Black History Month: Girl Scouts’ Legacy of Inclusivity

Girl Scout Intermediates in front of the United States Capitol, Washington, D.C., 1940. 

Inclusivity is a big part of the Girl Scout DNA. From the very moment founder Juliette Gordon Low first mentioned her plans to start Girl Scouts, it was set to be an organization not only for the girls of Savannah but also for “all of America, and all the world.”

Beginning with that first small troop gathering of 18 culturally and ethnically diverse girls, Juliette Low broke the conventions of the time by reaching across class, cultural, and ethnic boundaries to ensure all girls had a place to grow and develop their leadership skills.

Today, as we continue to celebrate Black History Month, we highlight how Girl Scouts has welcomed African American girls to the Girl Scout Movement throughout our history. Girl Scouts has long been a pioneer in acceptance, a beacon of inclusivity, and a stalwart civic advocate to make sure every girl—regardless of her race, religion, orientation, or socioeconomic background—has the opportunity to thrive.

Our promise of inclusivity was fulfilled early when African American girls became members of the third U.S. troop formed in New Bedford, Massachusetts, in 1913, according to the March 1952 issue of Ebony magazine.

The first all-African American Girl Scout troops were established as early as 1917. Troops for girls with disabilities formed that same year. One of the earliest Latina troops was formed in Houston in 1922. Girl Scout troops supported Japanese American girls in internment camps in the 1940s. And after much perseverance, in 1942, Josephine Holloway established one of the South’s first African American troops in Nashville, Tennessee. By the 1950s, Girl Scouts was leading the charge to encourage councils to fully integrate all troops.

Ebony magazine commended Girl Scouts’ inclusivity during GSUSA’s 40th anniversary, noting that in 1951, there were more than 1,500 racially integrated Girl Scout troops and more than 1,800 all-African American troops (mostly located in the South). The magazine cites Girl Scouts as “making slow and steady progress toward surmounting the racial barriers of the region.” As Girl Scouts began a national effort to desegregate troops, the Movement was increasingly recognized as “a force for desegregation,” especially in the South.

As the 1960s dawned, and the Civil Rights Movement gained momentum, Girl Scouts launched several major initiatives related to racial and ethnic diversity and made a concerted effort to bridge the gap between the principles of equality and the realities of the organization’s administration, publications, councils, troops, and leadership. In 1969, Girl Scouts launched “Action 70,” a nationwide effort to overcome prejudice and build better relationships among persons of all ages, religions, and races.

Within the Girl Scout ranks, African Americans gained responsibility and increased visibility both locally and nationally. In 1975, Dr. Gloria D. Scott served as the first African American national board president and the public face of Girl Scouts. (Fun fact: During the last year of her presidency in 1978, the Girl Scout Trefoil was reimagined by legendary designer Saul Bass to highlight our Movement’s great diversity.)

The following decades brought continued commitment to issues of diversity and multiculturalism, with the organization continuing outreach into the African American and other minority communities and pledging to promote respect and appreciation for the religious, racial, ethnic, social, and economic diversity of our country.

Today, acceptance, inclusion, and diversity continue to be a top priority for Girl Scouts.

As interim CEO Sylvia Acevedo recently noted, “We stand for inclusivity. We stand for unity, patriotism, and a commitment to the country we all share. We stand for the skills and resources that girls need to discover their talents and gain the courage, confidence, and character they need to be leaders.”

So, let’s take a moment to reflect on our Movement’s accomplishments in the area of inclusivity. Then, let’s redouble our efforts to fulfill Juliette Gordon Low’s vision that Girl Scouts is—and will continue to be—a safe, welcoming place for ALL girls.

Source: Black History Month: Girl Scouts’ Legacy of Inclusivity

Girl Scout Volunteers, We Love You!

