Quick, what is the first thing that pops into your head when someone says Girl Scouts? It’s probably not Girls Scouts Baby Camp or Girl Scouting Behind Bars or Girl Scouting in Detention Centers.

Nope, it’s probably cookies. And why wouldn’t it? Those cookies are delicious, but the Girl Scouts are about more than cookies.

“People know about cookies and camp, but they really don’t know about the amount of community service that Girl Scouting provides,” said Barb Strachan, program manager for the Just-Us-Social Justice Programs at the Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus-Pine Council.

Girl Scouts Baby Camp, Girl Scouting Behind Bars and Girl Scouting in Detention Centers are all part of the Just-Us-Social Justice program, along with a big conference they host every year to discuss the issues that affect girls the most.

The conference, “A Girl’s World is Different,” is an all-day event for parents, troop leaders, professionals in the field, grandparents, group home leaders or advocates on Friday, Feb. 15 and costs $50 to attend. It will feature guest speakers and workshops focused on three topics; bullying, education and human trafficking.

“We look at research, we look at what’s happening in our communities and we’re reading the paper,” Strachan said. “We’re talking with girls. Girls have identified that these are areas that they are concerned about.”

The keynote speakers will be Carrie Severson, founder of Severson Sisters; Kathy Hegberg of the Hawn Foundation; and Rachel Lloyd, founder of Girls Education and Monitoring Service.

Severson Sisters is a local bullying solutions program for girls.

“We help them enhance their self-esteem,” said Severson, “We help them learn how to develop and maintain healthy relationships and we give them tangible tools on what to do if they are presented with bullying scenarios at school.”

Bullied as a child, Severson knows how girls bully and what it feels like.

“Girls are very physiological and they use manipulative tools,” said Severson. “There’s a lot more cyber bullying happening with girls than with boys.”

Education is a problem on every parent’s mind these days. Only 82.49 percent of girls in Arizona graduated high school 2011.

“Girls are not graduating at the rates they should here in Arizona, we know that,” Strachan said.

Kathy Hegberg is the director of the Hawn Foundation, which is where the MindUP curriculum was created. MindUP is a comprehensive social and emotional learning program that is being piloted at a few schools around the Valley.

“It’s a strategy for full brain learning,” Strachan said. “It’s a new way of looking at learning in a more mindful way that’s really about the holistic, well-being of the girl.”

The topic most people will find shocking is the large human trafficking problem in the United States and Arizona.

“I think it’s a denial,” Strachan said. “I mean it’s in the newspapers but it’s always, ‘Not with my kid.’”

According to the city of Phoenix and Catholic Charities Prostitution Diversion program, out of 797 interviews conducted with men and women arrested and charged with prostitution, 24.9 percent were under 18.

“The girls who are coerced are the girls from suburbia, from middle class families because their greener, they don’t have the awareness of what’s going on,” Strachan said.

Rachel Lloyd is the founder and CEO of GEMS, an organization dedicated to putting an end to child prostitution. GEMS is unique in that it is an organization to help girls leave the life of prostitution.

Locally, Girl Scouts has been working on this problem for 15 years, according to Strachan. In 2001, Girl Scouts and the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections created programs to help girls leave prostitution.

“Girl Scouts is really brave and stepped up and said, ‘Not with our girls, no way, no how,’” Strachan said.

For more information on Severson Sisters, visit seversonsisters.org. For more information on the Hawn Foundation and the MindUp Curriculum, visit thehawnfoundation.org. For more information on GEMS, visit gems-girls.org.

For more information on the conference or to sign up to attend, visit www.girlscoutsaz.org/a-girls-world-is-different.

See, Girl Scouts do more than sell cookies.

• Brittany Stehmer is a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University. She is interning this semester for the AFN.

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