We already have a girls club, and it is stronger than ever


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As a Girl Scout, I was disappointed by the article written by Jackie Glosniak ("Not just a boys club," News March 13), which supports Boy Scouts' decision to recruit and admit girls. Instead, Pack 24 should seek to actively recruit all the boys in our community who are not yet Boy Scouts – boys who could benefit from the leadership experience offered by BSA. Meanwhile, I strongly encourage all the girls in our local towns and villages to join the organization that was formed and exists solely for them, or the Girl Scouts.

The article ran just days after the International Day of the Woman, and actually, on the 107th birthday of the Girl Scouts organization. Instead of lauding the accomplishments of all our current girl scouts for their Gold Awards (the highest award in Girl Scouting for projects that have changed the world), or our Cookie Entrepreneurs who continually think outside of the proverbial cookie box, or our Girl Scout alums who make up 73 percent of the current women U.S. Senators and 58 percent of the women in the U.S. House of Representatives, the article seemed to suggest that girls should sign up for Boy Scouts because they cannot enjoy outdoor experiences or whittling, in Girl Scouts. This is disturbing, to say the least, and deceives the public into a view of Girl Scouts that could not be further from the truth. Please let me take this opportunity to clarify the realities that not only does Girl Scouts prepare girls for a lifetime of leadership, we also camp and enjoy the outdoors through robust programming, every bit as much (and in my case, far more than my sons did) as Boy Scouts in Pack 24.

In 1912, even before women had the right to vote in this country, the Girls Scouts was formed with a mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place. The same is still true today. The Girl Scout Handbook from 1929 described why we are called Girl Scouts. It said that "in the days when our pioneer ancestors left the settlements on the eastern borders of our continent and went far westward, the most resourceful and hardy and experienced of the number went ahead to find the best way for the others to follow. They were called the scouts of the expedition. They had to have courage and perseverance and endurance, an understanding of the ways of animals and plants, of the meaning of the winds and the water, and the lay of the land. Their success meant the success of those who followed-they made the best trails through the land. And incidentally they had great fun doing it. Adventure was theirs and the joy of accomplishment and the satisfaction of great service to others." This is still true today of the experiences (and fun) that can be had as Girl Scouts.

So you can understand concrete examples of the life changing benefits of Girl Scouting, let me tell you about the experiences of one local Girl Scout troop, Troop 4590 from Riverside, that was run by Cathy Louthen, Deb Gardiner and me for 13 years. Hold onto your seats, because this ride is, in a word, amazing. Our Girl Scouts planted trees on Arbor Day with our wonderful village forester, Mike Collins. We cleaned parks from the triangular Riverside ones to a local senior's lawn to one in the outskirts of London by the Girls Scouts World Center; the village of Riverside even planted a serviceberry tree in front of Hauser School, in their honor. They caroled at the British and Scottish Homes and made thousands of cards for seniors, active soldiers and veterans.

They cooked and fed countless folks through Jen's Care and made thousands of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the Riverside Presbyterian Church, worked at the Ronald McDonald House, the LaGrange Lutheran Church soup kitchen, and packed food at Feed the Starving Children. These Girl Scouts were the volunteer labor force for the Junior Women's organization in Riverside for a decade; helping [wo]man everything from the Bike Rodeos and Breakfasts with Santa to being joyful and adorable elves on the Christmas Train and setting up and then fanning guests as they entered the King Tut Field Museum annual dinner fundraiser extravaganza.

These Girl Scouts volunteered countless hours in all forms of weather to work in freezing temperatures at Holiday strolls to hotter than hot Cruise days and nights, selling everything from cookies, pop, and caramel apples, to glow sticks, and did so with smiles and good cheer. And they painted reindeer, angels, candy canes and even penguins on, by my count, over 2,200 smiling Riverside kids' faces at local Riverside events.

In addition to all their meaningful and significant volunteer service, and like our Handbook indicated, our Girl Scouts also had incredible adventures and fun along the way. When asked by local Boy Scout Pack leaders what venues Troop 4590 visited, I somewhat jokingly answer that it would be easier to respond with those that we did not. From Chicago to Europe, and even Canada, we visited cultural institutions and had unbelievable outdoor experiences. These lessons and tours include, locally, the Riverside Police and fire stations and lockup, the Village offices, the Riverside Bank to learn saving and international currency exchange, the Brookfield Zoo (not only decorating Christmas trees but even adopting a dolphin), visiting the Harlem Avenue and Riverside portages, the local bakeries and nurseries to make mother's day plants, fabric stores to learn embroidery and button sewing, and quilting to make blankets for the Linus Charity.

