Today, March 12th, marks the Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) Centennial Anniversary. We are all familiar with the Girl Scout cookies and merit badges, but this organization is much more than just that. One hundred years ago today, with the goal of bringing girls out of their isolated home surroundings, Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low assembled 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia for a local Girl Scout meeting. She believed that all girls should be given an opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. Within just a few years, Daisy’s dream for a girl-centered organization was realized and today, Girl Scouts of the USA boasts a membership of over 3.2 million, and more than 50 million women in the U.S. are Girl Scout alumnae.
As the world continues to change and present new challenges to young girls, we wondered what the future holds for the GSUSA. So, we turned to Alison M. Trachtman Hill, former Project Manager of the National Anti-Violence Initiative at the Girl Scouts of the USA, to learn more about the role the organization plays in girls’ lives today.
Where Modern Girls Go, Scouting Does Follow
By Alison Trachtman Hill
Across the country, current Girl Scouts and Girl Scout alumnae are celebrating this incredible 100-year milestone and setting goals for the future. GSUSA has dubbed 2012 the “Year of the Girl” and created a new campaign that states, When Girls Succeed So Does Society – We Can Get Her There. The significance of this call to action lies in its directive that “we” can get her there. GSUSA is not saying that Girl Scouting alone can get her there, or that only women can get her there, or even that the girls can get themselves there, but rather that it is all of our responsibility to work with and on behalf of girls, as they are integral to a more just, safe, and prosperous world.
It is this focus on the collective nature of community-building and leadership that makes the Girl Scout model so compelling and important for girls today. As the new global leaders of the 21st century, girls need the GSUSA’s three “keys” to leadership so that they can:
Discover – Understand themselves and their values, and use their knowledge and skills to explore the world
Connect – Care about, inspire, and team-up with others locally and globally
Take Action – Act to make the world a better place
They also benefit from a Girl Scout program that is:
Girl-led: Girls play an active part in figuring out the “what, where, when, how and why” of their activities and experience leadership and decision-making opportunities.
Hands-On: Girls are engaged in continuous cycles of action and reflection resulting in deeper understanding of concepts and mastery of practical skills.
Cooperative: Girls share knowledge, skills and learning in an atmosphere of respect and cooperation as they work together on goals that can only be accomplished with the help of others.
In my years as the manager of GSUSA’s national anti-violence initiative, P.A.V.E. the Way (Project Anti-Violence Education), I worked with thousands of girls and adults to design and implement projects that incorporated the physical and emotional safety components of leadership development. We all understood, and continue to believe, that personal safety is a prerequisite for creating and maintaining the healthy relationships required for effective leadership. Our objective with the program was to prevent violence by helping build girls’ critical-thinking skills and self-efficacy, and design intervention strategies for those girls who had already experienced violence and abuse – as both victims and perpetrators.
From the youngest Girl Scout Daisy to the eldest Girl Scout Ambassador, girls led and participated in workshops, events, conferences, and performances that emphasized a collaborative approach to achieving common goals and a successful future. Innovative P.A.V.E. the Way programming positively impacted entire communities nationwide and demonstrated that girls can and do play a vital leadership role in the health, safety and security of their environments. P.A.V.E. programming also taught conflict-resolution skills, anti-bullying strategies, digital safety, and provided character education in support of crime and gang prevention. It taught girls how to advocate for themselves and on behalf of others, and to utilize their leadership abilities in the ways that felt most comfortable to them.
As we commemorate and celebrate 100 years of Girl Scouting, we recognize the importance of this movement on a national and global level. The Girl Scout mission is to “build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place”. Together, we can get them there.
Alison Trachtman Hill is the Founder and Managing Partner of Critical Issues for Youth, where she works on social-emotional and character education issues ranging from healthy relationships, bullying, relational aggression, cyber-abuse, and dating violence, to effective leadership and creating cultures of responsibility and respect. Prior to founding CI4Y, Alison managed the national anti-violence initiative, P.A.V.E. the Way (Project Anti-Violence Education) at the national headquarters of Girl Scouts of the USA. Ms. Hill has more than 12 years of experience working in project management, program design and implementation, curriculum development, research and evaluation, fund development, and workshops and training. You can find CI4Y on Twitter and Facebook.