Girls Scouts make effort to reach more African-Americans by Leslie Boyd, [email protected] published June 18, 2006 12:15 am Reader Feedback: Comment on this article | Register here ASHEVILLE — Michelle Galloway was starting to worry about her older daughter, Lyric. She was acting out in school, and Galloway wasn’t certain how to help her focus and reach her potential. Then both her daughters said they were interested in joining the Girl Scout troop at Hall Fletcher Elementary School. In this past school year, Lyric Galloway, 10, made the A-B honor roll every term and Autumn Dukes, 9, made the A-B honor roll in the final term. “They’re more focused, more confident,” Galloway said. “I think their involvement in Girl Scouts had something to do with that. Everything changed.” Galloway, a single mom, used to worry that her daughters might not be exposed to the things she wants them to learn and understand. She doesn’t have a car and can’t afford to take them on trips to cultural centers. Now, she says, she believes they’ll get what they need to succeed, and she has offered to volunteer with the Scouts. Few African-Americans What’s odd, though, is that more African-American parents and girls don’t take advantage of what Girl Scouting has to offer, Galloway said. “There are about 1,000 girls in scouting in Buncombe County, but only about 50 are African-American,” she said. “That just doesn’t reflect the population here. It bothers me.” Perhaps parents don’t understand the power of mentorship, confidence-building and teamwork on a child’s life, she said. “I know I was a Girl Scout and I loved it,” she said. “I was an only child, and these girls were my sisters.” Pisgah Council CEO Molly Keeney, who joined the council in the fall of 2005, said she has asked Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy to help reach out to African-American girls and their parents. “We’ve asked for her help in building African-American leadership and membership,” Keeney said. “We plan to reach out to the predominantly African-American churches in addition to the schools.” Keeney said she believes Girl Scouts learn skills and build friendships that they keep with them the rest of their lives. “The mission is to build girls of courage, confidence and character,” she said. “There isn’t as much of that as there used to be, so it’s important for girls to have a place they can go for that.” Introducing pastimes Keeney learned to sew as a Girl Scout and sewing continues to be a favorite pastime. “It planted that seed,” she said. “I made a straight-shift jumper, and I sewed it all by hand.” Lyric Galloway discovered she could cook by earning her baking badge. “I baked an apple pie,” she said. “We put it in the freezer and we had it for Thanksgiving.” Autumn, who also earned a badge by baking an apple pie, loved learning origami and making animals out of the colorful paper. Some of the badges — baking, for example — are as old as the organization itself. Others, like the breast cancer awareness badge, are new additions that strive to keep up with the interests of modern girls. Scouts can earn badges in various sports, arts and crafts, business knowledge and intellectual pursuits. “Some people might think that the Girl Scouts are goody-goody or that they think they’re all that,” Galloway said. “That’s just not so. It helped me, it’s helping my girls, and everyone is welcome.” The organization is open to anyone who wants to be involved, Keeney said. “We don’t exclude,” she said. “If there’s a question, we lean toward inclusion.” ----------------------------------------------------------------------- I guess the church aint working. Neither is the community. My question is Girl Scouts ready for our community with its myriad of problems? It may be a step, and those cookies they sell are like the M&M candies I see our youngsters sell. Mmm. Maybe Girl Scouts will represent a new WHOLESOME competition for the sweets for a dollar.