Girl Scouts plan refocuses on leadership skills
Gail Hannemann discusses challenges the group faces here
The Girl Scouts want to reinvent themselves, chiefly through fostering future leaders in Hawaii.
"It's about being a leader in any area you can influence," said Gail Hannemann, chief executive officer of the Girl Scout Council of Hawaii.
The leadership program is part of the national organization's strategies to remain relevant for girls, who have more opportunities than previous generations, local officials said in a meeting with Star-Bulletin editors.
Other national strategies include changes in volunteering, branding, funding and an organizational structure that consolidated 312 councils in the nation into 109. Hawaii wasn't affected by the consolidation.
Facing a decline in national membership in 2003, the Girl Scouts of the USA began by gathering information from Girl Scouts nationally.
The national organization "put everything on the table" and took a close look at itself and the opinions of girls across the nation, Hannemann said.
The research found changing demographics, with a decline in the number of girls in many parts of the nation. In Hawaii between 2000 and 2004, the number of girls age 5 to 17 fell by more than 2,300.
The Hawaii council also faced other challenges: working parents who didn't have time to volunteer, seat belt laws limiting the number of girls who ride in a car, which reduced the number of members in a group.
The leadership program provides a more contemporary image and will "help a girl find her full potential," Hannemann said.
It focuses on three pillars to success: Discover, connect and take action.
The girls will learn, among many things, to discover and be curious, said Hannemann, and also "how to make great choices ... how to know when to fold and when to keep pushing."
While learning leadership skills, the girls also learn their own abilities and values.
Tate Kaneshige, an Iolani High School junior, completed her Gold Award, the highest for a Girl Scout, last year organizing with three other Scouts a Christmas dinner for 250 children in Papakolea, including a gift for each child.
The project demanded 60 hours of Kaneshige's time to complete.
She and the other Scouts solicited donations and gifts from local businesses, something they had never done before.
The project "gave me confidence to know that I could lead things," she said. "I can help other people more than I thought I could."