By Girl Scout Alumna Sherri Vasquez of Denver (Girl Scout Woman of Distinction 2007)
Girl Scouts has just finished celebrating its 100th anniversary year, a testament to its enduring tradition of teaching young girls good old-fashioned values that never go out of style.
The heart of the Girl Scout philosophy centers on respect for self, others and the environment, core beliefs that will move this valuable organization forward during the next 100 years.
Encouraging girls to do their best is especially relevant today because so many are facing overcrowded classrooms at school, depleted finances at home and over-exposed celebrities promoting instant fame and fortune over honesty and fairness.
Time-tested for a century, Girls Scouts is a wonderful way for girls to learn valuable skills and lessons that will help them grow into responsible adults with ethics, moral and standards.
When I became a Girl Scout 42 years ago, little did I know how much the experience would affect my adult life, especially my education, career and community involvement.
Becoming a Girl Scout was my first experience in goal-setting. Although I was only five years old, I vowed to achieve my dream, waiting impatiently to reach the second grade so I could join Girl Scout Brownies.
My father wore an Army uniform and my brother a Boy Scout uniform, so I wanted the honor and privilege of wearing one too. The independence of becoming part of something outside of school and family was a new and exciting concept for me.
The anticipation of joining an organization “just for girls” was just too much for a first grader to bear, so I joined the Camp Fire Girls to help me “practice” to be a Girl Scout Brownie.
When I finally put on my Brownie uniform, I was so proud of it and what it stood for that I wore it everywhere, including my second-grade class picture.
Little girls have lots of energy, and Girl Scouts was an incredibly positive outlet for an active kid like me. I loved it because I had the opportunity to meet new friends, create arts and crafts, take field trips to local businesses and enjoy outdoor adventures. My mother, by then a working single parent, loved Girl Scouts because it gave me a safe, caring place to go after school.
During my five years as a Girl Scout, I learned important lessons about being responsible for myself and respectful of others. Together, my troop learned to care about the environment.
Girl Scouts also provided a valuable place to learn about group dynamics, especially how to interact with peers and authority figures. That sense of sisterhood later motivated me to join the girls’ gymnastics team, cheerleading squad and eventually a college sorority.
Earning badges at a young age evolved into achieving higher goals as I grew up, such as graduating from high school, applying to college, and participating in a study-abroad program in Spain. Finding the courage to leave home and travel to a faraway country seemed easier because Girl Scouting had instilled a sense of independence and stirred my intellectual curiosity.
Not only did it teach my young mind how to travel in new directions and find creative ways to reach those destinations, it gave me the confidence to explore my passion for fascinating places and topics, plan strategies to learn more about them, and persist in those efforts.
These early lessons came into play once again when finishing a bachelor’s degree, starting a career in journalism, and completing a master’s degree.
Even selling Girl Scout Cookies was a useful tutorial, teaching business basics and helping develop a taste for community spirit and entrepreneurism that continues in adulthood.
Although it has been decades since I first donned a Girl Scout uniform, I still try to live by the Girl Scout Law of helping people at all times, whether it be as a journalist shining light on inequities or as a community activist involved in worthwhile causes like education and youth development.
Since Girls Scouts provided such a strong foundation in my early years, I would like to express my heart-felt gratitude for its amazing influence on my life, education and career. Because it offers hope to generations of girls to come, I wish it continued success and growing ranks in the 21st century and beyond.
Sherri Vasquez is the host and producer of Latin View.