The Girl Scouts Celebrate 100 Years
By: Sarah Robinson
This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts. When Juliette Gordon Low founded the organization in 1912 in Savannah with a group of just 18 girls, she had in her mind to grow a girl-centered organization, where girls could experience the outdoors, expand their worlds through community service and learn the skills needed to be successful women in the society they lived in.
She also wanted to encourage girls to prepare for life outside of traditional homemaking—making a name for themselves in professional roles dealing with arts, sciences and business. Low herself had always been interested in these areas and wanted to give girls the opportunity to develop themselves into self-reliant and active citizens.
Although her ideas may have seemed revolutionary at the time, her goal to do something useful with her life has led to the largest educational organization for girls in the world, consisting of 3.2 million members.
Low could have never predicted when the organization began 100 years ago the number of girls and women the program would positively impact in the years to come. Her vision to build girls into strong, confident women continues to make a difference in the lives of girls and women today that are a part of the organization, including Girl Scout volunteer, Vi Terrell of Clyde.
Terrell, a member of Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont, never dreamed her journey with Girl Scouts would extend into six decades of working and changing the lives of girls for the better.
“I never was a Girl Scout as a young girl—I never wore the green uniform, never sold cookies—but when a friend in college asked me to be her co-leader for a junior troop, I said yes and have never looked back.”
Since that first troop in 1949, Terrell has continued to be a troop leader for 63 years. Even when she got married and moved to Germany with her military husband, she had an active troop on the military base where they lived. She has been the leader for her daughters, granddaughters and even great-granddaughters, as well as a countless number of women in the western North Carolina area. She even manages to still keep in touch with some of them.
“It is so rewarding to be out and see young and middle-aged women come up to me and say that Girl Scouts was the best part of their lives. It is great to see the girls I led as nurses, teachers, doctors—giving back to the community in so many ways.”
Giving back to the community is a theme that consistently runs through the Girl Scout program. The three highest awards girls can earn in Girl Scouting are the Girl Scout Bronze, Girl Scout Silver and Girl Scout Gold Award, all achieved by completing a community-service based project. These projects give girls the chance to look around the world they live in and find something they want to advocate for—something that will not only make them more determined and dedicated to the cause, but in turn make a difference in their communities. The awards, especially the Girl Scout Gold Award, also helps jump-start several girls into their college careers—earning them scholarships and spots at their top schools.
UNC-Asheville sophomore Megan Wood, who has been a Girl Scout for 16 years starting at the Girl Scout Daisy level, knows the significance of what earning Girl Scouts’ highest awards can do for a girl. “Girl Scouting has introduced me to several different career opportunities and taught me that women can and should do everything with confidence. Earning my Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards also helped me get into UNC-Asheville, as well as receive many different jobs throughout high school and my current college career. I like to show girls my vest, and encourage them to stay in the program so they too can earn the same amount of badges, as well as the Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards to help them get into college or the job they want,” Wood said.
And, as imagined, Terrell has seen several of her girls go on to earn the Girl Scout Gold Award, many of whom she knows credit everything that they have earned and gained in life since then to Girl Scouting.
“That is one of the best things about leading a troop—teaching girls to improve and appreciate the world around them. Being able to show girls how to achieve, learn and grow is very rewarding, as is working with girls from all different backgrounds.”
That point is one of the very things Low built the organization on when she first began. She welcomed girls with disabilities at a time when many of the activities of the day excluded them. Low herself suffered from deafness, back problems and cancer, but never let it stop her from experiencing life to its fullest. Her inclusiveness of all girls, no matter what their background physically, mentally and spiritually, continues to be a guiding force in the program today.
“In Girl Scouting, you have girls from all walks of life, but Girl Scouting makes them equal,” Terrell says.
Girl Scouting today markets itself as the premier leadership organization for girls. From camp experiences and troop activities to the Girl Scout Cookie Program, everything in Girl Scouting centers on the mission of building girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. Teaching girls to become strong in their leadership skills is important in today’s society.
