A lot about Girl Scouts' programming has changed over the past 100 years, but one thing has not: its mission.
"The mission is to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place. We offer the girls opportunities so they can develop their skills in order to do that." Lolis Garcia-Baab, Director of Marketing and Communications for the Girls Scouts of Central Texas says.
The Girl Scouts celebrated its 100th anniversary this year. When the organization was founded in 1912, times were very different. For example, women weren't allowed to vote and had more limited opportunities. Garcia-Baab also says women didn't often get the opportunity to venture outdoors, so the Girl Scouts provided exposure to activities they otherwise would not have — like camping.
While the Girl Scouts still teaches the fundamentals it did when it started, Garcia-Baab says its programming has expanded to have an even greater impact.
"I think the most important thing girls get out of Girl Scouts is a sense of empowerment. Both because they learn that they are capable of doing certain things they didn't know they could do, and second because they see that their actions can have positive consequences both inside their families and their communities," she says.
While learning about outdoor living via camping and about business through the annual cookie program remain important, Girl Scouts of Central Texas is also exposing girls to other interests to help them prepare for their futures.
"We've developed a STEM program because we understand that science technology engineering and math is key to the future, so we give the girls opportunities to do things like build robots where they can get excited about STEM," Garcia-Baab explains. "We try to show them how all these different skills are applicable to real life." Girl Scouts also offers fun educational programs that focus on fine arts, the environment, community service and life skills.
The Girl Scouts of Central Texas will face the new year with new leadership. Long-time CEO Etta Moore recently retired and the board is searching for her replacement. As she pioneered many cutting edge programs, Garcia-Baab says Moore's innovative leadership will be missed, but the organization looks forward to continued success in shaping the lives of young girls.
"We will continue to do the work that we are doing and do it in a bigger and better way. We always look for better ways that we can serve our girls, because they come first."
Garcia-Baab says the most ambitious goal of the organization in the coming years will be to increase the number of women in leadership roles in the United States. "We have charged our membership with achieving balanced gender in leadership positions in this country in one generation. Which is a huge undertaking but very exciting."
Garcia-Baab says the majority of this country's female political and industry leaders have something in common: They were Girl Scouts at some point in their lives. "When you start to see the impact the Girl Scouts have in women who succeed in our community, you start to see the importance of girls becoming Girl Scouts. And so we want to increase our membership. That's our first order of business."
She explains the second challenge is getting the Girl Scouts' message out to the community for involvement. If you'd like to support the Girl Scouts of Central Texas, you can become a member, volunteer or donate
. It's through the support of the community that the organization will continue to have an impact on thousands of girls each year.
"They have fun. They learn new skills, and they learn the difference one person can make."