We dined on fine foods from diverse locales and countries, including Benihana's, the University, Tower and Riverside Golf Clubs, the Marshall Field's and then Macy's Walnut Room, Ed Debevic's, the Greek Isles and Tea at the Four Seasons, among countless other venues.

Their educational tours included trips to the Berwyn Animal Hospital, Camp Saginaw Ravine in Lemont, the Fossil quarry, the Freedom Museum, Behind the Scenes Tours at the Lyric, the Auditorium Theater and the CSO, the Garfield Park and Oak Park Conservatories, the Morton Arboretum, the Spertus Jewish Museum, the Oriental Institute, the Chicago Surgical Society, the (Michigan Avenue) Bridge and Water Tower Museums and we took the Water Reclamation tours in Stickney and a sewer tour in Paris. We visited the Chicago Cultural Center and even Waldheim Cemetery. We took a trip across the pond to Paris and London (thanks to money our girls earned from cookie sales and car shows) and visited the Louvres, the Hotel des Invalides, the Army Museum, Napoleon's Tomb and the Eiffel Tower to the London Eye, the National Art Museum and took a trip to the Crystal Maze and the birthplace of Girl Scouting.

As if these adventures were not enough, these young ladies went camping, simply put, everywhere. Through Girl Scouts, our girls camped in Wild Rose Girl Scout camp, Starved Rock, Kettle Moraine Park, White Pines and slept at the Museum of Science and Industry, under the sun at the Adler Planetarium, with the Fishes at the Shedd and among the animals at Dozin with the Dino's at the Field Museum of Natural History. The leaders were beaten by my count, at both day and night hiking (including in Whistler, Canada), and at volleyball, tennis, tether ball, mini golf, archery, skiing, ice and roller skating, rock climbing, canoeing, mountain biking, swimming and horseback riding and even at dancercise lessons at a local School of Dance and went whale watching and boating in Vancouver.

Juliette Gordon Low, the founder of Girl Scouting, once said that "the work of today is the history of tomorrow, and we are its makers." All of the Troop 4590 Girl Scouts obtained their Bronze and Silver Awards (organizing and running the Riverside Fall Festival for over 500 local residents) and three girls obtained their Gold Awards, the highest award in Girl Scouting. Many of their college interviews focused on their experiences in Girl Scouting and as adults, they have gone on to serve their communities. Let me assure you that these Girl Scout alums of Troop 4590 are incredible young women, of whom I am exceptionally proud; they have had a profound impact on the Riverside community, and will continue to inspire and improve the lives of others. Also, please remember, this is but one Girl Scout troop, in one Village. We have 122 Councils across the nation and over 50,000 girls are active Girl Scouts in the Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana Council alone.

If I have not already impassioned you enough to sign your daughters up to be Girl Scouts from my daughter's troop experiences, I will share my own, and end with the demonstrated and incontrovertible facts that single gender organizations are better for both girls and boys. Indeed, I believe Girl Scouting is even more critically important for girls today than perhaps it was five decades ago when I pinned on my first Trefoil and earned my first Girl Scout badge.

I was born in Garfield Park and lived in the top floor of my grandfather's two-flat in Berwyn. No one in my family on either side ever graduated from college. When I registered for Girl Scouts, I was an introverted small girl with personal ambition and big drive, but a fear of never having any money to even take the train to visit downtown Chicago, let alone to go to college. My Girl Scout leaders, one of whom was a veteran of the Korean War, taught all of us in our troop that we could not only make campfires and S'Mores, but survive in the wilderness, build bird and later real houses, and even go to college. My Girl Scout leaders were the ones who told me that I could be anything that I conceived, and they made me believe my potential, too. They worked with me to pursue college and later law school, and were accomplished, hard working women, who were able to juggle families and careers. Without them and Girl Scouts, I never would have even dreamed of attending law school, let alone practicing for 30 years in Big Law, in the male dominated construction and engineering fields. Even more than contributing to my business success, however, they led by example, and I saw that we could have families of our own and that, if I was fortunate enough, could one day be the leader of my own daughter's troop.

Since my early days in Girl Scouts, I have gone on to lead with Cathy and Deb, Shannon's troop and to serve on the Board of the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana for eight years, four of which I was the chair, and now I serve on the National Board of GSUSA. Lest you think that I am biased, however, please let me share with you the research developed for over a hundred years, by the Girl Scout Research Institute and others, supporting the conclusion that girls are much better served in a single gender environment. The research proves that single gender environments provide more opportunities for girls to build confidence and excel. Further, girls in single gender environments are more likely to explore and pursue STEM subjects.

The research even establishes that boys are harmed by adding girls to the mix of the pack; the research shows that single gender environments can better address boy's learning needs and boost enthusiasm for learning. So, for Boy Scouts to simply insert girls into programs developed for boys, does not benefit either the girls or the boys in the pack. Families can join many Girl Scouting events, as all the dads and brothers did in Troop 4590. Girls do not need to be a subclass, separated group in Boy Scouts. That is why I suggest that Pack 24 should implore the local boys to join their ranks and support their daughters, sisters, nieces, and girl friends and neighbors in signing up for the "Club" that is developed for and led by them; its name is Girl Scouts.

While I understand that there are many demands on families for their time, from careers to travel sports, and on their treasure, as well, registering a girl in Girl Scouts is the single best investment you can make. It is a proven investment that will pay you and your and our girls back for the rest of your and their lives. And you will all have fun along the way.

Karen Layng is a Riverside resident who serves on the Girl Scout National Board of Directors.

Reader Comments

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Karl Sokol from Brookfield  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 3:00 PM

There is no need to pit two great organizations against each other! I agree with much of what is written here, including the potential benefits of gender segregated learning opportunities. Furthermore, your GS Troop sounds awesome! However, I fear that our society is plagued with binary thinking that insists if there is a right way, then all other approaches must be wrong. I intend for my daughter to be a 21st Century leader working with (gasp!) the opposite sex in creative problem solving and development. Our family believes that the earlier that she works with boys toward common ends (and our boys work with girls as co-equals, not 'separate but equals'), the more natural such leadership skills will come to them in their adult lives. There is a simple remedy if you believe the benefits of Girl Scouting outweigh the benefits of BSA for your daughter ?" enroll them in Girl Scouts! If you believe that each program has distinct benefits, enroll your daughter in both as our family has. Whatever you choose, it is not necessary to bash families that choose a different route.

Cyril Friend  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 2:32 PM

Just a punctuation note. I don't know why but where I used "dot, dot, dot", it gets printed with a question mark rather than the three periods. I am not questioning or placing question marks where you may see question marks above. Thank you.

Cyril Friend  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 2:27 PM

(part 3/3) Contrary to "progressivist" beliefs these differences are NOT A DETRIMENT to our society. For hundreds of thousand of years boys and girls have been on this marble they have been, and they remain... d.i.f.f.e.r.e.n.t. Having organizations that tailor their programs without specifically looking to homogenize, dilute, or ignore those differences is not a bad thing. Don't try to make girls boys and boys girls. Don't make boy's organizations girl's and girl's organizations boy's. You can't be everything to everyone and there is NOTHING WRONG with single sex organizations. To believe otherwise would surely leave you also defending coed locker rooms in our schools. Locker rooms truly should be coed, right? If not, then why not? So you draw your line somewhere between "boys in girls locker rooms" and "girls in Boy Scouts"? I guess it's about where you draw YOUR line, isn't it? Maybe your line is different than mine-and vice versa. Respectfully.

Cyril Friend  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 2:25 PM

(part 2/3) Maybe it's about the kids?I don't buy that this is driven "for" benefit of the kids. It feels like it is driven first by BSA's organizational needs, numbers, and revenue versus expenses, NOT truly for girls' benefit and not for the boys' benefit either. My take: *This is good for some girls but not good for the Girl Scout organization. *This is good for the Boy Scout organization but not for the boys. This predatorily or opportunistically robs GSUSA's declining ranks in order to build BSA's declining ranks. And just how does it help the boys? Doesn't. Don't attack me over this opinion but again, the benefit is to the BSA Organization at a corporate level not the boys themselves at the individual level. Boys and girls or girls and boys are already interfacing at school and church and many other areas. Let girls and boys be -without the already present adolescent and social pressures- specifically girls?and?boys. Some in our society try to communicate or allege there either is no difference or that there should be no difference between the genders. Note I am not referring to 75-150 debatable personalities alleged as genders but to the biological genders, girls?and? boys. GENDER NEWSFLASH, FOLKS! Boys and girls are, um, well, uh? d.i.f.f.e.r.e.n.t. Not only are there vast biological differences but: Boys and girls LEARN DIFFERENTLY. Boys and girls INTERACT DIFFERENTLY. Boys and girls BOND DIFFERENTLY. Boys and girls COMMUNICATE DIFFERENTLY. Boys and girls EXPERIENCE DIFFERENTLY. Boys and girls PLAY DIFFERENTLY. Boys and girls LEAD DIFFERENTLY. Boys and girls FOLLOW DIFFERENTLY. Boys and girls CONFLICT DIFFERENTLY and Boys and girls SETTLE THINGS DIFFERENTLY.

