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Sisterhood of Girl Scouts becoming ethnic patchwork

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Sisterhood of Girl Scouts becoming ethnic patchwork





Monday, April 16, 2007 3:29 AM

By Sherri Williams



The 12 girls are beautiful, always moving and free, like monarcas, Spanish for a type of butterfly.


But the lessons on appearance for the young Latinas aren't just on how to look pretty; they're meant to boost the confidence of the girls, who are members of Girl Scout Troop 1118, the Monarcas.


At a recent troop meeting on the West Side, volunteer stylists gave the girls tips on dressing appropriately. They created a mixture of hairspray and happiness, along with lip gloss and laughs, to help the girls earn their "looking your best" badge.


"The things they put on my face made me feel real pretty," said Yomaris Sierra, 6, who strutted across the room like a model, showing off her light eye shadow and sparkly stickers. "You should dress like a lady."


The Girl Scouts are celebrating their 95th year, and the organization is pushing to recruit more immigrants, especially Latinas. Nationally, the participation of young Latinas increased 22 percent between 2003 and 2006, said Marion Swan, spokeswoman for Girl Scouts of the United States of America.


Central Ohio has troops that are predominantly Latina or Somali. The area's growing ethnic communities led to the outreach, said Donna Hughes, membership director of the Girl Scouts Seal of Ohio Council.


"The program that we offer girls to help them achieve their goals and raise their level of confidence really has no racial or ethnic boundaries," she said. The council, which serves 17 counties including Franklin, had 403 Latinas, 303 Asians, 67 American Indians and 1,800 black scouts as of the end of March.


Besides being happy when they're together, the Monarcas "are becoming responsible," said their troop leader, Carla Breckenridge.


They will use the fashion tips they learned to become bien bonitas at the Princess Ball, a dance arranged for scouts in the Westland Service Unit next week, Breckenridge said.


Most of the girls were recruited from the Ohio Hispanic Coalition's after-school program. The troop's weekly meetings are held at the coalition's office on Sullivant Avenue.


Maria Camargo said her daughters, Yomaris and 12-year-old Luz Reyes, are surrounded by girls in the troop who are a positive influence.


"I don't have time to take them to the park to be with friends," said Camargo, who works full time. "Here, it's fun and entertaining, and they learn."


Girl Scouting, which exists around the globe, is popular with Latino parents in Columbus, Breckenridge said. "In Latin American countries, it's like a privilege, like a social status."


Scouting helps boost high-school and college graduation rates for Latina girls, Breckenridge said.


"It's not just having kids. Most of them think that is their fulfillment in their life," she said, "but there is more than that."


Two predominantly Somali troops are based at Westside Academy, a charter school at 4330 Clime Rd. The troop of girls between sixth and eighth grades started in January, and a Brownie troop of first- through third-graders started Wednesday.


The girls have sold cookies, attended a basketball camp and gone to Ohio State University and Ohio Wesleyan University women's basketball games, said Heather O'Bannon, director of the Westside Academy and troop leader for the older girls.


"They can still stay true to their family roots, but there are some good things they can do to take part in American culture and be OK," O'Bannon said.


The troop of African, Arab and black girls also attempts to appeal to all of the interests of the girls, including faith, by having them work toward religious badges and share their work, O'Bannon said.


The ethnic troops interact with other local troops in competitions and gatherings, Hughes said. For instance, during a chili cook-off in February, the Westside Academy troop won a prize for their Somali chili-type stew served with rice.


Eighth-grader Saynab Hussein, a native of Somalia, said girls in her troop are like sisters.


"We learn about all of us, African-American girls, African girls, Arab girls," Saynab said. "We learn about how we can work together."




Changing face of Girl Scouts


The rise in membership of some ethnic groups in Girl Scouts, from 2003 to 2006:


Latinas: 22 percent

Asians: 13 percent

American Indians: 8 percent


Source: Girl Scouts of the United States of America

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I have always had a problem with the Junior GS "Looking Your Best" badge.


This is obviously a VERY mixed age Troop. The 2 sisters, who are both in the Troop are 6 & 12 years old. This is a span from at least kindergarten-Daisy to 7th grade-Cadette. One of the problems with a Troop that covers that many levels is how to keep Troop activities age-appropriate for everyone.


The badge the Troop was working on, "Looking Your Best", is a Junior level badge. Currently, Girl Scout Juniors are 8-11 years old.



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When I was a DL, I taught my 8 year olds how to shave. You blow up a balloon, smear it with shaving cream and then "shave" it with a razor. The one who can shave all the cream off the balloon without it popping, wins. We did this at a ScoutORama and the cubbies loved it.

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