Term Paper: Girl Scouts

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TURNING GIRL SCOUTS INTO WOMEN LEADERS - the Legacy and Promise of Girl Scouting

This paper uses the normative-descriptive method of research in recording, describing, interpreting, analyzing, and comparing information gathered from recent and authoritative sources.

The Girl Scouts Movement is an organization, which endeavors to build girls of courage, confidence and character (Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. 2006). It does this by defying gender stereotypes, the ordinary, and peer pressure. And it empowers girls to be true to their individuality so as to eventually become confident, courageous women leaders in all walks of life. It was founded and formed by American reformer Juliette Gordon Low in 1915. Its enduring mission has been to provide healthy activities for girls while infusing into them a sense of good citizenship. It now has millions of members in troops throughout the country (Girl Scouts of the U.S.A.).

Juliette Gordon Low was a rich socialite from the United States and Great Britain who belonged to the privileged upper social class (UXL Newsmakers 2005). After a meeting with Sir Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts movement, in 1915, the idea of forming a similar organization for girls hit her strongly and thereon occupied the rest of her life (UXL Newsmakers).

Juliette Magil Kinzie Gordon was born in Savannah, Georgia on October 31, 1860 to William Washington Gordon II, a successful cotton trader and Confederate officer, and Eleanor Lytle Gordon (UXL Newsmakers 2005). She possessed the good traits of both parents. She had her mother's charm and wit of her mother and her father's leadership and organizing instincts. In their estate in northern Georgia, she led and organized camping and hunting trips. She also wrote and acted in plays and studied painting. She went to Europe where she met the English millionaire William Mackay Low, whom her father disapproved of. They were eventually married in Savannah in December 1886. She was incorporated into the highest levels of British society, including Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. But their marriage headed for ruin when William often traveled and later had an affair. They were about to divorce when he died and his fortune was turned over to his mistress. However, the courts awarded her an amount enough to proceed with her high standard of living (UXL Newsmakers).

Juliette derived the concept of her movement from the sister of Sir Robert Baden-Powell, who had set up the Girl Guides (UXL Newsmakers 2005). Drafting prominent Americans into a board of directors, she created a national headquarters and used her own money to launch and officially incorporate the Girl Scouts of America in 1915. She was also the first president. In a year's time, there were 7,000 girl scouts in the list. The movement continued to grow beyond Juliette's death in 1927 (UXL Newsmakers).

Having grown into an American institution, the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. was chartered by Congress on March 16, 1950 (Girl Scouts of America 2007, Laulainen-Schein 2007). At present, there are almost 4 million girl scouts, 2.7 million girl members and 928,000 adult members as volunteers. Its mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character who will make the world a better place to live in. At the start, girls who join have fun, form friendships and experience power together. They develop courage and strength through many such enriching experiences together, like field trips, sports clinics, community service projects, cultural exchanges and care of the environment. These activities provide them with the opportunity to develop their full individual potential. In dealing with and relating with others, they increase understanding, skills and respect. They also acquire and transmit values for their actions, which improve the basis for sound decision-making. They are thus better able to contribute to the improvement of society by increasing and improving their own abilities, leadership skills and cooperation. Whether at home or abroad, girl scouts participate in the activities of more than 236,000 troops and groups in over 90 countries through the U.S.A. Girl Scouts Overseas. More than 300 local councils provide the girls the opportunity for membership throughout the U.S. The Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. is a member of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts or WAGGGS. Together, they form a global family, consisting of 10 million girls and women in 145 countries. This immense status of Juliette Low's dream has become a critical and pivotal part of women's history. In the U.S.A. alone, more than 50 million women become girl scouts and enjoy girl scouting in their childhood. Their number continues to increase and to inspire, challenge and empower more and more girls in the country and throughout the world (Girl Scouts of America 2007).

With headquarters in New York City, the Movement has more than 400 dedicated employees (Girl Scouts of America 2007). It has more than 300 local girl scouts councils or offices as partners, 236,000 troops and 986,000 adult volunteers. It has a National Board of Directors and unnumbered corporate, government and individual supporters everywhere. It is a 501 organization, which is dedicated to shaping girls into women leaders of the future (Girl Scouts of America, Laulainen-Schein).

In its 95th year anniversary this year, the movement is going through a historic transforming in adjusting its organization structure to the demands of the 21st century and strengthening its focus on leadership for girls (Business Wire 2006). Its new direction is to revitalize the Girl Scout brand, form new fund-raising models, improve volunteer systems, and rationalize the infrastructure of the national Girl Scout council. These huge changes all address and aim at building the core strength of leadership development. At the same time, it wants to offer measurable benefits for girls, families and communities. In line with the magnitude of these massive objectives, the Girl Scout of the U.S.A.'s National Board of Directors, in August last year, decided on a plan to realign 312 councils into 100 high-performance, community-based councils. The Board believes that this new structure will more effectively utilize resources in better serving local communities. This way, it can extend superior Girl Scout leadership programs to more girls. To illustrate, the Girl Scouts of Palm Glades Council currently serves over 9,500 girls in Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Okeechobee, Glades, and Hendry Counties. The alignment of resources is expected to combine two high-performing councils to produce the highest capacity in a particular State. In the case of Palm Glades, the merger can cover up to 288,000 girls, according to Denise Valz, chief executive officer of the Girl Scouts of Palm Glades Council (Business Wire).

To complement the mergers, the National Board of Directors set up a more responsive and time leadership philosophy of commitment to develop skills, according to the values set forth by the traditional Girl Scout Promise and Law (Business Wire 2006). That philosophy is the Girl Scout mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character to help make this world a better place to live in. Patricia Diaz Dennis, chairman of the National Board of Directors, said that this should be the direction to take in the currently culturally diverse nature of American society. Girl Scout's philosophy of leadership should be inclusive and responsive to the needs of girls in different communities and cultures. These new moves, she said, will enhance what girl scouting does best, revitalize the organization and remain relevant and compelling to girls of today. She emphasized that girl scouting is meant to listen to girls and positively and meaningfully respond to their individual needs (Business Wire).

This transformation was the result of a two-year survey among girls, adult women and the staff throughout the Girl Scout community on their needs and aspirations from the movement and its future direction (Business Wire 2006). These needs, aspiration and future direction were blended with the Movement's biggest and fundamental strength of developing leadership skills among girls. Its current leaders are optimistic that this new thrust will not only fortify the quality of its program on a national scale. It will also open leadership development opportunities to those in the community. Girl scouting is the only such movement that aims at the healthy development of girls and the cultivation of the traits of courage, confidence and character. It serves girls throughout America, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands (Business Wire).

Girl scouting realizes its mission by serving and helping one girl at a time (Hooper 2000). Cathleen Carothers Hull joined the Movement as a Brownie Girl Scout. As a Senior Girl Scout, she worked for two years with the board of directors of the Kaw Valley Girl Scout Council. Later, she was elected to the standing committee of the national Girl Scout of the U.S.A. board of directors. Cathleen said she learned a lot from working on complex financial information, fund raising, policy making and spreadsheets even as a high school student. She developed confidence in public speaking and assuming leadership roles. Girl scouting helped her know herself better and thus gain… [END OF PREVIEW]

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