Where Girls Grow Strong

By Gail Mukaihata Hannemann
Wednesday - June 29, 2005
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Gail Mukaihata Hannemann and some of the
Girl Scout ohana

Today’s Echo and Millenni Boomers are growing up in a very different world than their Baby-Boomer grandparents and Generation X parents. Their lives are scheduled, structured, and managed; digitalized, downloaded, and uploaded.

Yet, the truth is these youngsters face a less than certain future. What is fact today may not be tomorrow. Former Harvard University president, Neil Rudenstine, noted “that the ‘half life’ of what is learned in the humanities is eight or 10 years, and in math and the sciences it is three or four.” The U.S. Department of Labor projects that 80 percent of the jobs that will exist in 10 years, don’t even exist today. Author Thomas L. Friedman states in The World is Flat, “Clearly, it is now possible for more people than ever to collaborate and compete in real time with more other people on more different kinds of work from more different corners of the planet and on a more equal footing than at any previous time in the history of the world.”

Accordingly, kids must grow up to become knowledge workers — ably skilled and socially adaptable. They will also be expected to pave their own paths in a global economy. Daunting proposition? Not if a girl is a Girl Scout. Why? Because Girl Scouts meets this challenge head on for girls ages 5-17 years. By design, Girl Scouting purposefully helps girls discover their full potential. Girls are encouraged to develop and act upon a meaningful set of values that reflect their personal beliefs and incorporate the fundamental principles of the Girl Scout Movement – respect for oneself, others, and the world we live in.

The Girl Scout Program focuses on creating learning opportunities for girls based on their various physical, emotional, and psychological developmental needs. As girls grow strong, gaining more skills, experience and confidence, so too do their responsibilities. Under the guidance of our adults, they are expected to successfully take on a more active role in planning activities, making decisions, and achieving goals. In other words, girls learn how to learn and to take great pride and joy in their own self-development. A great example is the nation’s preeminent non-profit entrepreneurial program, the Girl Scout Cookie Program. Girls learn to set individual and group money — earning goals in order to fund the yearly activities of their choice.

We also help girls understand how they connect to a world beyond themselves. Every Girl Scout growing up in Hawaii is part of the statewide Girl Scout Council of Hawaii that serves as a bridge to over 7,000 other Hawaii Girl Scouts. In turn, they are part of a national network of 3.8 million Girl Scouts associated with our national organization, Girl Scouts of the USA. Internationally they are connected to 10 million Girl Scouts and Girl Guides in nearly 144 countries through our international organization, World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts.

Nationally, we have 93 years of experience. Here in Hawaii, we are 86 years strong. In a nutshell, my job is to make certain that Girl Scouts remains relevant and viable for not only the girls in our program today but also for generations to come. Fortunately, I don’t do it alone. I have the support and guidance of a terrific board of directors and the help of an exceptional and competent staff. Together we are retooling and realigning our operations to become more efficient and effective in order to better realize our mission. Our motivation and inspiration come from the girls.

How are we able to do it? Thanks to the on-going support of Hawaii’s many generous charitable foundations, businesses, and community leaders. And most importantly, with the incredible assistance of thousands of trained volunteers, family members, and friends who freely give of their time, talent, and resources to create safe and nurturing environments so girls can flourish.

As a Baby Boomer, I am personally optimistic about the future. The girls’ smiles, laughter, and conversations serve as constant reminders that Girl Scouts is purposeful and relevant. My work also allows me to see the caliber of girls preparing to become tomorrow’s leaders. It’s encouraging. Everyone should find a way to get involved and make a difference in the lives of girls!

Next week: Donna Farrell, general manager of Victoria Ward Centers

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