Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Black History Month: Girl Scouts’ Legacy of Inclusivity

Girl Scout Intermediates in front of the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., 1940. 
Inclusivity is a big part of the Girl Scout DNA. From the very moment founder Juliette Gordon Low first mentioned her plans to start Girl Scouts, it was set to be an organization not only for the girls of Savannah but also for “all of America, and all the world."

Beginning with that first small troop gathering of 18 culturally and ethnically diverse girls, Juliette Low broke the conventions of the time by reaching across class, cultural, and ethnic boundaries to ensure all girls had a place to grow and develop their leadership skills.

Today, as we continue to celebrate Black History Month, we highlight how Girl Scouts has welcomed African American girls to the Girl Scout Movement throughout our history. Girl Scouts has long been a pioneer in acceptance, a beacon of inclusivity, and a stalwart civic advocate to make sure every girl—regardless of her race, religion, orientation, or socioeconomic background—has the opportunity to thrive.

Our promise of inclusivity was fulfilled early when African American girls became members of the third U.S. troop formed in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1913, according to the March 1952 issue of Ebony magazine.

The first all-African American Girl Scout troops were established as early as 1917. Troops for girls with disabilities formed that same year. One of the earliest Latina troops was formed in Houston in 1922. Girl Scout troops supported Japanese American girls in internment camps in the 1940s. And after much perseverance, in 1942, Josephine Holloway established one of the South’s first African American troops in Nashville, Tennessee. By the 1950s, Girl Scouts was leading the charge to encourage councils to fully integrate all troops.

Ebony magazine commended Girl Scouts’ inclusivity during GSUSA’s 40th anniversary, noting that in 1951, there were more than 1,500 racially integrated Girl Scout troops and more than 1,800 all-African American troops (mostly located in the South). The magazine cites Girl Scouts as "making slow and steady progress toward surmounting the racial barriers of the region." As Girl Scouts began a national effort to desegregate troops, the Movement was increasingly recognized as "a force for desegregation," especially in the South.

As the 1960s dawned, and the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum, Girl Scouts launched several major initiatives related to racial and ethnic diversity and made a concerted effort to bridge the gap between the principles of equality and the realities of the organization's administration, publications, councils, troops, and leadership. In 1969, Girl Scouts launched "Action 70," a nationwide effort to overcome prejudice and build better relationships among persons of all ages, religions, and races.

Within the Girl Scout ranks, African Americans gained responsibility and increased visibility both locally and nationally. In 1975, Dr. Gloria D. Scott served as the first African American national board president and the public face of Girl Scouts. (Fun fact: During the last year of her presidency in 1978, the Girl Scout Trefoil was reimagined by legendary designer Saul Bass to highlight our Movement’s great diversity.)

The following decades brought continued commitment to issues of diversity and multiculturalism, with the organization continuing outreach into the African American and other minority communities and pledging to promote respect and appreciation for the religious, racial, ethnic, social, and economic diversity of our country.

Today, acceptance, inclusion, and diversity continue to be a top priority for Girl Scouts.

As interim CEO Sylvia Acevedo recently noted, "We stand for inclusivity. We stand for unity, patriotism, and a commitment to the country we all share. We stand for the skills and resources that girls need to discover their talents and gain the courage, confidence, and character they need to be leaders."

So, let's take a moment to reflect on our Movement’s accomplishments in the area of inclusivity. Then, let’s redouble our efforts to fulfill Juliette Gordon Low's vision that Girl Scouts is—and will continue to be—a safe, welcoming place for ALL girls.

Girl Scout Volunteers, We Love You!

That’s right—we’re talking to you, our extraordinary volunteers, who tirelessly give of their hearts and time to help us unleash the leader in every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™. This Valentine’s Day, we want you to know that we see you, we appreciate you, and yes—we love you! We know we don’t say it nearly enough, but we didn’t want today to go by without letting you know how we truly feel. 

Valentine’s Day is about friendship, and that’s what you provide. It’s about community, and that’s what you build. It’s about sharing your heart, and that’s exactly what you do—without limits and without hesitation. You’re the real MVP! 

So when you’re tired and running around coordinating meetings and events galore, and losing a little steam, we want you to remember this: every day as a Girl Scout volunteer, you power life-changing adventure, opportunity-rich learning, and powerful growth for girls who will become the leaders and happy, healthy, problem-solvin’, barrier-breakin’ change-makers our world needs. 

And while they’re having the time of their lives making forever friends and trying new things, they’re learning that anything is possible. Their confidence is rising, and they’re breaking through fear. They’re raising their hands, sharing ideas, and believing in their own inherent power right from the start, all because you show them every day that’s it’s there. By walking beside them, letting them lead, and supporting them unconditionally, you’re not only talking the talk—you’re walking the walk. And what a walk it is! 

Don’t ever let anyone suggest that being a Girl Scout volunteer is no big thing. It takes grit, creativity, leadership, vision, and so much heart. We’d be nothing without you, and we want to thank you, from the bottom of our green green hearts, for showing girls that the world is theirs to take on. Between the power of your guidance and our proven Girl Scout Leadership Experience, there’s no challenge our girls can’t overcome, no goal they can’t reach. 

So today, we celebrate you and the priceless love you give girls every day through your unwavering dedication to their success. The future is bright, and you’re lighting the way!
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. 

And just for good measure, we’ll say it once more: WE LOVE YOU! 
Monday, February 13, 2017

Calling All Cookie Bosses—We Have a Challenge for YOU!

