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Organization creates leaders, politician's barbs aside

I can't help but wonder what astronaut Sally Ride, Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee, news anchor Katie Couric, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton or Jamestown's own singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant -- all Girl Scout alumnae -- would have to say about the recent comment made by new Clarence town supervisor and current Clarence Industrial Development Agency Chairman David C. Hartzell Jr. about Girl Scouts not being a "viable business organization."

Sure, he was responding to the State Authorities Budget Office's concerns regarding a $10,000 grant awarded to the Clarence Chamber of Commerce that "appeared inconsistent with powers given to IDAs under general municipal law." But does Hartzell know that Girl Scouts of the USA, which includes Girl Scouts of Western New York, is about to celebrate its 100th anniversary?

As demonstrated by our rich history, we've been both traditional and innovative -- not to mention successful in building girls who become leaders. Historically, about 10 percent of all American girls participate in Girl Scouting. However, 69 percent of the women serving in the Senate and 65 percent of the women in the House of Representatives are former Girl Scouts, as are close to 80 percent of all women business executives and business owners.

Locally, through robust Girl Scout programming, girls learn about robotics, marine biology, aerospace technology and medicine. Today's Girl Scouts are tomorrow's leaders. In the 2010-11 year, Girl Scouts in Western New York increased their decision-making ability by 37 percent, increased their self-confidence by 23 percent and were more empowered to make a difference in their community by 31 percent, according to surveys.

Any Western New York business would be thrilled to have such skilled leaders in its midst. These young women -- nationally, more than 3.2 million; locally, 20,000 -- prepare and better themselves to be at the forefront of their generation.

We also have a total of 9,000 volunteers; of that membership, nearly 1,000 Girl Scout families live in Clarence. Like me, these families, members and volunteers understand that we help girls do great things by empowering them to respect themselves and others. We believe that being honest and fair as well as using resources wisely are cherished values and that building girls of courage, confidence and character will truly make the world a better place.

The Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital will host Girl Scouts Rock the Mall: 100th Anniversary Sing-Along on June 9, 2012, at the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Locally, Girl Scouts of Western New York will host Rock the Falls, also in honor of our 100th anniversary, on June 23, 2012, at Niagara Falls State Park. Thousands of Girl Scouts of the USA and Girl Guides of Canada will join forces in celebration of our centennial -- a sure sign of past, present and future viability.

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Cindy L. Odom is chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Western New York.

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