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That’s right—we’re talking to you, our extraordinary volunteers, who tirelessly give of their hearts and time to help us unleash the leader in every G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)™. This Valentine’s Day, we want you to know that we see you, we appreciate you, and yes—we love you! We know we don’t say it nearly enough, but we didn’t want today to go by without letting you know how we truly feel.
Valentine’s Day is about friendship, and that’s what you provide. It’s about community, and that’s what you build. It’s about sharing your heart, and that’s exactly what you do—without limits and without hesitation. You’re the real MVP!
So when you’re tired and running around coordinating meetings and events galore, and losing a little steam, we want you to remember this: every day as a Girl Scout volunteer, you power life-changing adventure, opportunity-rich learning, and powerful growth for girls who will become the leaders and happy, healthy, problem-solvin’, barrier-breakin’ change-makers our world needs.
And while they’re having the time of their lives making forever friends and trying new things, they’re learning that anything is possible. Their confidence is rising, and they’re breaking through fear. They’re raising their hands, sharing ideas, and believing in their own inherent power right from the start, all because you show them every day that’s it’s there. By walking beside them, letting them lead, and supporting them unconditionally, you’re not only talking the talk—you’re walking the walk. And what a walk it is!
Don’t ever let anyone suggest that being a Girl Scout volunteer is no big thing. It takes grit, creativity, leadership, vision, and so much heart. We’d be nothing without you, and we want to thank you, from the bottom of our green, green hearts, for showing girls that the world is theirs to take on. Between the power of your guidance and our proven Girl Scout Leadership Experience, there’s no challenge our girls can’t overcome, no goal they can’t reach.
So today, we celebrate you and the priceless love you give girls every day through your unwavering dedication to their success. The future is bright, and you’re lighting the way!
Happy Valentine’s Day, friends.
And just for good measure, we’ll say it once more: WE LOVE YOU! 

Source: Girl Scout Volunteers, We Love You!

A Message From Sylvia Acevedo: A Commitment to Inclusivity is Part of our DNA

Guest blog by Sylvia Acevedo, Interim CEO

At Girl Scouts of the USA, a commitment to inclusivity is part of our DNA. Founded by a daring and courageous woman who wasn’t afraid to break the mold, Juliette Gordon Low plainly stated that Girl Scouts was to be a Movement “for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world.”

For more than 100 years, we have lived up to these words and carried forward the legacy of openness, inclusion, and unity that Juliette Low handed down to us. We have actively embraced all girls and are reflective of American society. Through turbulent and troubled times, through wars and economic depressions, and through periods of peace and prosperity, we have always served girls in every walk of life, without regard to their race, ethnicity, religious affiliation, economic standing, orientation, country of birth, or family history.

Girl Scouts has truly been, and will always be, a Movement for ALL girls—a place where girls can, must, and will feel safe to explore their potential, learn new skills, make lifelong friends, and tap into their potential for the leadership that our world so desperately needs. In today’s environment, some of our girls may be experiencing certain pressures and anxieties; they may feel unsure, confused, or even threatened.

So let me be perfectly clear: Girl Scouts of the USA is here for them. Our role is to support and encourage every girl, not insert ourselves into her spirituality, question her birthplace or family’s country of origin, or concern ourselves with her economic status. We’re not interested in her family’s political beliefs. No matter who she is, she has a home and a safe place at Girl Scouts. What matters is that she is a girl living in our community; a girl with hopes and dreams, ideals, and ambitions that we seek to nurture. Girl Scouts is about the girl she is and the woman and leader she has the potential to become. In today’s hyper-partisan, super-charged world, it’s easy to lose sight of what we stand for as Girl Scouts and what we exist to do.

We stand for inclusivity. We stand for unity, patriotism, and a commitment to the country we all share. We stand for the skills and resources that girls need to discover their talents and gain the courage, confidence, and character they need to be leaders. We stand for being honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, and courageous and strong. We stand for sisterhood. And we stand for making the world a better place, one girl at a time.

Girl Scouts continues to be a home for girls from all walks of life. The world can be frightening and confusing. We continually rededicate ourselves to the values of our promise and law and work day in and day out to make sure every girl feels included and welcome. We are aligned to make our world a reflection of Juliette Gordon Low’s dream from so long ago—one where we come together, celebrate our common bonds, champion our unique heritage and shared history, and make the world a better place.

