlds. The girls are allowed to earn any age appropriate badge that the Boy Scouts offer, even if Frontier Girls has not yet written their own requirements. If you’ve ever heard a girl say they want to do what the boys do, then Frontier Girls is for you.
Barbara: Why is Frontier Girls a good fit for the young girls?
Kerry: Unlike other scouting programs for girls, Frontier Girls dedicates an entire Area of Discovery to the outdoors. We currently offer five different firearms badges, a hunting badge, fishing (this badge can be specialized for specific fishing conditions such as fresh water, saltwater, bass, trout, etc.), archery, wilderness survival and more. From rock climbing and ziplining to kayaking and canoeing, we encourage the girls to get outside and explore their world.
Thanks to Barbara Baird at WomensOutdoorNews.com for this contribution. To see more Women’s Outdoor News please click here —> http://www.womensoutdoornews.com. To learn more about Frontier Girls Clubs please click here —> http://frontiergirlsclubs.com/.