Local Treasures with Pia: STEM Mobile Takes Girl Scout Programs to Rural Areas

Spokane, Washington – Everybody knows about the Girl Scout cookies, but unless you are a Girl Scout you probably don’t know that one of the new Girl Scout batches is in social entrepreneurship. The organization may have been around since 1912, but it continues to evolve.

“Girls are not the same today as they were in the 1950s,” said Renee Smock, COO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. “We evolve with the times – especially in the area of STEM where everything changes so quickly.”

STEM – the acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math education – got a big boost when Girl Scouts got the STEM Mobile on the road through fundraising partly supported by the Avista Foundation.

Smock said Girl Scouts serve a huge geographical area with many smaller rural communities, and the STEM mobile has made it possible to reach every one of the 29 counties and 65,000 square miles covered by the organization.

“The vision started in fall of 2019 and Executive Director Bryan Newberry raised $150,000 in less than six months,” Smock said. Then COVID hit and everything got delayed. “Ford said they started making ventilators instead of vehicles, so we had to wait.”

The bright green van is now a well-known sight across Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. Smock said it’s a gas vehicle, but the science equipment is solar powered.

Like many other membership organizations, Girl Scouts lost some members during COVID but Newberry said so far 2022 is the best year the organization has ever had.

“We have 3,600 girls in the program this year, that’s up 14 percent over all,” Newberry said.

Earlier this year, Girl Scouts planted 2,000 trees all over the region, from Kalispel to Cheney to Coeur d’Alene.

“Anywhere there was a spot for a tree, there was a Girl Scout planting a tree,” Newberry said with a chuckle. “Our girls really went to town on that project. It was amazing to witness.”

At Avista, we recognize our unique position gives us the chance to contribute in an impactful way and make a real difference in people's lives. Since 2002, the Avista Foundation has made grants totaling over $13 million to organizations that support vulnerable and limited income populations, education, and economic and cultural vitality. For more information on grant applications and geographical areas covered, please visit avistafoundation.com.


Visit gsewni.org to learn more about Girl Scout programs, events, and cookies.

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