Source: A Message From Sylvia Acevedo: A Commitment to Inclusivity is Part of our DNA

Ask a Girl Scout: Mandi K.

by Cathy Brown, guest blogger

Mandi K. is one of the GSGCF Shop’s newest Junior Sales Specialists (JSS). While she lives in Lee County, she has become an integral part of our traveling shop team and participates in many shop functions held at council headquarters. During our traveling shop this past November, I was able to spend time with Mandi and ask her about her experiences as a Girl Scout.

I was impressed by her responses and her sense of humor. She was very shy at the beginning of her JSS training, but by the end, she was right in the thick of things. When I asked why she liked being a Girl Scout, she responded, “I like being a Girl Scout because there are a lot of opportunities for girls, like me, to be heard and find a place to be welcomed for who I am.”

When asked how Girl Scouting has impacted her life she was quick to reply: “I have always been really shy around people. I think it is because I like to hang back and watch instead of being right in the middle of things… until I’m comfortable. But, in Girl Scouts, the girls and leaders will actually wait for me to BE comfortable.”

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Mandi with her Girl Scout sisters, Troop 673.

“That doesn’t happen in other groups or activities I’ve been involved in,” she continued. “A lot of times people expect me to feel or be a certain way. But Girl Scouts has actually let me be me. That makes it easier to open up and try new things on my own. Girl Scouts has given me that.”

Hands down, Mandi’s favorite thing she has done as a Girl Scout is lead as a Counselor in Training (CIT) during the Cadette Leadership Weekend. “I wanted to be a CIT since meeting Ms. Gina [Sauer]. It felt great, going through the program to learn how and then actually doing it! I was a little afraid that the girls in my group wouldn’t listen, but they were great!”

Some of Mandi’s many accolades are in part the result of her involvement in a variety of extracurricular, community, faith-based, and Girl Scout activities.  She feels “really lucky to be involved with different groups and learn different things.” “I am active in my church and youth group, school, animals, and community causes as well as being in Girl Scouts,” Mandi said.

“In 4th grade, I became a full-time home school student. This has given me so many opportunities! I was accepted into Disney/Pixar’s program for arts and development. I have [increased my] global awareness through a group called Girl Rising, furthering education for girls around the world. I have also been able to take classes from several universities around the country through edX.”

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Mandi with her proud mom, Tracylee.

“I created and have run my own not-for-profit charity #MandisBackpack that provides different items (based on time of the year) to those in need throughout the country…for right around four years now.” This includes back-to-school items in the late summer/early fall, pantry donations to food banks in late fall/early winter, toys during the holidays as well as care packages to our service men and women serving our country overseas, and shoes in the spring. The program operates on a voluntary basis with donations from the community.

“I also branched out to add #MandisBookbag to donate books to children that are in the hospital that could use a ‘staycation’ through reading a book,” said Mandi. “Taking both #MandisBackpack and #MandisBookbag to social media has made it possible for those across the country to get involved! You can find my CEO page on Facebook and Twitter.”

But Mandi hasn’t stopped there. “I have also been able to give back to my community by joining the Junior League to donate my time. I make ‘bags of hope’ to give to our homeless population. They contain anything from a toothbrush/toothpaste to a voucher for a free meal. I remain involved with our local animal shelters as well. I want to be a large cat vet in South Africa. I’m always looking for activities that get me closer to animals. I have been invited to submit my application to become a MobSTIR for the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and am biting my nails to see if I’ll be accepted. If so, Africa may not be too far off!”

Mandi has earned a number of formal Girl Scout recognitions. “Over the course of my Girl Scout years, I’ve completed both my Bronze and Silver Award; earned [my] PA pin, CIT II pin, Cadette Safety Cross, Cadette service bars, Silver Torch Award, and Summit Award; [and received] numerous accolades for cookie sales and magazine/fall fundraisers.”

