21st Century Girl - Girl Scouts at 100

Juliette Gordon Low with original Girl Scout troop in Georgia
Juliette Gordon Low with original Girl Scout troop in Georgia.

The Girls Scouts are turning 100 this year. One of the oldest and well-known organizations for girls is also one of the savviest marketers. From its annual promotion of its cookie sale to its upcoming anniversary float in the 2012 Rose Parade, it knows how to promote itself and its main mission: To build girls of courage, confidence and character. To its credit, the Girl Scouts has been quick to acknowledge the changing demographics of the country and understand what these changes mean to its future and mission. For the past decade the organization has run a series of campaigns that reassert what the Girl Scout are while simultaneously redefining WHO a Girl Scout is. Actively reaching out to underrepresented communities and launching the national Hispanic Membership Marketing Initiative (HMMI) to recruit and retain Latinas.

At the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles (GSGLA) this push is key to their membership growth strategy, '50 in '5. The goal of this campaign is to increase membership to 50,000 girls in the next five years. Latinas represent the largest potential Girl Scout market in Los Angeles so the GSGLA is working to raise awareness in the Latino community about the enormous benefits of Girl Scouts by participating in the national pilot program for the marketing initiative and a national marketing campaign focusing on Latino parents and volunteers.

Girltopia entry way

Recently the GSGLA held a first of its kind event, celebrating the past 100 years of the Girl Scouts while looking forward to their next century. The event entitled Girltopia hosted over 10,000 girls and showcased the success of the national and regional campaigns. Girls Scouts from throughout Southern California converged on the LA Convention Center and were greeted by a gauntlet of cheering Girl Scout volunteers, Alumni, and current members. They were treated to booths and activities featuring the arts, business/entrepreneurship, science, health/fitness, and leadership building.

Girl Scout sash with badges
Girl Scout Sash with Badges

Girl Scout Vivanne Hedges (14) described the event as an opportunity to "let people know what we do and what we're involved in and the life skills that the leaders teach." Another Scout, Andrea Trejo (15), spoke about the importance of listening to guest speakers such as Latina Judge Christina Jaramillo as they share how to turn obstacles into success.

Vivanne has been a Girl Scout since kindergarten, while Andrea only recently become a scout. They typify the direction the organization has embarked on in urban areas, fostering a strong relationship with alumni (Vivanne's mother) and reaching out to a new generation of scouts. Both are spokespeople for the organization and bring a vital energy to the work of the Girls Scouts in urban Los Angeles. Andrea is developing a project to revitalize a vacant lot in her neighborhood and turn it into a park. Vivanne has visited with sick children at the Ronald McDonald House and worked on a conservation project in the Angeles National Forest, creating an information brochure on their efforts to save an endangered fish.

Andrea and Vivanne
Andrea and Vivanne

For Andrea it's the skills and opportunities the Girl Scouts offer that attracted her to the organization; confidence, becoming a public speaker, and becoming a voice for her community. Andrea learned about the Girl Scouts by seeing an ad in the back of a magazine that asked, "Are you bored at home? Do you want to help your community?" She immediately answered yes. "I was bored at home, I wanted to do something fun and try new things. I wanted to join the girl scouts. I didn't know anything about the Girl Scouts, I thought it was just a movie thing, but no it's real. It's a very special experience that opens the world up to girls."

She shared a story about a young woman who, through her experience in the Girl Scouts, was able to go to a prestigious university and eventually help her mother gain her residency. "That shows how big Girl Scouts is. It impacts girl's lives. It's not just a temporary thing. It's a lifetime. I didn't know about girl scouts until only a few months ago. I wish I had been a Girl Scout since I was little. That's why I'm trying to let people in my community know what it is, because a lot of people in my community don't know. I want to let girls know what's out there."

Both young women see the future of the Girl Scouts in their community tied to establishing more troops and recruiting girls of a variety of ages. Currently Andrea travels to South LA to take part in scouting activities, while Vivanne's troop includes girls from various parts of Whittier. "Girl Scouts offer so much to girls its important people know about it and all girls have access to everything it offers."

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