For being 100 years old, the Girl Scouts have aged extraordinarily well. On March 12, 1912, Juliette Gordon “Daisy” Low hosted the first Girl Scouts meeting. She gathered 18 girls in Savannah, Ga., with the goal to shape young women into future leaders.
A century has passed, and the Girl Scouts of the USA has spread its reach across the country. Thousands of young Hawaiians have taken the Girl Scout pledge, worked hard for merit badges and canvassed neighborhoods to sell Samoas, Thin Mint and Do-Si-Do cookies by the truckload.
Scouts have learned how to tie knots, start campfires and apply first aid.
“I like being a Girl Scout because you get to learn about others, and you get to see what you can do for the community,” said Isabel Gampon, 10. “I’ve learned you should never give up and always try something new.”
Shelbie-Lynn Burley, 10, also said she enjoys being a Girl Scout because it allows her to assist others.
“I like how we get to help people out,” said Burley, 10. “We got to walk a walk-a-thon in Lihu‘e. It felt good because we were helping people by doing simple things.”
Malia Olsen, 11, said she has learned to be a better leader and how to maintain a positive attitude, which will help her pursue a career as a doctor or teacher.
Today, members of the Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i will join members of the Hawai‘i Women’s Caucus and the Good Beginnings Alliance to advocate for early childhood learning at the state Capitol.
The day’s events include an appearance by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, recognition of the Girl Scout’s 100th national and 95th local anniversaries, and a rally on behalf of the Be My Voice! Hawai‘i campaign.
“Both the House and Senate are honoring us with resolutions on the floor,” said Caroline Hayashi, chief operating officer of Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i.
“We are the oldest Girl Scout council west of the Mississippi. We have quite an interesting history in Hawai‘i, because our first troop was sponsored by Queen Lili‘uokalani.”
Lili‘uokalani gave the troop her flag, which is displayed at the Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i headquarters in O‘ahu, said Hayashi, who joined the Girl Scouts as a Brownie.
“On all islands statewide, the girls are handing out reusable bags, as well as bookmarks, with information about how to prepare your keiki for kindergarten as a way to educate the public about early childhood learning during the cookie sale,” Hayashi said. “We want to celebrate and emphasize all throughout our history how much of an impact girls have made in our community.”
Throughout the year, Hayashi said the organization plans to have events for girls from outer islands to encourage their participation in the 100th anniversary celebration.
“They ultimately build strong, courageous and confident women,” said Raydene Gampon, who is a leader for her 10-year-old daughter’s troop on Kaua‘i. “To be able to experience the girls growing and learning all these new things is so wonderful.”
Members of Girl Scouts are currently in the midst of selling cookies, which grows confidence, helps them deal with rejection, and teaches them about business, upselling and customer service, Raydene said.
“There are so many skills they acquire,” said Raydene. “I tell people these girls are future CEOs.”
Cheryl Perriera’s three daughters joined the Girl Scouts. Perriera has been involved with the Girl Scouts for 13 years, and she currently is a troop leader of a junior troop based at Lihu‘e Christian Church.
“It’s a great program for the girls to build character,” Perriera said. “My oldest did graduate as a Girl Scout. I hope my littlest, who’s 10, stays with the Girl Scouts through graduation, because I love to be a part of it.”
In honor of the centennial milestone, the Girl Scouts declared 2012 as the “Year of the Girl,” to celebrate girls and recognize their leadership potential and create a coalition of like-minded organizations and individuals throughout our communities.
The organization has more than 3.2 million members nationwide.
“One thing that I feel Girl Scouts should be really proud of is Girl Scouts have always been at the forefront of pushing for social change in a positive way,” Hayashi said.
When founder Low held her first Girl Scouts meeting 100 years ago, women didn’t have the right to vote, education wasn’t weighted as heavily for women as it was for men, and women weren’t encouraged to pursue careers outside of the house, Hayashi said.
The Girl Scouts maintained a progressive spirit, she said.
“Girl Scouts was one of the first organizations to allow African-American troops and Hispanic troops during segregation, and throughout that period we had different minority groups that were accepted into Girl Scouts,” Hayashi said. “As we think about our 100th anniversary, we are part of that history of advocating for people who don’t have a voice.”
Visit http://www.girlscouts-hawaii.org/ for more information about Girl Scouts of Hawai‘i.
• Andrea Frainier, lifestyle writer, can be reached at 245-3681, ext. 257 or afrainier@ thegardenisland.com.