Just ask Peyton Elswick of Hendersonville, a Girl Scout Senior, who was a representative for Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont at the Girl Scout Leadership Institute (GSLI) at the National Convention in November. The GSLI, hosted in Houston, TX, brought 1,200 Girl Scouts together to think big on topics such as business, science and technology innovation, as well as global connections and leadership. All the girls selected for the experience are recognized leaders within their respective councils.
“The GSLI has been one of my best Girl Scout experiences,” said Elswick. “Being a Girl Scout for nine years has taught me to be a leader and allowed me to apply my leadership skills in my everyday life. I realize I can do anything I put my mind to.” And because of this attitude, Elswick has seen her involvement in Girl Scouts make a positive difference in her school work and other activities.
With such an emphasis on building strong and confident girls, Girl Scout troops must also make sure their leaders are serving as an example.
“Being a troop leader is a two-way street. You are giving the girls the ability to appreciate nature and the world around them, but you are learning right along with them at the same time. Being a troop leader has made me more aware of my own actions and to lead by example—you are a role model to these young girls,” Terrell said.
And what a role model Terrell has been—not only as a troop leader, but as a service unit coordinator, board member and council president for what was the Girl Scouts of Western North Carolina Pisgah Council, but is now part of Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont, which covers 40 counties in western and central North Carolina and serves more than 16,000 girls and 8,000 volunteers.
Starting her 63rd year as a Girl Scout volunteer, she still leads a Girl Scout Daisy troop of 12 girls that meets each Monday in Lake Junaluska. She does enlist the help of two other moms who serve as her co-leaders, but continues to take part in all aspects of the troop. Even after facing neck surgery at the end of January, she still hoped to be a part of this year’s cookie program, which runs from February 11-March 12. “Even if I have to be in a wheelchair, I am going to help sell those cookies,” she said.
As rooted as Terrell and so many other volunteers are in Girl Scouting, they also recognize the need for Girl Scouts of the USA to stay current. The recently launched Girl’s Guide to Girl Scouting is the new handbook and badge book that introduces girls to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. Some of the older badges have been retired and new ones have taken their place, but the ideas and principles that the organization was founded on can still be found on the pages of these new books. One of the new badges is the Computer Smarts badge where girls learn the difference between .com, .org and .net. There are also new badges geared to areas such as financial literacy, skill building and cookies.
“Girl Scouting used to be about earning sewing and cooking badges, but now they are leaning toward newer trends such as science,” Terrell said. “I think they have done a terrific job with keeping up with the times—forget trying to attract a young girl with a sewing badge—it’s not going to work!”
March 12 will mark the official birthday of Girl Scouts, and councils, girls and volunteers from across the country will be celebrating the impact of Girl Scouting in their lives. Celebrations around the day have been planned at both the national and local level, and even the Empire State Building will give off a green glow into the New York City skyline.
But what will continue to ring true even after all the excitement and celebrating is over is the fact that Girl Scouting has and will continue to be an organization that builds girls into confident young women who serve their communities with positive values, strong leadership skills and the abilities to inspire and make a difference to those around them. Every girl who has ever been a Girl Scout, young or old, knows that the organization has impacted their lives in one way or another.
“I have learned how to respect myself and others,” said Wood.
Elswick agrees with her sister Girl Scout. “Living by the Girl Scout Promise and Law helps guide me into being the best person I can possibly be,” Elswick stated.
On a final note, Terrell summed up her many years of service. “Girl Scouting has simply made me a better person!”
For more information about Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont, visit www.girlscoutsp2p.org or e-mail email@example.com.
Sarah Robinson is the marketing assistant manager at Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont and is excited to be a part of the organization as they celebrate their 100th Anniversary. Robinson graduated from Elon University with a degree in journalism and has done freelance writing and editing for other publications in North Carolina.