Mandi firmly believes Girl Scouts prepares girl leaders. “I belong to a handful of groups that encourage girls to be leaders. But, Girl Scouts gives girls tools to help make them successful and become leaders. I also think Girl Scouts encourages girls to break through stereotypes.”

mandi-snorkel

Mandi knows that Girl Scouts is about more than just cookies and camping.

Mandi would definitely recommend Girl Scouts to other girls. “It is harder when girls are older. But, I’m the first one to say ‘So, yeah, I sell cookies. And I go camping. But I also learn how to kayak, paddle board, zip line, rock climb, do marathons, prepare business Powerpoint presentations, and a ton of other stuff.’”

Mandi has accomplished so much, and she is quick to remind me that she is only thirteen. I am amazed!  Mandi is “so looking forward to the future,” and based on all she has accomplished, truly the sky is the limit for her.

~Cathy Brown is the Shop Manager for Girl Scouts of Gulfcoast Florida, Inc.

Dorothy Vaughan: Meet the G.I.R.L.s Behind ‘Hidden Figures’

Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Johnson, and Mary Jackson are the real-life go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders of Hidden Figures, the story of the African American women mathematicians behind some of NASA’s greatest victories. Follow along as we honor each of these inspiring women who broke through countless barriers around race, gender, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Dorothy Vaughan—the Go-getter 

Dorothy Vaughan, Lessie Hunter, and Vivian Adair – the “Human Computers.” Image via NASA


“I changed what I could, and what I couldn’t, I endured.”

Dorothy Vaughan was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1910. Her mother passed away when she was only two years old and her father soon remarried. Her stepmother became a driving force for Dorothy’s education, teaching her to read before she entered school, which allowed Dorothy to advance two grades. At age eight, her father moved her family to Morgantown, West Virginia, where she eventually attended the Beechhurst School. Her hard work earned her valedictorian honors and a full scholarship to Wilberforce University, the country’s oldest private African-American college. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics at the
age of 19.

Dorothy Vaughan.
Image via the Human Computer Project

Dorothy soon set her sights on graduate studies at Howard University. Instead, because she felt she had a responsibility to help her family during the Great Depression, she took a job as a teacher—a difficult search during an economic turndown when school systems were slowly being shut. Eventually, Dorothy settled in Farmville, Virginia, where she met and married her husband, Howard, and had four children. Always fearing for her family’s future, Dorothy never turned down a chance to earn and save money. So, when she read an article announcing a search for African American women to fill mathematical jobs, she was intrigued.

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 prohibiting racial discrimination in the national defense industry—including the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), now National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Thanks to the executive order, Dorothy was one of the first African American women to be hired as a NACA mathematician and was assigned to the West Area Computers group.

Dorothy was responsible for calculating computations for engineers to help them conduct aeronautical experiments in wind tunnels—all to improve space flight accuracy. By 1949, Dorothy had become the first African-American supervisor at NACA (even though the official title was not given to her until years later). She was responsible for teaching new concepts to new and existing employees—Katherine Johnson was once assigned to Dorothy’s group prior to her transfer to Langley’s Flight Mechanics Division. This position gave Dorothy visibility and allowed her to advocate for female employees, both African-American and white, who deserved promotions or raises.

Dorothy Vaughan. Image via Daily Press

When NACA became NASA, Dorothy joined the Analysis and Computation Division where she did some of the first computer programming and became proficient in coding languages. These skills helped her earn a place with the Scout Launch Vehicle Program, one of the country’s most successful launch vehicles, capable of sending 385-pound satellites into orbit. Near the end of her career, Dorothy, along with Mary Jackson, had the opportunity to work closely with Katherine Johnson again to launch astronaut John Glenn into orbit—a turning point in the global space race.

Despite her efforts, Dorothy never received another management role before she retired in 1971, but that didn’t stop this go-getter! She consistently advocated for herself and her peers and accepted any challenge that came her way. She was the leader that the West Area Computers and NASA needed to make some of most incredible space adventures in history successful.

