Metro, Food, Features, Newton

Cookie Connoisseurs: Newton Girl Scouts Build Skills Through Cookie Sales at BC

It’s an annual tradition. In McElroy Commons or Maloney Hall, young girls stand behind a table stacked with cookie boxes, handling change and passing off boxes to customers. It can only mean one thing—Girl Scout cookie season has arrived at Boston College.

“It’s a great opportunity, you know, for girls to be on college campuses,” Erin Sullivan, senior director of product program and retail for Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts (GSEMA), said. “It’s a great thing for them to be able to see, to be able to interact with college students, especially with women on a college campus … we’re so grateful for universities that let us on.”

The Girl Scout cookie season in Eastern Massachusetts lasts from Dec. 6, 2022 through March 10 in order to maximize the involvement of the various troops in the area, according to Sullivan. About 1,500 girls in GSEMA sell cookies each season, she said.

“We want to give the girls the opportunity to participate in a schedule that works for them,” she said. 

Newton Girl Scouts began in 1918, according to its website. Today, Newton is home to over 30 Girl Scout troops, and according to Jenna Vincenzo, a Girl Scout ambassador, there are many opportunities for Newton-based community service as well as collaboration between Newton troops.

“In terms of the older troops, we always help out the younger troops with things, like we host events and stuff that we do together, just to kind of bring all the troops together in Newton,” Vincenzo said. “But in terms of the community stuff, we usually just stay local in Newton.”

While the presence of Newton Girl Scouts on BC’s campus is well known among students, it is a relative rarity compared to other institutions. BC is one of the few universities that allows Girl Scout cookie booths, according to Sullivan.

“There’s very few campuses that allow Girl Scouts to sell at this point, and, you know, of course that probably has to do with contracts that universities have with their food vendors and all that,” she said.

The opportunity to sell on BC’s campus specifically is a coveted one, according to Vincenzo.

“It’s such a hot commodity with Newton troops, and who gets to do what day and for which slot,” Vincenzo said. “We get so much support from the whole BC community, and everybody comes down … BC’s by far one of the best spots to sell in terms of how many we sell, because they just sell like hotcakes.”

With each box priced at $5 a piece, 18 percent of proceeds go to the troop, five percent go to funding cookie prizes, which are given to scouts that achieve a certain amount of cookie sales, 23 percent go to paying the bakers, and the rest goes to the GSEMA council, Sullivan said. 

The troop-specific proceeds go to a troop activity and a troop community service project, according to Jessica Berry, the leader of second-year Brownie troop, Troop 70123, and mother of one of the girls. 

The division of proceeds between recreation and service is a way to facilitate both growth and group fun, she said.

“I showed them a learning A to Z video on wants and needs and then they, together, compiled a list … and voted and narrowed it down to what causes they wanted to purchase things for or donate money to,” Berry said. “Last year, they donated about $250 worth of toys and supplies to the animal shelter. … The year before that they donated $300 worth of toys to Newton-Wellesley Hospital.”

The act of selling cookies itself is valuable in terms of personal growth, according to Vincenzo.

“It’s a great life skill in general, just like how to do a transaction when you don’t know, and you’re young, how to handle money about the products you’re selling,” she said. “Organization is key.”

From a developmental standpoint, being in Girl Scouts can play a major role in healthy social and emotional growth in young girls, according to Jacqueline Lerner, a developmental psychology specialist and professor of applied developmental and educational psychology at BC​​.  

“They’re learning life skills, strategies, agency about themselves,” Lerner said. “Increasing confidence and getting that environment, adult mentors, to support them along the way. And those are the key ingredients to healthy and successful outcomes.

Given Girl Scouts’ 105-year history in Newton, it has become a prevalent part of the community experience, according to Berry.

“So my mom was a Girl Scout, and so was my grandmother,” she said. “It’s been a great place for girls to build friendships but also recognize needs in the community and help fill those needs”

According to Berry, speaking with BC students and administrators and bonding with other troop members gives Girl Scouts the opportunity to form new connections and relationships. It is this connection that motivates her to continue as a troop leader, she said.

“Our last meeting, my daughter looks at me, she goes, ‘See mom, aren’t you glad you decided to do it again this year,’ because all the girls were engaged and having fun,” she said. “They love to be there. They want to be there. You only meet twice a month, but we’ve become a group.”

February 6, 2023