When the members of Shalon Maral’s Girl Scout troop tell her she doesn’t understand what life is like, she can say “been there, done that.”
Maral, who ran away from home when she was 17, takes the Girl Scouts program into detention facilities such as juvenile hall in Fairfield and the Sierra Youth Center in Santa Rosa.
Her work in a challenging environment earned her the Ruby Award from Soroptimist. It is given to women helping to make a difference in the lives of other females.
For more than seven years, Maral has worked with the local Girl Scouts Got Choices program. Like some in her troops, Maral didn’t have the opportunity to be a Girl Scout in her youth.
“I longed for that. So, I knew when I had my kids I’d be a different mom,” Maral said. She got involved in Girl Scouts more than 20 years ago when her oldest daughter was eligible to join.
At one time Maral was juggling two troops, one for her oldest daughter and the second for a younger daughter.
Plans are being put in place for her granddaughter, who is now 18 months old, to be a Girl Scout.
Maral’s troop meetings are myriad things designed to help the girls feel better about themselves.
Poems penned by troop members are featured on a Girl Scouts of Northern California 2012 calendar. One, titled, “Lies,” reads:
“I’m full of lies and such a disguise
I can’t and won’t look back in your eyes
Why can’t I change,
Just the same.
Love life and not be in pain
Acting so old and not doing
What I’m told
Being a liar and a thief brings me nothing but beef.
I was young and having fun
But now I realize I’m nothing of one.”
“I love these girls. They are my girls,” Maral said. “I look forward to going to see them. I know I’m bringing them something positive.”
Each meeting, one troop member is chosen to sit in the “queen’s chair,” where everyone present pays that person a compliment and the “queen” must respond.
“It’s hard for some of the girls to take compliments,” Maral said.
Some meetings become impromptu therapy sessions. One day, one girl came in crying, frustrated with her situation. All the other girls came together to help her though, Maral said.
“It’s girl-led, as much as you can at juvenile hall,” she said.
Maral said she can see herself in the girls.
When she left home before her senior year of high school, Maral felt she knew everything. She got an apartment with a friend, went to work in a fast food restaurant and went to community college and earned her GED.
“I was maybe 20 when I realized, ‘I have to get this together,’ ” she said.
“They are still young girls. They see themselves as all grown up. But the reality is they are still teen girls,” Maral said of her troop members.
Teen girls who crave treats such as strawberry Pop Tarts and potstickers. Maral often picks up such treats before meetings.
Recently, she began a troop at the Matt Garcia Youth Center. The money she got from the Soroptimist award served as seed money.
“The goal is to have a place for the girls to go to once they are released (from juvenile hall),” she said.
Maral is taken aback by earning the award.
“I don’t think I’m doing anything that special,” she said.
Reach Amy Maginnis-Honey at 427-6957 or firstname.lastname@example.org.