Girl Scouts across the nation have teamed up to celebrate the organizations centennial anniversary. For the past 100 years the Girl Scouts organization has been working to shape girls into the leaders of tomorrow. Girl Scouting in the United States of America began on March 12, 1912 when Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low organized the first Girl Scout troop meeting of 18 girls in Savannah, Georgia.
Celebrations have been held all across the country and locally, during last months meeting of the Macon County Board of Commissioners, a resolution was passed to join the national effort of declaring 2012 the “Year of the Girl”.
In a move designed to focus national attention on girls and the issues they face, Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has declared 2012 the Year of the Girl: a celebration of girls, recognition of their leadership potential, and a commitment to creating a coalition of likeminded organizations and individuals in support of balanced leadership in the workplace and in communities across the country.
Girl Scouts of the USA was founded in 1912 and is considered the preeminent leadership development organization for girls with 3.2 million girl and adult members worldwide. Girl Scouts is the leading authority on girls’ healthy development, and creates girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. The organization serves girls from every corner of the United States and its territories. Girl Scouts of the USA also serves American girls and their classmates attending American or international schools overseas in 90 countries.
“The Year of the Girl is only a beginning,” said GSUSA Chief Executive Officer Anna Maria Chávez. “We can’t transform American leadership in a year, but we can transform expectations in a year. We can transform awareness in a year. We can set in motion a generational change, and make certain that a baby girl born in 2012 will experience her life in a new and vastly different world. Only Girl Scouts, with its scale and time-honored place in society, can launch this initiative. If not us, who? If not now, when? When girls succeed, so does society. We know that together, we can get her there.” This declaration serves as the foundation for Girl Scouts’ broader, multiyear, multipronged effort to break down societal barriers that hinder girls from leading and achieving success in everything from technology and science to business and industry.
The local council Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont has mixed celebrations of the organization’s 100 years as the premier leadership experience for girls with efforts to create a sense of urgency around girls’ issues. “Locally, our focus is to encourage today’s girls to become tomorrow’s leaders,” said Marcia Cole, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont. “We embrace the opportunity to influence and develop our next generation of girls, where they demonstrate courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place.”
The rich history of Girl Scouting’s first 100 years will be showcased in traditional and innovative ways nationwide. GSUSA is in contact with museums and organizations with potential to serve as showcase partners. A "rig book”/style guide will be shared with councils and history volunteers by Fall 2010 and will help guide the development of local displays and exhibits.
Girl Scouts troops in Macon County, which include about 65 girls and 40 adults, have been celebrating the 100 year anniversary with birthday parties and Friendship Circles. To continue the celebration, troops will be participating in the Great Girl Scout Hike, which began on March 12 and will continue until October 31. The event is designed to have troops hike different sections of the Appalachian Trail with the goal of having the entire trail traveled by scouts. In June, troops in Macon County will be participating in a camporee event which will be held at Camp Pisgah and in September, girls will be participating in the Outdoor Round-up at Grandfather Mountain.
According to Tammy Keezer, member of the Board of Directors representing Region 1 (Macon, Swain, Jackson, Clay, Cherokee, and Graham counties) and Troop Leader for Junior Troop 30536 and Adult Learning Facilitator, the values that girl scouting instils in young women are crucial lessons that continue throughout their lives. “Girl Scouting provides opportunities for girls to learn and explore new ideas and experiences, gain leadership skills, develop lasting friendships, achieve higher academic success and, become involved in their community in ways that no other activity can provide,” said Keezer. “Girl Scouting costs less for participating than sports or other activities and, scholarships and/or sponsorships are sometimes available for those who can’t afford to participate. Many young women are accepted to preparatory schools, colleges and other advanced learning institutions because they were girl scouts.”
During the Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont Annual Meeting and Adult Recognition Ceremony on March 17 at Monticello United Methodist Church in Statesville, Keezer was recognized as going above and beyond her duties as a volunteer to receive the Appreciation Award, which is presented to a registered Girl Scout adult who has delivered outstanding service and contributes to the achievement of the council’s goals in at least one service area. So many adult volunteers in the organization were once girl scouts and want to continue to promote the values they were taught as children. Gold Award Scouts, Theresa Simmons and Maria Ashe Tallent were both scouts in Macon County as children and are now troop leaders. Both of Simmons’ and Tallent’s mothers were also troop leaders in Macon County for several years.
