“When you hear Girl Scouts, you think cookies and it’s so much more than that.” 

Tucked away in New Liberty, Iowa is a 245-acre forest. 

And at the center of it: Camp Liberty. 

Hundreds of Girl Scouts gather here to do a lot more than arts and crafts. There’s a high ropes course, horseback riding and archery.

“If we don’t continue to change with the times, we wouldn’t still be around,” said Diane Nelson, CEO of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. “We have those core values of Girl Scouting that will never change, but we need to stay current with the needs of today’s girls.”

That’s meant a new push for science, technology, engineering and math badges. 

And at Camp Liberty, the girls learn to love the outdoors.

“I’ve been coming to camp for 10 years,” said Clarah Buhman, a Bettendorf resident who recently achieved the Gold Award, the highest award in Girl Scouts. “Once you start coming back like year after year, they start to like really get to know you and then they’re just a second family.” 

For Clarah, Camp Liberty has inspired a lifelong passion for nature. 

She’s studying parks and natural resources at college in the fall. 

“It’s like my whole life has been affected by Girl Scouts,” Clarah said. 

During the last two summers, Clarah got to lead her own groups of young scouts. 

“At first I was like are you sure you want me to like do this? It’s my first time and they’re like, ‘There’s a first time for everything’ … It gives you the first taste of like adulting.” 

And it’s those things — inspiring leadership and confidence — that leaders say will never change about the Girl Scouts. 

“There’s strong women who believe in each other and are there to support one another,” Nelson said.

(king):”We have women breaking barriers all the time and I think girl scouts is a stepping stone for those women who are trying to be the best they can be,” said Kennedy King, Communications Coordinator of the Girl Scouts of Eastern Iowa and Western Illinois.