Girl Scout values passed along to detention center teens

Ah, Girl Scouts. The cookies. The merit badges.

The jail time?

Twelve incarcerated girls who don’t exactly jibe with Scouting’s squeaky-clean image stood to recite the Girl Scout Promise one evening last week.

Their uniforms were Detention Center-issued: gym shorts with baggy T-shirts or sweatshirts.

Their charges were grown-up: prostitution, drugs, violence.

Though these girls, ages 11 to 17, weren’t "official" Girl Scouts, they probably needed what the organization offers more than most. Structure. Nurturing. Life-skills training. A boost in self-esteem.

"Some of them got into trouble because of their backgrounds. Some of them because they tend to be followers and not leaders," said Karen Dunlap — "Miss Karen" to the girls — a membership and community development manager for the local Girl Scouts of Frontier Council. "They were listening to someone else instead of their own hearts and minds."

For the past several years, Dunlap has led a weekly Girl Scouting in Detention Centers program inside Clark County’s Juvenile Detention Center, operating under the belief that even the most streetwise and troubled girls are underneath "just regular girls."

Each year about 150 girls go through the program. They are not part of an official Girl Scouts troop; nor do they hawk Thin Mints or work toward merit badges. But the program does focus on other Girl Scout priorities, including education, leadership development, career mentoring, preventing teen pregnancy and keeping the girls from getting further involved in drugs and gangs.

"They are motivated just like any other girl to make something of themselves," Dunlap said. "Except they get caught up in things other girls don’t have to deal with."

They may not have a home, for example, or a responsible parent to talk to. They may not know where their next meal is coming from. They may face neighborhood pressures to do drugs or get involved in prostitution. Many of them already have children of their own.

"They’re just children having to do grown-up things," Dunlap said. "They’re basically raising themselves."

Dunlap talks with the girls about responsibility, regrets and goals. She challenges them, making them answer questions about themselves. Some of their regrets are heartbreaking.

"I wish I had followed my parole, because now I’m not with my daughter," a 16-year-old told Dunlap. "When I’m not there, she doesn’t have anybody else."

Another girl said she regrets "letting my childhood affect me so much that I got so into drugs."

Several girls said they are high school dropouts. That doesn’t stop them from dreaming about becoming doctors, police officers or social workers.

"We need some good social workers," one girl said.

A moment later, they were teasing each other and giggling again like any other teenagers.

It’s especially important for girls to have access to programs that allow them to express themselves and build relationships, said Fritz Reese, director of the county’s Juvenile Justice Services.

Typical detention centers for children were largely designed to deal with troubled boys.

Girls "need the positive engagement, the talk," Reese said. "It takes away depression and gives them something they can embrace once they get out."

An average of 24 girls are housed in the Detention Center on any given day, Reese said. Many are repeat detainees.

Dunlap never gets used to the disappointment of seeing a girl come back.

"It’s really shocking to me," she said. "I feel like I failed them, or like they failed themselves."

She tells herself that if she reaches just one girl, the program has been a success. And some girls do straighten out their lives. They sometimes call Dunlap once they are released and volunteer to work with a Girl Scout troop or at one of several drop-in centers the local council operates in at-risk neighborhoods.

Dunlap runs into other girls, now young women, around town or at the grocery store.

"They say, ‘Don’t you remember me? I’ve never been back’ to the detention center," she said.

Dunlap relishes those small interactions, evidence that some girls may put into practice what she has tried to teach them.

"You don’t have to keep going down the same road," she said. "Every morning you get a blank piece of paper, and you get to choose what you put on it."

Contact reporter Lynnette Curtis at or 702-383-0285.

