By Diane Loupe
Monday, March 12, 2012
Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Georgia, 100 years ago today. To mark the anniversary, Diane Loupe lovingly recalls a troop leader who told corny jokes and taught her to battle back the demons of dejection.
Today the Girl Scouts does what it can to keep Low's gumption going.
Low's followers have declared 2012 the Year of the Girl, including a push to place more women in leadership positions in the workplace and communities. To help girls break the glass ceiling, the Girl Scouts have launched ToGetHerThere, a major push to encourage girls' leadership potential.
Girls still express uncertainly about being a leader, according to a telephone survey of 1,001 girls ages 8-17 conducted by GFK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. More than a third of the girls surveyed said they would feel uncomfortable trying to be a leader and 59 percent thought it was easier to be a follower than a leader.
Stress, fear of speaking in front of others, concerns about appearing bossy and peer pressure may cause girls to simply disengage from assuming leadership roles, Connie Lindsey, the national Girl Scouts of the USA president, said in a recent press statement on her group's research.
The Girl Scouts hope to raise $1 billion to fund opportunities for girls to lead, proposing to spend money on services and programs for girls in the U.S. and 94 other countries.
When my daughter was younger, I became a Girl Scout leader, and even though my daughter is in college now, I'll always be a Girl Scout.
I watched with pride as my girls learned long-term planning, teamwork, organization, leadership and business skills from organizing and planning such things as camping trips and cookie sales. Walking up to total strangers exiting a Kroger's to ask them to buy a box of Thin Mints takes guts and I could see the girls' confidence grow with each box they sold. Even when potential customers refused them rudely, they learned not to take offense at the rejection, and they persevered.
As an adult, I participate in organizing the Mountain Magic Leader's Weekend in north Georgia, a retreat for scout leaders in which I've taught tie-dying and public speaking, learned how to make jewelry and sushi, and zoomed down a zip line from the top of a 50-foot-tall climbing tower.
The 100th birthday has already been celebrated by Girl Scouts worldwide in many ways. In Savannah, girls from Shuman Elementary's Troop No. 30480 swatted away sand gnats as they helped to plant a live oak in the park named for Low, according to the Savannah Morning News. The national group launched the Girl Scouts Forever Green 100th Anniversary Take Action Project with a two-year $1.5 million grant from the Alcoa Foundation to reduce waste reduction, conserve energy and build rain gardens.
Such initiatives prove what I've always known: Girl Scouts are a lot more than selling cookies. Today, I celebrate Low and the other remarkable Girl Scouts who provide more than 70 million hours of direct service to their communities.
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Editors Note: Women's eNews has a partnership with Girl Scouts of America. Scouts who either actually or virtually walk through Opening the Way, a women's history tour of Lower Manhattan, earn a special Opening the Way badge. http://womensenews.org/openingtheway
Diane Loupe has eaten more than her share of Girl Scout cookies. She is a freelance writer and editor in Decatur, Ga., and teaches at the Interactive College of Technology in Chamblee, Ga.
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