"That happened at my stepmom's school, Columbine," says one Girl Scout, about eleven years old, at the front of the group. "They shot lots of people." Behind her, another Girl Scout asks where Columbine is. Another just asks, "Why?" Too young to have read about the event in the papers themselves, all three girls -- and roughly seventy others -- are currently being trained to protect themselves if a similar scenario should ever include them.
As part of the Fight Like A Girl Scout self-defense program, launched into action by Girl Scouts of Colorado earlier this month, she is among hundreds of girls across the state for whom the school shooting serves as an example in class.
"If some guy comes into your school with a gun and starts shooting, you fall over, cover yourself with your desk and put a book in front of yourself so he can't get you," says Kym Rock, the new program's main teacher. "You cover every part of your body you can, and you do it fast."
Only four weeks into its beginning, the Fight Like a Girl Scout program serves as an introduction to self-defense tactics through ninety-minute sessions organized by age group. In this past Saturday's class in Broomfield, junior scouts and their older peers learned to protect themselves and fight back in a handful of modern situations: experiencing a school shooting, being blinded by a hoodie, catching up after they are pushed to the ground. The program is complementary to the organization's long-running Power Up class, a longer full-day event that teaches girls how to take action to support a victim of bullying.
"It all has to do with actual awareness, being able to identify who the safe people are in your life, why they feel safe to you, who the bad people are and why they feel that way," says Cathy Millon, program services manager for Girl Scouts of Colorado. "Many of the girls have never even thought of these situations before, and we want them to be as prepared as possible." Page down for additional "Fight Like a Girl Scout" photos and interviews.
The current introductory program is one Rock has been using on her own for more than twenty years, and while several of the situations clearly worry her students, her jokes make them laugh as they are taught to fight for their lives. Rock began her partnership with the Girl Scouts last year, and the program developed through the planning stages before beginning with a small class of fifteen in Trinidad two weeks earlier. Before all eight introductory classes are finished, the Fight Like A Girl Scout crew will also travel to Fraser, Colorado Springs and Fort Collins.
In the past year, Rock has trained 23 volunteers across the state -- significantly fewer than Power Up's 200, but enough to initiate the program in even the less populous Colorado cities. At Broomfield High School's auditorium on Saturday, 75 girls attended the class with water bottles and parents in tow.
One of these is Carina Schmid, a thirteen-year-old cadet who skipped ballet class to learn how to escape capture. Schmid occasionally worries about safety during her bike trips from school to dance class, and when she was in elementary school a couple years ago, an older student tried to force a younger student into his car.
"After that, I should definitely know how to defend myself," Schmid says. "That girl did what her self-defense instructors told her, and she got away, which is cool. I hang out at the mall alone sometimes, and I want to know what to do, too."
Within the next year, Millon plans to develop the series into a two-section class, with one offered in the spring and one in the fall. As the girls grow older and age into advanced levels, their skills will also advance. In the meantime, all of the introductory classes are paid for by donations to the organization.
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Although the class uses the male pronoun "he" to describe all potential attackers, it offers an extensive variety of quick tips ("If you fall down, take out his knees first," Rock urges) and elaborate body work ("Move your arms like a snake so you can get your arm out and hit him in the face"). Before moving on to the next stage, each girl participates as a (quickly liberated) victim in each scenario.
"We want you to know what to do if any of this should ever happen to you," Rock told her class. "But we hope it doesn't. Use what you got. Use all of it. Fight like a girl."
More from our News archives: "Girl Scouts of Colorado prepares for the national organization's 100th anniversary."