COUNTY — Local Girl Scout Troops in San Luis Obispo County teamed up with Bank of America in 2020 to bring a financial literacy patch to their members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The course was administered virtually and ran for eight to ten weeks, depending on the girls’ level and age in the troop taking the course. 

“Bank Of America reached out to form a partnership with us to host some virtual workshops, and it just so happened that with the pandemic, we had to switch over to virtual programming,” Girl Scouts of California Central Coast Program Manager Lindsey Hatlee said. “We worked with them to design something that could still work for the girls so they could earn their badges from the safety of their home.”

The Girl Scouts accept members ranging from ages five up to 18 and even offer lifetime memberships to girls who have aged out of the program but want to stay involved. In a typical year, Girl Scouts can earn badges and patches for completing tasks in a multitude of different fields, including the outdoors, entrepreneurship, and STEM, as well as selling ungodly amounts of cookies starting at the end of January each year. 

“We are really about building girls of courage, confidence, and character,” Hatlee explained. “Those are the core values we want to teach the girls and show that it is important and that we can make the world a better place.”

The Girl Scouts have troops all over the Central Coast, including 16 in Atascadero, two in Templeton, 10 in Paso Robles, and 2 in San Miguel, many of which had their girls participating in financial literacy courses. 

The course, which functions as part of the FDIC smart money program, began with teaching the basics of financial literacy like the differences between wants and needs and worked their way into debit and credit differences. 

“I was so excited to do it; it was so much fun,” San Luis Obispo’s Bank Of America Market Manager, Margaret Klevins, said. “I had the Brownie’s and Juniors; they were pretty young, but they were so attentive during our eight-week series, and we met every Monday evening except holidays.”

The classes began in early 2020 with decent attendance, around 20 girls per Zoom meeting, but by the year’s end, each class could contain more than 60 girls, all learning new and essential ways to manage their money. 

“The reason we do it — the biggest and most important take away for the girls — is that you can’t just learn something like financial literacy once. It is more of a concept, and once you learn it, it continues to grow.”

While younger girls learned just the fundamentals, more seasoned members like Cadets and Seniors learned the benefits of a savings account and how to begin saving for that new set of wheels or even a four-year college education.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Girl Scouts have seen a decline in membership as their ability to conduct everyday events has been brought to a halt, but they continue to find new and creative ways to support the girls in their troops. 

Those whose mouths start watering at just the mention of Girl Scout Cookies are in luck as the cookie season is just around the corner. Those little portable tables draped in forest green clothes stacked to the heavens with cookies will soon make their reemergence as the Girl Scout Cookie season runs from late January till the beginning of March. 

For anyone wishing to join the Girl Scouts or to get more information, head to girlscouts.org.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles