Diane McCray, owner of the Green Palm Inn, a cozy bed-and-breakfast near Low’s birthplace in Savannah, is one of them. The Girl Scouts gave her the confidence to follow her dreams, McCray says, and provided a supportive environment to take risks. “Scouting taught me never to give up,” ?McCray says.
But that’s not the same as taking charge. One of the biggest challenges for women, Chavez says, is that girls and boys favor different leadership styles. Men are more prone to seize control and make decisions for others, while women prefer a more collaborative approach.
However, young girls say a lack of confidence is the greatest barrier to leadership. Although 92 percent of U.S. girls surveyed by the Girl Scout Research Institute believe they can acquire leadership skills, only 21 percent believe they currently possess them.
In an effort to counter those perceptions, the Girl Scouts launched an ambitious $1 billion fundraising campaign as well as an advocacy campaign to create leadership opportunities around the world for girls. The organization also introduced new leadership journeys, which allow girls to explore a special interest. The program is one of the requirements for earning Girl Scout’s highest honor, the Gold Award — the equivalent of the Boy Scouts’ Eagle award.
Only about five percent of girls earn the Gold Award, the culmination of Low’s vision for creating self-reliant women and active citizens.
Consider: Vanessa Campbell, 16, of Bethlehem, Pa., raised $3,000 to renovate the library of Bethlehem Catholic High School and turn it into a media center. She procured the donation of 10 laptops and purchased 30 iPads and 10 e-readers along with funky furniture to evoke the ambiance of a coffee shop. “I didn’t want it to feel like a computer room,” she says. “I wanted it to have more of a free-spirited feel.”
Meghan Roosa, a 17-year-old from Rosendale, N.Y., raised $800 from a 5K race to install a bike rack along a flat stretch of the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail. She also purchased materials to build a kiosk along the trail and stocked it with local maps to ?encourage walkers and bikers to stroll down the hill and eat and shop downtown. As for the Gold Award, Roosa says, “It’s very prestigious. The cool part is that I’m going to be able to get scholarships for college.”
For her Silver Award, Andrea Quintanar, 15, of San Diego organized an Earth Day fair in Mexico where she taught girls how to reuse objects by making coin purses from Capri Sun drink pouches. Girl Scouts has also given her opportunities for adventure. Through the Destinations program, Quintanar has canoed Canadian lakes, hiked trails in Alaska and learned to surf in Costa Rica. She’s also made close friends and learned “how to talk to people and make connections,” she says.
And that, says Natalye Paquin, CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania, is one of the best reasons to join Scouting. As the world becomes increasingly technology-driven, generations are growing up behind a computer screen and not learning the art of interpersonal communication. “The Girl Scouts is not a virtual experience, it’s a world experience,” she says. “It’s that personal interaction and connectivity piece that’s missing in children’s lives today.”