About 200 million boxes of Girl Scout cookies are sold each year. Once a year for just a few months, Daisies, Brownies, Cadettes and other levels of Girl Scouts throw on their uniforms adorned with colorful badges and set up shop outside area grocery stores and knock on neighborhood doors selling Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs and other favorites.

On Saturday, 65 girls mostly ranging from 6 to 12 years old gathered at Sweet Briar College to learn what goes into selling one of America’s most beloved treats, including people skills, money management, decision-making, goal-setting and business ethics.

The three-hour-long Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Cookie College was held at Sweet Briar for the first time.

“So this is an opportunity for us to really teach those skills, get them really prepared for what they’re going to experience when they go out into the cookie sale,” Nikki Williams, CEO for Girl Scouts of Virginia Skyline Council, said Saturday.

Cookie Colleges had been around for a long time but were on a hiatus for some time. When Williams joined the team in 2017, she brought the program back and held it in Roanoke in 2018.

This year, the college is being held in Lynchburg, Roanoke and Charlottesville, bringing in a total of 200 girls. Funding for the Cookie College at Sweet Briar was provided by United Way of Central Virginia and the Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation.

Girl Scout cookie sales began at the beginning of the year and run until mid-March.

Laura Parrish, a troop leader in the Rockingham County and Harrisonburg area as well as a mother of a Girl Scout, gave presentations to the girls on Saturday about decision-making, goal-setting and how the girls can be successful in selling their cookies.

“It’s not all about the cookies; it’s about what the girls get from the organization and the experience,” she said. “I hope no matter what their goals are they can understand the process of being successful in creating goals and making decisions in life.”

Parrish’s daughter, Samantha, a 12-year-old Girl Scout Cadette, aided her mother in the presentation by giving tips and tricks to the girls about how to better sell their cookies. For example, she said cookies sell better if the cookies already areavailable to be bought right away and by asking customers to support her troop instead of just asking them to purchase cookies.

Samantha Parrish has been a Girl Scout for the past seven years and in the beginning she was just looking for a way to meet new people and try something new.

“When I started I was really shy but now, for me, it’s kind of just about leading others to help do what I did when I was young and help get them started and help them to build confidence, courage and character, which is what it’s all about,” she said.

She said she no longer is shy and feels more confident walking up to people she doesn’t know to make a conversation.

Williams said the Girl Scouts works to empower young women to make a difference and to be impactful in life.

“And that’s what we teach these girls that at every level, whether you’re in the front of the room, the back of the room, in the middle, whether you’re the authority or you are a participant, that you still can make a difference, and that you can make your community a better place while being a person of courage, character and confidence,” she said.

Morgan Crigger, a 12-year-old Bedford County resident, was the top cookie achiever in 2019 in 36 counties in Southwestern, Western, Southside and Central parts of the state. She sold 2,493 boxes of cookies last year to gain the title. This year she hopes to sell 3,000 boxes by selling 20 boxes per day.

She said she joined the Girl Scouts several years ago because she thought it would be a fun experience and she wanted to make new friends, both of which she said she has accomplished.

“I like talking to different people and it’s fun,” she said. “I like learning new things.”

Though the Girl Scouts was founded more than 100 years ago, Williams said the foundation of the organization has stayed intact but as the world and women evolve in culture, it is important the programming does too.

“I think we’re really going to see a shift and culture and change when we can [empower] girls that are four and five, and we start teaching them this and it becomes a part of who they are,” she said.

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Rachael Smith covers local businesses and nonprofits. Reach her at (434) 385-5482.

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