The Broadway headquarters of Girl Scouts of Colorado is brimming with activity. It is cookie season, and while the offices are normally full of girls, they are also now stuffed with Thin Mints and Savannah Smiles. But for months, the entire national organization has been busy with preparations: On March 12, Girl Scouts will celebrate its 100th anniversary. (This is only a month shorter than Arizona has been a state.)
The century mark comes with a reinvigorated focus on the group's founding intentions and an awareness campaign to explain its significance to the scouts themselves. Inside the organization, the year 2012 is officially denoted as the "Year of the Girl," a title that brings a huge swath of activities in the coming months.
But although the group has adapted significantly to technological and social advancement, the focus of the anniversary celebration remains on the ways it has stayed the same.
"Some of the real core ideas that have remained true are inclusivity, service to the community and female empowerment," says Rachelle Trujillo, Girl Scouts of Colorado's vice president for communications. "We didn't always call it that, but empowerment is what it is. When Juliette Gordon Low founded the scouts, she had girls out and being active and wearing bloomers and showing their ankles and playing basketball at a time when that was still not culturally acceptable."
For the Girl Scouts of Colorado, the anniversary brings an additional opportunity to promote unity. The first Girl Scout council in the state began in 1917, but the group quickly branched off from there. In 2007, the state's seven Girl Scouts councils elected to merge into a single unit, Girl Scouts of Colorado, and membership temporarily dropped until this past year.
In 2011, the number of scouts in Colorado increased 4 percent, and this small victory comes with renewed efforts to include scouts outside the traditional troop model.
"We've always believed in what it gives to a girl to give to others," Trujillo says. "In 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. called the Girl Scouts a force for desegregation. It's just this idea of giving girls an experience way beyond what they expected."
Although the local and national branches have been preparing for the anniversary for years, it started last year to gather volunteer-led alumni committees to start planning the celebrations. The Longmont History Museum, for example, is creating an entire display devoted to Girl Scout history, and Girl Scouts of Colorado will be inducting an honorary Troop 2012, comprised of female state leaders, on the day of the anniversary.
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According to the national group's plan, every girl born on March 12, 2012, will also be an honorary member of Troop 2012, Trujillo says. Local scouts will make trips to hospitals to drop off gifts to female newborn.
And of course, the anniversary comes with its own decoration for the girls themselves: a commemorative one-year pin they can add to vests or sashes. But that's not the point, they're reminded.
"As an organization, we've been really trying to shift that paradigm away from cute cookies and camp-outs," Trujillo says. "Yeah, we do those things, but girls don't join because they want to become leaders. They join for those fun things, and they realize later on that that's what they have become."
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