Story by Lawson Martin. Photos provided by Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.
A school in Dallas instills confidence and independence in young girls by helping them develop practical life skills through Girl Scouts.
Solar Preparatory School for Girls is not like any other school in the Dallas area. In fact, it’s not like any school in the United States because it’s the only school in the country where every student is a Girl Scout and every teacher is trained to be a troop leader.
Solar Prep opened to the public in 2016 with grades pre-K through second grade. The school has been adding a new grade each year, which spans up to eighth grade.
The all-girls school is a part of the Dallas Independent School District and focuses on science, technology, engineering, the arts, and math. The school has 650 students, and officials say its student population is more diverse than Dallas ISD.
Solar Prep partners with the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas to allow every student to participate in Girl Scouts at no cost to families. This is important because around 50 percent of students at Solar Prep come from families who live below the poverty line.
Half of the students who attend Solar Prep are bused into the school and would not be able to participate in Girl Scouts if meetings were held after school. Solar Prep incorporates the Girl Scout curriculum during the school day, allowing all students the opportunity to participate.
“By bringing our programming into places where girls already are, we’re removing
obstacles and making it possible for them to access Girl Scouts on a regular basis easily,”
says Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. “The partnership
exemplifies GSNETX’s commitment to breaking down barriers of entry, such as financial
resources and transportation, in order to grow as an inclusive organization.”
Eboni Chopp, director of community partnerships at Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, says having Girl Scouts at school is an outlet for students to just come into school and be a kid, no matter what’s going on in their lives outside of school.
“They really can come in, have fun, learn something at the same time, and build a friendship with a positive mentor or role model there,” Eboni says.
At Solar Prep, teachers try to empower the girls as much as possible. Students learn through their curriculum that “Girl Scouts take action.”
“I love that these girls are really thinking outside of the box,” says Eboni. “They’re being innovative. They’re thinking of real-life solutions to real-life problems.”
Cecelia Burrows, an interventionist at Dallas ISD, says Solar Prep students are learning to go out into their community and make a difference. Through the curriculum, students learn life skills, such as financial literacy, goal setting, and leadership.
Another quality the Girl Scouts are instilling in students is confidence.
Eboni shared a story of Chloe, a little girl who attends Solar Prep. Chloe has a hearing impairment, but that hasn’t stopped her from thriving.
“My classroom teacher, Miss Kyle, she said, ‘If you want to talk to me, you must have confidence.’ And she said, ‘You have the voice to do anything, so I want to hear that voice before you talk,’” Chloe shared about her teacher on the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ YouTube page.
When Chloe first started attending Solar Prep, she was worried she couldn’t make friends, but that wasn’t the case at this school. Chloe says she took a deep breath during the first week of school and was able to make friends easily.
“Never, ever think that you’re nothing,” Chloe says. “You have the courage to do anything.”
Another great perk of attending Solar Prep is that students get priority access to the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ STEM Center of Excellence, where they can participate in STEM and outdoor activities. Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas opened the STEM Center of Excellence in 2018. The center is a 92-acre camp near Dallas that features programs in astronomy, robotics, coding, computer science, and more.
Additionally, students at Solar Prep engage in project-based learning that helps them earn Girl Scout badges along the way. Recently, second graders at the school earned their Wonders of Waters badges while studying water conservation and the water cycle. They then presented what they learned through different media platforms like podcasts and newscasts.
Solar Prep just celebrated its inaugural graduating class of eighth graders. According to Eboni, all 72 girls who graduated eighth grade received their Silver Award, one of the highest awards in Girl Scouting. They will now have the opportunity to go on to high school to receive their Gold Award, a nationally recognized award that can help girls get college scholarships.
Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas says this year’s graduating class was ambitious and inspirational, and they hope to expand the organization’s partnerships in schools across North Texas and the country.