As of this morning, the Girl Scouts of the USA, that bastion of female youth and empowerment, is now roughly twice as old as Hawaii. Founded on March 12, 1912 by original Girl Scout Juliette Gordon Low, the organization celebrates its 100th anniversary. In the Denver headquarters of the Girl Scouts of Colorado, the date follows more than a year spent considering the longevity and modernity of the national organization
At the national level, Girl Scouts of the USA has declared 2012 the "Year of the Girl," a long-term initiative focused on reinforcing leadership qualities in the scouting community and bringing together both troops and girls involved in the organization's individual model.
"We've been told about the anniversary for months now, and it feels weird and good to be a part of all this history," says Carina Schmid, a thirteen-year-old Denver scout. Although her troop has lost many of its members due to age and a prevailing "false idea that it's not cool anymore," she says the organization is responsible for her business savvy and the ability to protect herself and many of her closest friendships. "Every once in a while, we realize we really are part of something huge."
The increased push toward leadership is partnered with data GSUSA gathered through a telephone survey of 1,000 girls aged eight to seventeen. Published in a study entitled ToGetHerThere, the results suggest that a majority of girls think women can progress higher in their companies but are unlikely to become upper-level leaders, while more than 33 percent of girls admitted they wouldn't feel comfortable in a leadership role. More than 40 percent aren't certain they have what it takes.
Watch the video promo for the anniversary celebration:
In 2012 specifically, and in the future generally, the organization is targeted toward changing that. One hundred years into its national tenure, the goal of the Girl Scouts is to remain at the forefront of contemporary issues facing its members, all the while promoting the core principles of inclusivity, community service and female empowerment, says Rachelle Trujillo, vice president of communications for Girl Scouts of Colorado. In Colorado, this has included the creation of a statewide self-defense program, Fight Like a Girl Scout, in partnernship with the national ant-bullying program Power Up.
"That same notion of getting together with girls, having fun, learning and gaining confidence has existed since back when I was in Alaska," says Faye Tate, a former scout and the current vice president and director for global diversity and inclusion at CH2M Hill. "Those notions continue inside the Girl Scout organizations today, and I continue to see them even though I'm now 55."
After starting as a Brownie and rising through the ranks, Tate encouraged her daughter, Ellena, to join the next generation. The now 22-year-old Ellena's struggles with visual impairments and cerebral palsy allowed her troop a diversity of experience, says Tate. By watching her daughter follow a similar path through the institution, Tate saw her own childhood experiences echoed through modern adaptation and updated programs.
"That's what keeps our organization vibrant, so we don't get stale," Tate says. "For young people like Ellena who are different in some way, the Girl Scouts do a much better job now of teaching the value of inclusion, which was always relevant then but continues to be important now. Even today, when I meet another former Girl Scout, there's always this instant reaction, this common sharing of experiences.
"It's like, 'What troop were you in? Were you good at selling cookies?'"
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Colorado's history with the Girl Scouts has centered on adaptation: Although the state's first council began in 1917, the group quickly grew into a series of geographic branches. 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, when it increased 4 percent.
The 100th anniversary event is accompanied by a wealth of city and statewide events. Today, the organization and its Troop 2012 have been recognized by the state legislature. Every female child born today will earn an honorary induction into the anniversary troop, along with Colorado's female legislators, and scouts will visit hospitals across the state to commemorate the occasion with gifts. A handful of cities across the state will feature displays or museum entries devoted to the Girl Scouts, including the Longmont Museum & Cultural Center.
For more information on the anniversary and the schedule of events, visit the Girl Scouts of Colorado's website.
More from our News archive: "Photos: Girl Scouts of Colorado launches statewide self-defense program."