Growing up in a military family which moved around a lot, Simmons looked to the realtionships she built through girl scouts to provide her with a sense of belonging. “I have been a Girl Scout the majority of my life. My journey began when I was seven years old, in Fort Jackson, South Carolina,” said Simmons. “Growing up an “army brat” required moving around alot but no matter where we lived I could count on scouting. The sisterhood of scouting allowed me to make friends, and have a feeling of acceptance no matter where I was, even here in the small town of Franklin. Scouting has given me a life time of memories that I cherish. My hope is that, I, like the women before me, empower the girls to become their very Best, to let them know they Belong to something bigger than themselves, to Believe in themselves and others and to Build a better world.”
Tallent wanted to continue to working with the Girl Scouts in hopes of passing on the tradition to her children. “My experience with Girl Scouts started when I was in the 3rd grade as a Brownie in Sandra Simmons’ troop. My mom was the troop assistant leader, so it was a time for us to share time,” remembers Tallent. “Over the years I continued with scouts and eventually had my own troop as a leader when I was in college. My girls started in Girl Scouts in Kindergarten and I eventually took over their troop which I co-lead with Teressa Simmons. I had many wonderful and inspiring leaders over the years like Melanie Lester, Mrs. Cobb, Wanda Halyburton, Elenor “Mike” Swift and Lee Berger. They each had a part in teaching the basics of the tradition of Girl Scouts to be prepared.”
Tallent, who is currently the leader of Junior troop 30179 and coleader of Cadette troop 30180 with Simmons, believes that Girl Scouts benefit young women and help mold them into adulthood. “Girl Scouts bring values and traditions like respect, sisterhood, camping, helping others, improving the world around us, empowering ourselves and others, leadership, and being prepared to name a few. It builds self confidence, courage and strength to be the best you can be in a comfortable inspiring adventure,” she said.
As a former scout and current leader, Tallent said learned countless things that have greatly influenced her life because of her involvement. “As a leader I can make a difference in the lives of young girls. I have brought my skills/knowledge/values from being a GS as a young girl,” said Tallent. “I often reflect on the character values installed from my past leaders. Be prepared was one of the biggest (the motto of GS). If you went camping and did not put it on the list, Lee Berger did not make sure it was there when she did her part in preparations, so you had to improvise and use other skills to figure things out. Critical thinking, being independent and responsible for yourself, taking care of the world around you, all these values are projected and encouraged of our girls in our troops to teach them they are very important and they can use critical thinking skills to be responsible, courageous and strong in their lives. Values they can show and have a ripple effect on others. We teach them they have to earn what they want, it is not given to them, but the self confidence and satisfaction of looking and realizing “I can be anything and do anything and make a difference in the community and in the world” is worth every minute.”
According to Tallent, Girl Scouts has changes significantly since she was a young girl. The types of badges the girls can earn, the requirements for each award, and the design of the leader/girl program have all evolved over the years. “As a young girl, the leaders would guide our development and knowledge acquisition in the areas of camping, badge work, service projects, etc. Now the girls are empowered to be in the driver seat of the journeys they take and the leaders are facilitators as needed, not as a guide,” said Tallent. “It is different now also because as a young girl we were always outside in the woods, and now with technology the computer and the internet inside is utilized more. As a veteran GS, the new program is more of a challenge to get the girls out and involved in the outdoors, but the service projects and helping others has not changed.”
Girl Scouts Madison Tallent, Olivia Hedden, and Alyssa Hammaker, are Junior Girl Scouts in Troop 30179 and are excited to be able to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the program. According to Hedden, one of the best parts about celebrating the 100 years is having the opportunity to share the experience with so many other girls. Madison Tallent looks as the celebration as an indicator of how important her involvement in the program is. “ It is good to know you are doing something that has been around for a long time and will last forever,” she said.
Hammaker plans to take the things she is learning with the Girl Scouts and continue to apply them in her life as she gets older. One thing she believes will come in handy, is the information she has learned about camping and the outddors. “If you go camping you will know how to start a one match fire and find marshmallow sticks,” she said. Hammaker also joked that she would know to to get a green stick because they won’t burn!