Cyril Friend  

Posted: March 20th, 2019 2:24 PM

Well stated Karen Layng. I shared much of the following with friends immediately upon learning (in October 2017) that the Boy Scouts would soon admit girls. "Soon" has become "now". Full disclosure: I am currently an active leader of a local Boy Scout troop. I have been active in Boy Scouting for over fifty years. I am not inclined to obstruct my troop's pursuit of a girl's co-troop but I am not a fan of this move. These views are clearly mine and I only claim them to be mine. Some in the general public or among other scout leaders may agree. Others may vehemently disagree. From my experience and in my opinion here's *my* p.e.r.s.o.n.a.l. take. This first paragraph here is copied directly from a New York Times opinion titled "Girls, Don't Become Boy Scouts" dated October 12,2017. The Boy Scouts' decision to open its ranks to girls appears to be less an evolution toward openness and inclusion than a calculated business strategy. The move allows the organization which has been rocked by revelations of decades of sexual abuse, to improve its public image. It opens up a broad new market with the promise of increased revenue, an attractive proposition for a nonprofit that has seen both membership rolls and corporate sponsorships shrink in recent years. Most crucially, it's a direct attack on the Girl Scouts, a group that shares some historical roots with the Boy Scouts but has grown into a very different organization, with very different values. Before I received this New York Times opinion article from my niece (a Girl Scout) I had already written much of the following. I didn't initially believe that inclusion was the noble impetus of BSA in doing this-changing Boy Scouts to All-Gender Scouts. If it were, they certainly would have done this before 107 years (when announced). And with today's 50-100 politically correct "gender options" it would take a hella long name to cover everything this group has become in addition to "boy" scouts. Fa

Molly Paris Knott  

Posted: March 19th, 2019 2:35 PM

It seems like you have a many misconceived notions of the role of girls in BSA. Girls are in fact able to gain courage, confidence, and character in the program. You, and the rest of the world, should watch out, because my daughter is ready to be a force of good in this world and, in part, has Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts to thank for that.

Karen Layng from Riverside  

Posted: March 18th, 2019 10:23 AM

Ms. Paris Knott: It is great to hear how active our local Boy Scout troops are; indeed, both my sons and our family were active in Boy Scouts Pack 24 for years) but, 100 plus years of research indicates that girls (and boys) are better served in single-gender environments. Accordingly, Girl Scout's laser focus is, and will always remain, solely on girls. Next, not all Girl Scout troops may teach whittling but they can and do pursue all the activities you listed and even earn the Cadette woodworking badge (and the St. Mary Girl Scout troops actually have their own Powderpuff Derby competition every year - it is coming up this Saturday 3.23.19, in the Parish Center). Girl Scouts in our Council also participate in ice box freezer derbies and robotics competitions and have 70 new STEM badges to pursue, including a new cyber security one. If any local Girl Scout troops / leaders have questions or need assistance in program activities or resources, the local GS troop leaders and I are always willing to help as are the GS service unit and GSGCNWI Council representatives. Lastly, the newly named "Scouts BSA" (which is really Scouts Boy Scouts of America) is not "inclusive" by any means. Accepting girls' registration money but then segregating the girl dens (except for activities like flag ceremonies), and having the boys and leaders determine when and if girls can join in the greater Pack activities, falls far short of my definition of inclusive.

Molly Paris Knott  

Posted: March 17th, 2019 5:25 PM

It is great that the Boy Scouts have decided to become more inclusive. Our daughter had previously been in a Girl Scout troop, but joined Troop 90 because Boy Scouts are a better fit for her interests. Her decision was not at all based on convenience, but rather an interest to join an organization that embraced her love of nature, outdoors, camping, hiking, and whittling. It was the right choice for her and it's great she had the option between two strong organizations. Perhaps it's time the Girls Scouts considered becoming more inclusive too.

Howard Brundage  

Posted: March 15th, 2019 3:55 PM

Well put.

David Moreau  

Posted: March 15th, 2019 10:58 AM

A well-wrought opinion piece by my friend Karen.

Amy Jacksic  

Posted: March 15th, 2019 8:00 AM

Bravo! As a Girl Scout troop leader in Chicago for years I find Boy Scouts recruiting girls because of their drop in membership infuriating. They are doing it under the guise of "families are so busy and want to be able to take their kids to one place". I am not buying it. You have proved that under the right troop leadership girls thrive as Girl Scouts with experiences that impact them throughout their lives. I am in awe of what you accomplished.

Joseph Anthony  

Posted: March 14th, 2019 2:40 PM

Karen you are a ROCK STAR- many lucky young women learned from you ladies a lesson that they will fall back upon for a lifetime. I still learn from you!

Dan Zigulich from riveside  

Posted: March 14th, 2019 12:15 PM

what she said!

Terre Layng Rosner from Frankfort, IL  

Posted: March 14th, 2019 11:56 AM

Karen makes a solid case for girl's having their own space. Hurray!

Jerry Buttimer  

Posted: March 14th, 2019 11:22 AM

Great leadership!

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