Star Wars has always had a special place in my heart, so when my daughter had a chance to attend a Jedi Training Camp through the GSGLA (Girl Scouts Greater Los Angeles) we couldn’t pass it up. Growing up I thought of Girls Scouts as a sort of very “girly” girl thing to do, but in the past year, I have come to see that there is a lot more to being a Girl Scout than braiding hair and making s’mores.
The event begins just after sunset, with the hundred or so girls in attendance welcoming the Los Angeles Astronomical Society. The group of astronomers set up various powerful telescopes and binoculars to give the girls some first-hand experience searching the sky for celestial bodies, and actual literal galaxies far, far away. Every Jedi should have at least a working knowledge of the stars, and those girls who have an interest in everything from Astronomy to space travel have their questions answered. This was the first hint that there was more to this event than waving sabers and quoting the movies.
The event was thrown by Troop 12581. The girls have thrown several similar events, with pop culture themes ranging from Harry Potter to a Zombie hunt, raising money for their troop to travel and contribute to their community.
“We like to pick current hot trends to base our camps off of as they grab the attention of the girl scouts. We then pair these themes with real world skills that not only apply to Girl Scout badges but also expose the girls to potential career opportunities,” explained troop leader Danelle Jiron. While we gazed up at Albireo, Ursa Minor, a ring nebula, and the Andromeda galaxy the girls discussed humans on Mars and static electricity, throwing “force lightning” at each other.
After roughing it in the wilds of Altadena, Ca, just miles from the NASA/JPL home base, we woke to find the camp buzzing with girls in various Star Wars accouterment, singing the Imperial March at top volume.
Their Star Wars is different from my own. They take on roles like Captain Phasma, and Rey flies the Falcon, but their love for it is the same.
“I love Star Wars. I saw the original first three movies when I was very little and I’ve been a huge fan ever since. It’s one of the only things my entire family loves. my house is filled with Star Wars memorabilia.” says one of the Jedi Masters, Samantha Johnson.
My own Padawan takes out our copy of The Jedi Path to share with new friends before the Jedi Masters call the camp to order.
These Jedi Masters are a group of eight girls who exemplify what it is to be a Girl Scout. The troop works together to serve their community and their sister scouts. This event will help the girls to raise money for a trip to the east coast to visit colleges and historical landmarks. Without the help of their fellow Scouts, some of these girls would be unable to afford such a trip, so together they make it happen.
“Girl Scouts, like Jedi, are trained from the time they are young to stand up for what they believe in, help those who may not always be able to help themselves, and to always be the best person you can be,” explained Jedi master Elisa Novo.
The day’s activities continue along the same vein as the night before, with the girls exercising the Jedi pillar of Knowledge. The padawan are broken up by age and skill level. Like the Jedi, the girls are expected to first expand their minds before they move on to saber training. The girls create their own Jedi persona, some from other worlds, others very much like themselves. They try their hands at some serious Star Wars trivia – which they totally nail – and are blindfolded, much like Luke was in Star Wars: A New Hope, in order to use their other senses. They take turns at “Two truths and a lie” to practice reading each others’ facial cues, and then mind and body become one.
Another visitor, Megan Olbur, joins the camp and the girls join mind and body with a yoga session. They discuss mindfulness and relaxation. Yoda would approve. Now it’s time to get physical!
The girls work their way through an obstacle course of “Laser beams” and “Floating platforms” getting down and dirty to crawl through obstacles. The camp breaks for lunch, but many of the girls are having too much fun to even stop to eat. I manage to force a few fork fulls into my padawan before she’s off battling the dark side again.
After lunch, the girls fine tune their skills. They assemble their own sabers, an edible saber that is. They must choose the color of their saber, and I can’t help but discuss kyber crystals and why the Sith sabers are red. At least four of these girls actually know what I am talking about. Once their sabers are done, it’s time to build a droid. They mold clay just like the real life model builders working for the movie might. Many of them look like the adorable BB-8, but some have a more classic construction.
They move on from here to more physical skill, this time Archery, and I can no longer resist the call of the force. Greedo didn’t stand a chance. Then, at last, the girls train with “practice” sabers. They are nearly Jedi!
For the final event of the day, the girls team up with new friends to assemble a floating destroyer from recycled parts, much like Rey does on Jakku. Our own little ship would have been no help on Naboo, but it didn’t sink!
As the camp comes to a close with s’mores and a campfire, I find myself inspired by these girls, and feel I can not help but share what they are doing.
All of these young women are growing up in a new age, one that sees them for the brave, strong, caring woman they are becoming. This is what Girls Scouts real mission is, and when I ask the girls how Scouting has inspired them, I am not terribly surprised by their answers.
“Girl Scouts has impacted who I am today in so many different ways. We get to learn new skills that other girls might not get to learn outside of Girl Scouts, such as leadership skills, money skills, people skills, business skills and so much more. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without it.” said Jedi Master Cora Jiron, whose mom runs the troop she has been a part of for years. Fellow Master Reina Freeman adds “Girl Scouts inspires me to always do my best and push myself to be the best that I can and that inspires me to always have a positive mindset no matter what,” while Master Sophia Rosales is inspired to be a positive role model for other scouts. “Girl Scouts brings great opportunities and inspires me to be a good influence for the younger girls to look up to.”
The weekend comes to a close with a knighting ceremony. Each girl who has made it through the three-day camp receives an official Jedi Certificate of completion along with a super cool patch for their vests/sash. But it’s not the certificate or the patch that really matters here, it is everything else these girls take home with them. They leave the camp filled with confidence, community spirit, and the understanding that they can, should they put their minds to it, accomplish anything.
Feminism is a hot button issue these days, and even Star Wars has come under examination when it comes to the roles women play both on screen and off. I ask the girls how they feel about the changes in the world as far as new opportunities in the world. My favorite answer comes from Master Novo,
“I’ve always been raised to believe that women are capable of doing anything and have endless opportunities so because of this I’m not entirely sure how opportunities have changed, but maybe that is the change… the fact that people are raising their daughters to believe, inspire, and not just preach opportunity but provide opportunity and equality for women.”
These girls are growing up with heroes in their media like Rey and Jyn, and real life heroes like Malala Yousafzai and Melinda Gates. My own daughter spent much of the weekend telling her new friends her plans to build a robot. “I’m really more into engineering than artificial intelligence, though.” She’s ten, she dreams big, just like all of these girls. No one will ever tell these girls they can’t fly the Falcon. They will go into the world like the Jedi, ready to make the galaxy a better, slightly geekier place to live.
Images: Danelle Jiron (Troop Leader) , Tabitha Davis