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Local Girl Scouts Celebrate the Centennial, Dismiss Controversy Elsewhere

White Plains troop leaders and parents praise the Girl Scouts and the organization's history of benefitting girls.

 

Clinton Pierce is the one who gets to sew his daughter’s colorful patches to her brown sash. He sees the Girl Scouts as something he and Angelica, a  student, are involved in together.

While some Catholic parishes recently banned the Girl Scouts from meeting or being seen in the discernible sashes on church property, because of the organization’s alleged ties to an international scouting group with a pro-choice stand—Pierce was happy his 7-year-old was among the hundreds of blue, green, brown and tan sash wearing girls celebrating the organization’s 100thanniversary at  in White Plains Monday.

He wants his daughter to be a Girl Scout regardless of the allegations from some conservatives, which have been disputed by, among others, the National Catholic Committee/Campfire Girls/Girl Scouts. 

According to an article on the Centennial and the controversy from the Atlanta Journal Constitution: 

"The Girl Scouts’ critics have seized on a videotaped interview with a former Girl Scout CEO explaining that the scouts sometimes partnered with outside organizations, including Planned Parenthood.

Although the interview was several years old, it resurfaced recently on YouTube and has become fodder for critics.

In February, Indiana state Rep. Bob Morris, a Republican, called the Girl Scouts a “tactical arm” of Planned Parenthood. He said his daughters were switching from Girl Scouts to American Heritage Girls.

The Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood publicly denied any connection, and other members of Congress ridiculed Morris for his comments."

“It wouldn’t change my thoughts one way or another,” said Pierce, who lives in the North Broadway neighborhood of White Plains. “I wouldn’t want to take her out of it, I would still want her to be a part of it.”

Renee Coscia, a Battle Hill neighborhood resident who organized the centennial celebration, has dedicated most of her life to the Girl Scouts.

She has been a Girl Scout since she was 7, is a troop leader for the same troop she was in, and is currently the service unit manager of White Plains—the highest level of a volunteer Girl Scout that there is.  Both of her daughters are Girls Scouts—her eldest daughter is a girl delegate, while she is a national delegate.

Cosica said the Girl Scouts are still teaching young women skills that help them to be confident, strong and independent, as Juliette Gordon Low intended when she started the first Girl Scout troop in Savannah, Georgia on March 12, 1912.

“She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually,” the Girl Scouts of the USA’s blog says.

Though most of the what the girls learned in 1912 was how to become a refined young lady— Cosica said Low was forward thinking and made sure the girls learned a range of skills, like how to shoot a rifle, how to tie up a burglar with an 8 inch rope, and how to play basketball.

Cosica credits the Girls Scouts for helping her to become her the woman she is today, and says that the controversy, mostly on the internet, isn’t affecting the local troops. 

“It hasn’t affected us at all,” said Cosica. “It’s a blessing living in New York and being in a liberal place, it hasn’t affected us at all.”

Former Girl Scout and Troop Leader Margherita Capicotto enjoys seeing how the organization brings the City’s diverse population of girls of together—teaching them how to communicate and get along with one another.

The first Girl Scout troop had 18 girls—including girls from affluent Savannah families, as well as girls from the Female Orphan Asylum and Congregation Mickve Israel. The organization now has 32 million girls and adults involved in every residential zip code and in 90 countries, according to their website. Nearly 60 million U.S. women are Girl Scout alumnae, with about one in two women being involved in the Girl Scouts at some point in their life.

The Girl Scouts have long worked towards involving girls from all backgrounds and bringing them together. The first troops for African American and disabled girls were started in 1917. The earliest Latina group was formed in Houston in 1922, with the first Japanese American troops started in internment camps in the 1940s.

The Girl Scouts began to integrate their troops by the 1950s. The Girls Scouts website quotes Dr. Martin Luther King as calling the organization “a force for desegregation.”

Capicotto, whose two daughters are involved in the Girl Scouts, says abortion isn’t a topic that the troops discuss. Girl Scouts of America does not take a position on that or birth control, saying the topics are best decided by girls and their families.

“I have my opinions about this, but we teach the girls about good values, being good people in life, helping others and that’s about it.”

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