Mount Charleston Gets Heavy Snow, Fog
Mount Charleston saw heavy snow today, and fog in lower elevations as a cold front swept across the Las Vegas Valley. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Krystal Whipple arrested in Arizona
Krystal Whipple, charged in the killing of a Las Vegas nail salon manager over a $35 manicure, is expected to return to Nevada to face a murder charge.
Holocaust survivor on acceptance
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, talks about the most important message for people to understand from her life and experiences.
Holocaust survivor speaks about telling her story
Holocaust survivor Celina Karp Biniaz, who was the youngest person on Schindler’s List, tells of opening up about her experiences during Sunday’s event at Temple Sinai.
Jesus Jara State of the Schools address
Clark County School District Superintendent Jesus Jara delivers his State of the Schools address on Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Naft sworn in to Clark County Commission
Michael Naft, chosen by Gov. Steve Sisolak to be his replacement on the Clark County Commission, was sworn into office on Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Las Vegas police piecing together details of fatal shooting
Six hours after the fact, Las Vegas homicide detectives worked to reconstruct the scene of a shooting early Jan. 7 that left one man dead in the southeast valley. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dyer Lawrence explains college football playoff system proposal
Las Vegan Dyer Lawrence has a new idea for a college football playoff system that includes a unique scheduling component called National Call Out Day. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death row inmate Scott Dozier found dead in his cell
Nevada death row inmate Scott Dozier is dead. Dozier’s death ends his legal odyssey, which began in 2007 when he was convicted in the 2002 murder of Jeremiah Miller, but does little to clarify what’s next for Nevada’s death penalty.
I-15 southbound near Primm closed after ‘major crash’
A rollover crash Saturday morning involving at least nine vehicles on southbound Interstate 15 near Primm caused an hourslong traffic delay. Traffic was backed up to Sloan, live traffic cameras show. (Rio Lacanlale/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Death Valley visitors deal with shutdown
Visitors staying at the Furnace Creek Campground were forced to move from the campground following health and safety concerns due to lack of resources during the partial government shutdown at Death Valley National Park in Calif., on Friday, Jan. 4, 2019. Richard Brian Las Vegas Review-Journal @vegasphotograph
Half of homicides in Henderson for 2018 domestic violence related
Lt. Kirk Moore of the public information office of the city of Henderson police department speaks to the Review-Journal in Henderson, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2019. Henderson saw a slight increase in homicides in the past year. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak stops by Las Vegas Boys and Girls Club
Governor-elect Steve Sisolak kicks off his tour to Carson City, which will take him from Las Vegas, through Tonopah, and up to the capital city. First stop is the Downtown Boys & Girls Club.
Certificates for renewing wedding vows in Clark County
The Marriage License Bureau in Clark County began issuing a Certificate of Vow Renewal to married couples who are renewing their wedding vows on Jan. 3, 2019. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas flu season better than last year (so far)
Dr. Fermin Leguen, chief medical officer and director of clinical services at the Southern Nevada Health District, said there were 24 flu-related deaths at this point in the flu season. No deaths have been reported so far this year. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Las Vegas Valley’s First Baby of 2019
The first 2019 baby in the Las Vegas Valley was Melialani Chihiro Manning, born at 12:10 a.m. at Henderson Hospital. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Snow in Henderson on New Year's Eve morning
Light snow flurries in Anthem Highlands in Henderson on Monday morning, the last day of 2018.
Sources: Henderson Constable may face more charges
Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell may face additional charges ... stemming from his spending of county funds, sources said. Mitchell was indicted earlier this month on five felony theft and fraud charges ... after a Las Vegas Review-Journal story questioned his spending. But grand jury records show even more extensive spending including ... an $800 dinner at steakhouse ... nearly 200 atm withdrawals mostly at gambling establishments ... and even Disneyland tickets. But his attorney plans to ask a judge to dismiss the charges.
Las Vegas NYE Restrictions and Enhanced Security
If you are planning to celebrate New Year's Eve on the Las Vegas Strip or Fremont Street, be aware that you are not allowed to bring backpacks, coolers, strollers or glass. There will also be an increase in security to ensure safe celebrations across town.
Catholic Charities serves up 53rd annual Christmas dinner
Catholic Charities of Southern Nevada and more than 100 volunteers served 1,000 Christmas meals to Southern Nevada's homeless and less fortunate. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal @kmcannonphoto)
Henderson couple adds another school to their generosity
Bob and Sandy Ellis of Henderson, who donate to several Clark County School District schools, have added Matt Kelly Elementary in Las Vegas to their list of schools where every student gets new shoes, socks and a toy. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jeffrey Martin Added To Nevada's Black Book
Martin was one of four men convicted of theft and cheating at gambling in 2016 in Clark County District Court and sentenced to prison. The Nevada Gaming Commission voted unanimously Thursday to include Martin in the black book.
Raiders Stadium Timelapse
Construction on the new Raiders stadium continues in Las Vegas.
Buffalo Wild Wings security video
Security footage from a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant in southwest Las Vegas captured a driver who repeatedly crashed into a vehicle in a failed attempt to squeeze into a tight parking spot.
The Magical Forest at Opportunity Village
Opportunity Village's Magical Forest added 1 million lights and a synchronized music show visible from all over the forest this year. The holiday attraction, which began in 1991, has a train, rides, food and entertainment along with the light displays. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Navigating the new I-515 southbound to 215 Beltway ramp configuration
After opening at 5 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, the new Interstate 515 southbound to the 215 Beltway westbound freeway ramp configuration caused confusion amongst motorist. Here’s how to navigate the new ramp. (Mick Akers/ Las Vegas Review-Journal).
A record breaking donation of nearly $9 million to Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada
A record breaking donation of property valued at nearly $9 million was made to the Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada by the Charles and Phyllis M. Frias Charitable Trust. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal. @bizutesfaye
Kerry Clasby thanks the community for support after California fire damage
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about the lessons of accepting help as she has gone through the Woolsey Fire disaster, in which she lost many of her belongings. About 100 people were on hand for an event that raised about $7,000.
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like