Move over, Thin Mints. Scoot down, Samoas. No, the Girl Scouts aren’t about to stop selling their famous cookies (phew!), but in the past 95 years the organization has changed a bit. They’re still devoted to helping girls develop to their full potential, but these days that’s as likely to involve a class on money management as a hike in the woods.
Founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low, the Girl Scouts originally focused on getting girls outside and active. While health and the outdoors are still important to the program, that’s just the tip of the cookie. “We like to look at it as the premiere leadership development organization for girls,” says Marion Swan, a spokesperson. That means that the Girl Scouts now offer everything from space exploration classes funded by NASA to the “Beyond Bars” program for girls whose mothers are in prison. Scouts can attend “CEO University,” do engineering projects sponsored by Lockheed Martin, and earn the “Ms. President” patch for studying groundbreaking females.
With over 2.7 million scouts in 90 countries and almost 1 million adult volunteers, the Girl Scouts seem to be doing something right. Perhaps it’s the ease of joining a welcoming community; membership is only $10 per year, the uniform of khaki pants and white blouse is easy to find, and all those cookie sales fund scholarships for those who can’t afford extra activity fees. Parents are not required to volunteer, but are welcome to do so on a flexible basis. Or, perhaps parents just like knowing that from Kindergarten through 12th grade their daughters will have access to a group whose mission is to support them in achieving their goals.
Girl Scouts are quick to clear up one point: the organization is not in any way related to the Boy Scouts. The Girl Scouts have avoided controversy by staying out of politics. “We view issues like sexual orientation and birth control as personal matters between the parent and child,” says Swan, who notes that the organization does not discriminate in hiring.