There are programs for girls in unusual situations that make it
difficult for them to participate in the standard program. The Girl
Scouts Beyond Bars program helps daughters of incarcerated mothers
to connect with their mothers and to have the mothers participate in
Girl Scout activities. Another program, Girl Scouting in Detention
Centers, allows girls who are themselves in detention centers to
participate in Scouting. Other initiatives try to help girls in
rural areas or in public housing. There are also programs for
American girls living overseas.
The national organization has its central headquarters in New York
City. It has a staff of 400, and is headed by a Chief Executive
Officer and a 40 member National Board of Directors. Kathy Cloninger
has been the Chief Executive Officer since 2003; the Chair of the
National Board of Directors, the highest volunteer position, is
Connie L. Lindsey.
Below the national organization were, as of 2006, 312 regional Girl
Scout councils, which own the 236,000 local troops and other groups.
As part of the August 26, 2006 reorganization, the National Board of
Directors decided to restructure the 312 councils into 109 councils.
Some Councils own and run camps for the troops within its area of
responsibility. Councils are usually subdivided again into areas,
called Neighborhoods, Service Units, or Associations (terms vary),
these are program delivery areas that consist of troops at all age
levels in a smaller area, such as a town.
The basic unit is the troop which may or may not be sponsored. In
contrast to Boy Scout troop chartered organizations, Girl Scout
troop sponsors do not own the troop. Troops range in size from as
small as six to as large as 30 or more girls and may be divided into
several patrols of 8 or fewer girls. Each troop must have two
unrelated female adults as leaders. Men can be and are troop
leaders, but they must also have two unrelated women serve as
leaders to preserve the vision of women as a role models.
ActivitiesOne of the original and continuing attractions of Girl Scouts is
that girls are encouraged to camp and do other outside activities
such as canoeing or backpacking with their troops. Troops do service
projects such as visiting nursing homes, carrying out flag
ceremonies, collecting food for food drives, or other community
services.Troops may also plan and take extended trips such as
visiting another part of the United States or even travel to another
country. Troops may organize cultural or learning events such as
first aid training or attending a musical. Many senior Girl Scouts
are involved in the Venturing program of the BSA.
DestinationsOnce known as "Wider Opportunities" or "Wider Ops", Destinations are
travel opportunities in which individual older Girl Scouts from
around the United States can participate. Destinations are held
within the United States and in other countries, and may be
activities such as forming part of the US delegation to another
country's national jamboree, or a visit to one of the international
Girl Scouting centers. Destinations might be outdoor oriented, such
as kayaking in Alaska, or career oriented such as learning about
working for NASA.
CustomsThe Girl Scouts of the USA have customs and traditions and perhaps
the best known of these is the sale of Girl Scout Cookies, an annual
fundraiser started in 1917 as a money earning opportunity for the
local council and troop. Other customs are the Girl Scout Handshake
and the Girl Scout signal for silence, two of the signs shared by
WAGGGS member organizations.
Bridging is the process of going from one level to another. Bridging
is usually done at the troop level, although area bridgings are also
done. Most notable is the bridging ceremony held in San Francisco as
Juniors bridge to Cadettes over the Golden Gate Bridge. The girls
bridging walk across a bridge (sometimes literally or symbolically)
to their new level and are greeted with the Girl Scout Handshake.
Thinking Day and Scouts' Own are traditions throughout the world of
Girl Scouting. Thinking Day has occurred annually since 1926 on
February 22, the birthday of both Robert Baden-Powell and Olave
Baden-Powell. On Thinking Day, Girl Scouts and Guides around the
world think about their sisters in other lands.Most troops will pick
a certain country were Girl Scouting is participated in and share
with fellow troops about the customs and differences of the country.
Many Girl Scouts in America also celebrate Juliette Gordon Low's
birthday, which coincides with Halloween. Such parties involve the
girls dressing in Halloween costume, and serving a birthday cake.
A Scouts' Own is an inspirational ceremony planned and carried out
by the girls that is built around a central theme such as
friendship, using resources wisely, or fairness. It is a bonding
moment for many older girls with the girls of their troop or many
troops together to cross from friends to sisterhood.
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