Source: Dorothy Vaughan: Meet the G.I.R.L.s Behind ‘Hidden Figures’

Katherine Johnson: Meet the G.I.R.L.s Behind ‘Hidden Figures’

Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson are the real-life go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders of Hidden Figures, the story of the African American women mathematicians behind some of NASA’s greatest victories. Follow along as we honor each of these inspiring women who broke through countless barriers around race, gender, and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Katherine Johnson—the Risk-taker

Katherine Johnson at her desk. Image via NASA


“Luck is a combination of preparation and opportunity. If you’re prepared and the opportunity comes up, it’s your good fortune to have been in the right place at the right time and to have been prepared for the job.”

As far back as she remembers, Katherine Johnson had a love of counting.

“I counted everything. I counted the steps to the road, the steps up to church, the number of dishes and silverware I washed … anything that could be counted, I did.”

Her classes came easy to her; in fact, she completed eighth grade by the age of 10. And because her county did not provide higher education for African American students after eighth grade, Katherine’s father moved the family 120 miles away so she could attend high school. She adjusted to her new school quickly and finished four years later.

Katherine Johnson, 1971. Image vis NASA

Soon after, Katherine attended West Virginia State College, graduating summa cum laude with degrees in math and French—at the age of 18. The following year, she became the first African-American woman to desegregate the graduate school at West Virginia University; however, she felt unwelcomed and left to pursue teaching.

In 1939, Katherine married James Francis Goble. They had three daughters—Joylette, Katherine, and Constance—all of whom were Girl Scouts! Although Katherine had to work incredibly hard to provide for her family, she enjoyed teaching, feeling it was her responsibility to instill discipline and self-respect in her students and help advance the African American community.

It was in 1952 that a life-changing opportunity came knocking at Katherine’s door. On learning that the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), later to become NASA, was hiring African American women to serve as “computers,” checking calculations for technological developments, Katherine joined the effort. She quickly caught the attention of her new bosses and was asked to temporarily join the all-male flight research team. While the racial and gender barriers were still there, Katherine ignored them and simply asked to be included in meetings, insisting that she had done the work and she belonged. Her temporary position with the team soon became permanent.

Katherine Johnson receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Image via the White House

By 1959 Katherine was in charge of calculating the trajectory for the space flight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space. How did she get that job? She took a risk—she stood up and made clear her intent. She told her boss, “You tell me when you want it and where you want it to land, and I’ll do it backwards and tell you when to take off.” She was never questioned again. In fact, in 1962, NASA started using computers for the first time—but it relied on Katherine to verify the numbers. Katherine’s remarkable accuracy soon led to the historic Apollo 11 mission that successfully landed the first humans on the moon.

Katherine continued to serve as a key asset for NASA until her retirement in 1986. In 2015, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor, for pioneering the advancement of African American women in STEM. Today, her groundbreaking work and unwavering spirit continue to inspire girls and women around the world.

Source: Katherine Johnson: Meet the G.I.R.L.s Behind ‘Hidden Figures’

Bling Your Booth and Join Cookie Troop 100

2017_cookie_troop_100_home_page_hero%5b4%5dIn honor of the 100th anniversary of the first known sale of cookies by Girl Scouts, we’re taking #BlingYourBooth to a whole new level by inviting you to be a part of the new Cookie Troop 100.

Here’s how:

  • Set a troop goal and share the plan for your cookie money—what amazing stuff will you do to improve your community this year?
  • Earn a Cookie Business badge—you can take your pick!
  • As a troop, ask 100 new customers to buy cookies.
  • Bling Your Booth. Gather your troop and get those creative juices flowing to come up with a fun theme—a party, a race, a cookie disco—what will it be? You can even give it a Cookie Troop 100 twist. Just remember to snap a cool photo!
  • Submit your entry by April 30, 2017.

One lucky troop from every council around the country will win $100 to put toward its awesome cookie Take Action or service project. And one very lucky troop will win $3,000 to super power its project!

Every participant will also unlock her very own Cookie Troop 100 patch! Enter the Cookie Troop 100 Challenge today! 

Need some inspiration for your blinged-out cookie booth? Check out last year’s winners or follow along on Pinterest!

Source: Bling Your Booth and Join Cookie Troop 100