The year 1912 was pretty bleak for females. Women couldn’t vote. They couldn’t own property. They were only allowed a job outside the home if they were single. But while women’s rights were still virtually nonexistent, young girls got to take a purposeful step forward when a nonprofit organization formed to empower them: Girl Scouts of the USA.
Fast forward to 2015. The Girl Scouts is not only still in existence; today it claims a membership of 2 million girls from kindergarten to 18 years old. Why does the organization continue to flourish after more than 10 decades and countless changes for women? Because its essence hasn’t changed; it’s still about encouraging girls, says troop leader Deanna Nolan.
“It’s a great organization where young women can grow their leadership skills and have fun with other girls while doing it,” says Nolan, who herself was a Girl Scout for five years and has led her daughter’s troop for 12 years. “It’s so rewarding.”
The group remains focused on its original goals to empower young women to build the courage, confidence and character to make the world a better place. Changes to the program material mean many of the once-recognizable badges are gone (there are now 45 to earn instead of 100 badges per age group), replaced by three “journeys:” discover, connect and take action. But the Girl Scout law and promise haven’t changed. “That’s our core,” Nolan says.
More than Thin Mints
Charlottesville and Albemarle County have a thriving program, with over 70 troops and 870 active scouts. Some groups meet weekly, others bi-weekly. Meetings are set by troop leaders, usually after school or on weekends. While there are plenty of girls enjoying the experience, there are many in our area on waiting lists to join a troop because there’s a shortage of volunteers to lead them.
“We are blessed in this area—we have more girls interested in becoming Girl Scouts than we do leaders,” Nolan says. (Intrigued? Another bonus of living in 2015 versus 1912 is that all leader training is available online.)
Nolan recalls one of her most vivid memories was as a Girl Scout, going backpacking with her troop leader. “She was the single most influential person in my life. She taught me how to handle money, how to plan, how to lead… that’s why I give back so much to the Girl Scouts today.”