Girl Scouts are already cookie bosses. They’re crushing their cookie goals, building confidence, and learning leadership skills not found anywhere else! Now, it’s time to celebrate—

by accepting the #gsCookieBoss Instagram Challenge! 

We’re asking YOU, Girl Scout, to go on Instagram and tell us how you’re the ultimate cookie boss this cookie season. It’s simple!

How to enter: 
1. Follow @girlscouts on Instagram.
2. Upload a selfie using #gsCookieBoss and tagging @girlscouts.
3. Share how you’re a Girl Scout cookie boss by telling us how you overcome challenges, build your confidence, learn awesome new skills, and take the lead through your cookie sales.
4. Once you receive a confirmation message, claim your post to complete your entry.

All participants will be featured in a fun gallery, and five lucky winners will be randomly selected to win an awesome camera bundle pack and a special prize from Stella & Dot. Each winner will also be highlighted on our social channels and blog!

The sweepstakes will be open until March 24, 2017, and one winner will be selected weekly starting February 24.

Let’s do this! 

Girls’ Choice Badges: Vote for Your Badge Design!

As we shared last month, the next Girls’ Choice badge will be Troop Camping—after all, camp life is the best life! Now it’s time to vote on the badge design, because remember, it’s her world.

Starting today, until February 17, girls can vote on their favorite design  for the Troop Camping badges. After choosing their grade level, they’ll see two designs for the badge they’ll be able to earn this coming fall. That means Junior girls currently in fifth grade will vote on designs for the Cadette badge. And, although girls in 12 grade will not technically be able to earn a badge this fall, we want to hear their voices, too! They can still join the fun and vote on the Ambassador badge.

Remember, Girls’ Choice is all about giving girls a chance to shape their experiences and build their world. So adults can vote for fun, but only girl votes will count toward the winner.

We want to hear from her and her and her! Please go out and encourage every Girl Scout you know to make her voice heard by voting today .

Friday, February 10, 2017

Latest Edition of The State of Girls Unveiled on Capitol Hill

On Thursday, February 9, Girl Scouts launched The State of Girls 2017: Emerging Truths and Troubling Trends, the third edition of The State of Girls, which addresses national- and state-level trends across key indicators affecting girls’ overall well-being. The lead researcher, Kamla Modi, PhD, Girl Scout Research Institute, unveiled the report before a packed room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, sharing its findings about girls and their needs and current status in the United States.

Among findings is the suggestion that, regardless of an increase in high school graduation rates, economic conditions affecting girls in the United States have not fully recovered from the Great Recession. These conditions are leading to increased emotional and physical distress among girls, with obesity, marijuana use, and low self-esteem on the rise.

Also at Thursday’s briefing for congressional staff, Girl Scouts of the Nation’s Capital program manager Mankaa Ngwa-Suh shared how the Girl Scout Leadership Experience can be a solution to many of the issues addressed in the report, while Girl Scout Ambassador Summer Berry from Martinsburg, West Virginia, discussed how Girl Scouts’ STEM programming has enriched her life.

A closer look at The State of Girls data reveals the following:

Health and Well-Being: Girls are struggling with obesity, marijuana use, and emotional health.
  • Obesity rates have increased for girls ages 2 to 19, from 15.9 percent in 2008 to 17.2 percent in 2014.
  • More girls are trying marijuana; about 37 percent of high school girls had ever tried marijuana in 2015, an increase from 34 percent in 2007.
  • Girls’ emotional health is at risk—a higher proportion of high school girls seriously considered suicide in 2015 (23 percent), compared to 2007 (19 percent). 

Demographics: The face of the American girl is changing.

  • American girls are more racially and ethnically diverse today than before the recession. About half of U.S. girls are white, and a quarter are Latina.
  • One-fourth (26 percent) of all school-age girls in the United States are a first- or second-generation immigrant. This number has risen since 2007 (when it was 23 percent).

Economics: Poverty rates for girls have risen since 2007.

  • In 2015, 19 percent of girls ages 5 to 17 lived in poverty, compared to 17 percent in 2007. Poverty rates increased for girls across all racial and ethnic groups.
  • In 2015, American Indian girls were the most likely to live in poverty (33 percent), followed by black girls (31 percent), Latinas (29 percent), multiracial girls (13 percent), Asian American girls (13 percent), and white girls (12 percent).

Education: More girls are graduating from high school.

  • The high school dropout rate has decreased for girls in recent years, particularly Latina girls.
    • In 2007, 8 percent of girls and women ages 16 to 24 had dropped out of high school, but by 2014, that figure decreased to 6 percent.
    • Latina youth experienced the largest decline in dropout rates during the same 2007–2014 period, from 18 percent to 9 percent.

States Where Girls Thrive*

  • New Hampshire
  • Utah
  • Minnesota
  • Vermont
  • South Dakota

States Where Girls Struggle*
  • Nevada
  • Tennessee
  • Louisiana
  • New Mexico
  • Mississippi

The silver lining in the report? Higher graduation rates means girls want to learn, and they want opportunities. The report found in areas of the country where girls are faring the best, Girl Scouts, which can serve to bolster and reinforce academic achievement, also has a robust presence.

We’re committed to expanding our presence in girls’ lives nationwide, for giving all girls opportunities to achieve—no matter what obstacles they face—is at the heart of Girl Scouts.