Girl Scouts Focusing on Recruiting Young Latinas

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The Girl Scouts have been around for nearly 100 years, so it only makes sense for its membership to reflect the population. That’s why the youth organization has turned its attention towards Latinas by creating a campaign to recruit girls from Spanish speaking households. We spoke to Monica Contreras, director of marketing and communications at Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas to find out about the initiative, and here’s what she had to say:

Why reach out to Latina girls specifically?

Traditionally, Hispanic families have not participated in extra-curricular activities. They would not allow their daughters to go to troop meetings at the homes of other girls, nor would they allow their daughters to attend camping events. Thus, for the most part, Hispanic parents are not familiar with the Girl Scout program, nor the benefits it affords their girls.

What are the core values of the Girl Scouts?

The core values of the Girl Scout culture are courage, honesty, fairness, respect and diversity. The mission of the Girl Scouts is to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place.

What are some of the activities organized by the Girl Scouts?

Girl Scouts arrange an array of activities primarily with their troop. Through the Girl Scout Leadership Experience, girls discover what they can do, learn to connect with others, and take action to improve the world around them. For example, the Girl Scout Cookie Program is the largest entrepreneurial program in the world. Girls run their own business, set goals, make decisions, learn how to manage money and develop people skills and business ethics. Some girls teach self-defense to battered women in homeless shelters, build after-school reading programs, provide expert testimony on cyber bullying before a congressional panel.

What are some of the ways the Girl Scouts empowers young women?

For almost 100 years, Girl Scouts has done more than any other organization to provide leadership opportunities for girls. [What’s more] 80 percent of women business owners were Girl Scouts,
69 percent of female US senators were Girl Scouts,
67 percent of female members of the House of Representatives were Girl Scouts. Virtually every female astronaut who has flown in space was a Girl Scout.  

How do you foresee the Girls Scouts changing the lives of Latina girls?

Even at a very young age, girls must learn self-confidence and self-esteem— both qualities needed to make good decisions for the rest of their lives. Without these skills, they tend to fall behind in their schoolwork, drop out at an early age because they are unfamiliar with the English language and are then unable to find jobs. Couple that with the increased teenage pregnancy trends for the Hispanic population, and so continues the downward spiral into poverty. This is where Girl Scouts steps in and gives them a foundation to build their courage, confidence and character to help them build life-long skills. 

How will the Girl Scouts deal with language barriers?

We don’t have an issue with the girls not speaking English, it’s the parents. So we have quadrupled our staff from three to 12 bilingual employees, provided materials in Spanish and created a bilingual website. This is an ongoing effort.

What about cultural barriers?

We know that family is a very big part of the Hispanic culture, so our communication efforts are vital to the Hispanic community.  Our membership team is continuously engaging the parents and families and welcoming them into the Girl Scouts. Once we start to educate the families and parents, we will then be able to offer them the world of Girl Scouting and all the benefits we have to offer.

What’s been the response from Latino parents in your community?

Very positive. As one mother of a young Hispanic Girl Scout has said, “Girl Scouts has offered her a menu of opportunities and I know she will be able to learn and develop around girls her age.”

Three other organizations that promote girl power:

Girls Write Now (http://www.girlswritenow.org/gwn/): Based in New York City, GWN is a mentoring organization that pairs at-risk high school girls with creative women writers. The end result is an intergenerational writing community that promotes creativity and idea-sharing.

Girls for a Change (http://www.girlsforachange.org): This national organization empowers girls to implement social change within their neighborhoods. Through GFC, young women develop their voice and problem-solving skills.

Girls Helping Girls (http://www.empoweragirl.org/pages/page.php?pageid=2): An international nonprofit, GHG aims to build a global community of girls that bridges language and cultural differences and embraces di

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About this author1

Grace Bastidas, Deputy Editor

Born and raised in Queens, New York, where more languages are spoken than anywhere in the world, Grace Bastidas is Latina’s Deputy Editor. She oversees lifestyle content, including topics as diverse as career, health and relationships, and occasionally writes about her own experiences in The Good Life section. As a writer, Grace’s work has appeared in The New York TimesNew York magazine, The Wall Street Journal and Travel + Leisure. She is fluent in Spanish.

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