Event explores Girl Scouts’ bond with jailed mothers


Editor’s Note: This article was completed as an assignment for a class in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

On Monday evening, students and faculty viewed a film in the Leadership Studies Building about the members of Girl Scout Troop 1500, whose mothers are convicted criminals.

Troop 1500 is a part of the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program, which seeks to strengthen the bond between incarcerated mothers and their daughters in order to break the crime cycle. The film focuses on four different mothers, each of whom were being held for various crimes.

The film offered a genuine look into the lives of the incarcerated, as well as their daughters. The daughters were shown visiting the prison with their troop leader every month. The girls brought cameras to these meetings and interviewed their mothers about their past mistakes and hopes for the future. The mother-daughter troop meetings also included various activities, like singing, games, enrichment programs, group discussions and pizza parties. At the end of every Girl Scout visit, there were tears when they had to say goodbye.

“I had no idea there was anything like this program,” said Morgan Smith, sophomore in social work. “It’s really good of the volunteers to take time to help out. The resources have to come from somewhere, and it’s mostly thanks to the volunteers.”

The event was organized by HandsOn K-State, a campus organization that connects campus and community volunteers with community needs.

Samantha Burkhalter, member of the leadership studies class Leadership in Practice and senior in women’s studies, helped arrange the event.

“I am a student in the LEAD 405 class and chose to volunteer at HandsOn as my practicum for the class,” Burkhalter said. “Every month, we show a different movie and arrange speakers. We will be having four more events next semester.”

Following the film, guest Latanya Skillern and her two daughters, Oriana and Summer, spoke about how the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program directly impacted their family.

“I was released from Topeka Correctional Facility on June 6, 2006,” Skillern said. “Through the [Girl Scouts Beyond Bars] program, I got to build a strong connection with my daughters. They visited me every other Saturday, and that allowed time for us to heal. It was what we needed. We got to take advantage of it for four years. I’m a testimony to this program.”

Skillern’s daughters confirmed the effectiveness of the program.

“Going to see her on Saturdays and building a connection with her was important,” 15-year-old Oriana said.

Her sister Summer, 13, agreed.

“I was very young and didn’t understand a lot of what was going on,” Summer said. “But what helped me was interacting with the other girls in the program.”

Torry Dickinson, professor of women’s studies, is currently seeking mentors to volunteer their time to the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program.

“We will be training mentors at the beginning of January,” Dickinson said. “We would like for a mentor to have contact with their partner once a week to do homework, go out to eat or do something fun.”

For more information about how to volunteer for the Girl Scouts Beyond Bars program, contact Torry Dickinson at dickins@ksu.edu..