Local Girl Scouts work toward democracy badge with visit to town hall

Girl Scouts in local troops 993 and 10 visited the Coventry Council Chambers Thursday to speak with Coventry Town Council President Hillary Lima and Rep. Thomas Noret about democracy.  

COVENTRY — Last week, a group of local Girl Scouts got a valuable lesson in democracy during a visit to Coventry’s Council Chambers. 

Members of Girl Scout troops 993 and 10 stopped by the Coventry Town Hall Thursday to speak with Coventry Town Council President Hillary Lima and Rep. Thomas Noret (D-Dist. 25, West Warwick, Coventry) on the way to earning their “democracy in action” badges. 

“I think it’s really important, now more than ever, that kids understand that their opinions matter,” Lima said Sunday, “and that just because they’re kids, and they don’t have the ability to vote, that doesn’t mean they can’t effectuate change in their communities.”

The troop members had “an amazing experience” meeting with Lima and Noret, said Amanda Miller Auble, co-leader of Troop 993, currently comprising girls in grades three, six and seven, and the newly-established Troop 10, made up of first and second graders.

“We were very excited to have this chance,” Auble said. “I think the girls really got a lot out of it.”

The “democracy in action” badge is new this year, and is earned by meeting requirements related to local, state and federal governments.

The hope, Auble said, is that by teaching the girls about democracy — about voting, for example, and about participating in their communities — they learn the importance of having a voice.

“Learning about government is important because you need to know who is in charge, what their job is, and who to go to for help changing things,” she added. 

The scouts of troops 993 and 10, who are from Coventry, West Warwick and Warwick, had been asked to come up with questions ahead of time that they would pose to the town councilor and state representative. 

“They asked a lot of great questions,” Noret said Sunday. “It was awesome.”

The girls had the chance to speak with Lima and Noret about their responsibilities, Auble said, and about what inspired each of them to run for office. She said they gained insight into how the decisions that affect them are made, and learned that their elected officials are “the voice of the people.”

“After a certain point I kind of flipped it on its head and said, ‘I’d love to ask you girls, what do you think can be improved in your community?’” Lima said. 

The girls had a lot to say, Lima added, especially about their experiences in school.

One scout, a student at a public school in Warwick, was upset that her drama club has had to cancel performances due to delayed construction in the auditorium, Lima said; several others, Noret recalled, said they wished they could use pencil and paper to do math, rather than Chromebooks. 

“One girl, who was in third grade, really profoundly said, ‘I wish there was more learning where we weren’t looking at a screen all day,’” Lima added. “That hits you in the gut.”

One lesson that both Lima and Noret said they had hoped the scouts would leave the Council Chambers having learned is that advocating for oneself is crucial.

“The message we tried to give them was, you have a voice and it matters, and here are the ways that you can vocalize these opinions,” Lima said.

The girls learned about attending school committee meetings, about speaking during public comment periods and about sharing their concerns with those in positions to address them.

“Advocating for themselves means going to a town council meeting, going to a school committee meeting, and telling [local leaders] about what they think,” added Noret, who also invited the girls to visit the Statehouse.

Armed with a newfound understanding of how their local government operates, Auble said that some of the girls are making plans to attend an upcoming school committee meeting so that they can share their frustrations with committee members. 

“If the kids don’t tell the adults, they don’t know,” Auble said. “I’d bet the school committees don’t know [about some of the students’ concerns].”

Having had the opportunity to chat with both a municipal leader and a member of the state General Assembly, the girls on Thursday were able to accomplish the local and state requirements for their “democracy in action” badge — they’ll earn the badge following an upcoming lesson about the federal government.

“I thank [Lima and Noret] for taking the time to do this with us,” Auble said. “The girls had an awesome time.”

kgravelle@ricentral.com

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