EAST BRUNSWICK — You would have to be extremely poorly connected, or have the "molar" opposite of a sweet tooth, not to know someone whose daughter is selling Girl Scout Cookies this time of year. But the Girl Scouts are and have always been about so much more than Thin Mints.

Nonetheless, for Girl Scouts of Central and Southern New Jersey CEO Ginny Marino, the cookie-selling season remains a key part of one of the largest financial and business skill-building programs for girls in the United States. Girls learn how to set financial goals, create a budget and invest troop proceeds into things like community service projects and camping trips.

The organization's Cookie College also instructs Scouts on how to approach customers, respond to questions, and in some very rare cases, handle rejection.

"In my view, the most important thing that the Girl Scout Cookie Program teaches girls is, really, it helps them to build their self-confidence," Marino said.

While nearly everyone knows the Girl Scouts because of these cookies, Marino said, each troop is designed in more general terms to be "girl-led and adult-facilitated," fostering and encouraging critical decision-making and leadership skills, collaboration, and doing all of that while having fun.

As one of 112 Girl Scout councils across the country, GSCSNJ focuses much attention on its Jersey roots, largely reflected in the summer camp programs in which many Scouts participate.

"Most of the Girl Scout experience happens at the very local level," Marino said. "The girls are working within their troops whether it be in Camden, or in Atlantic City, or in Hamilton Township."

Looking ahead, a statewide girl leadership program will be held with Rutgers' involvement on Saturday, May 5, concentrating on elements of civic leadership for girls who want to work on issues in their communities, serve on student councils, or envision themselves one day running for elected office.

Find out more about what GSCSNJ is up to at gscsnj.org.

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