News Briefs for November 2003

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Attracting Teens Un-Uniformly

Every youth worker knows how difficult it is to lure teenagers into programs. Try to make them wear uniforms, and you’ve got … the Boy Scouts, the Girls Scouts and a lot of teens who won’t go near either one.
Uniform aversion has long been part of what the Boy Scouts of America calls the “older boy problem,” which it addressed by creating a uniform-free program a few years back. The Girls Scouts of the USA is trying the same tactic.

Its effort is called Studio 2B, a program that lets girls develop and implement their own activities, and doesn’t make them wear uniforms. It’s aimed at girls ages 11 to 17 – the ages when, Scout councils say, girls regularly leave the program.

Rather than attend weekly troop meetings, the girls meet for specific activities that they’ve chosen – sometimes just once every two or three months.

The program, which has been instituted slowly over the past year, was designed using the results of a survey of girls in the fall of 2000. The study based on the results, “New Directions for Girls 11-17,” found that existing programs for older Girl Scouts – the Cadettes (ages 11-14) and Seniors (ages 14-17) – didn’t provide the kinds of activities that girls of those ages wanted.

“Preteens and teens told us, ‘We’re not Brownies with longer legs,’ ” explains the website of the Girl Scouts of NOARK Council, which covers northwest and north-central Arkansas.

“Concerned about their image and wanting to let go of anything that seems ‘too young,’ they said that too often Girl Scouts is seen as a ‘kid thing,’ ” the council explains. “Indeed, the high dropout rate of girls 11 and 12 years old is a critical message from the girls: They need a whole new way of connecting with Girl Scouts as they enter their preteen and teen years.”

Girl Scouts, a 90-year-old organization based in New York, served about 2.8 million girls in 2002, according to its annual report. Only about 12 percent of those girls were 11 to 17.

Although some local councils say Studio 2B is replacing the Cadettes and Seniors programs, that is not the case nationwide. Those programs “definitely still exist,” said Ellen Christie, director of media services for Girl Scouts of the USA. Studio 2B “is an alternative.”

In many respects, Studio 2B operates like other Girl Scout programs. Girls join through their local Girl Scout councils and are required to accept the Girl Scout Promise and Law, pay membership dues and follow other guidelines and standards. They get books and other publications for guidance and complete projects for awards.

But girls in Studio 2B are grouped into three age categories – 11-13, 13-15 and 15-17 – which can mix for programs and projects.

Another key difference is that the girls decide what projects to do, then plan them. To reflect the emphasis on youth leadership, adult volunteers are called “advisers,” not “leaders.” Councils are encouraged to recruit advisers ages 18 to 29 who are “teen savvy.”

Studio 2B also has its own website (, where girls and advisers can read about the program, plan activities and buy materials. The site includes articles on lifestyle, fashion and entertainment, and comments from girls.

A visitor could easily not realize she’s in a Girl Scout website. The site refers to the Girl Scouts only in its copyright and legal notices. The main website of the Girl Scouts of the USA provides a link to Studio 2B, but not from its home page.

The new program is being publicized primarily at the local level through regional councils.

“It’s really being treated as a separate program” from the regular Girl Scouts, Christie said.

She said it is too early to determine how many girls are participating.

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has tried various means of attracting and keeping older youth almost since the organization was started in 1910, said Michael Ramsey, associate director of marketing for the BSA, based in Irvine, Texas.

Last year, about 2 million of the 3.3 million youths in Boy Scout programs were in Cub Scouts, which is for ages 7 to 10.

In 1998 the BSA started Venturing, a co-ed program for 14- to 20-year-olds that focuses on high-adventure activities such as rock climbing, kayaking and camping. It retains some of the core Boy Scout principles, such as the Scout oath and promise, but doesn’t require traditional uniforms and has a different awards program.

Venturing is the fastest-growing program in the Boy Scouts, Ramsey said. There were 315,296 members (40 percent of them girls) at the end of 2002, an increase of about 14 percent from the previous year.
Contact: Studio 2B (866) 550-4311,; Girl Scouts of the USA (800) 478-7248,

Watchdog Says YMCA Muscles in on Gyms

A government spending watchdog group has accused the YMCA of closing services in low-income, underserved areas while bolstering its profitable fitness centers on the government’s dime – an echo of complaints by private gym owners around the country.

The tax-exempt status of the YMCA allows it to undercut private gyms and crowd out private business, while at times “blatantly abandon[ing]” its charitable work, says the report, “YMCAs: From Community Service to Community Disservice,” released by Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) in September.

The report calls on the IRS to force the YMCA, which says it serves approximately 17.9 million people in 10,000 communities, to stick more closely to its nonprofit mission or pay an Unrelated Business Income Tax.

The YMCA responded with a letter to CAGW saying the report is “rife with factual errors and innuendo defamatory to the YMCA movement.” The 153-year-old agency said it is fulfilling its charitable mission, part of which has always been physical fitness. It also said many government-designated nonprofits serve people who are able to pay for the services.

The YMCA is used to contention over its health and fitness business. Affiliates around the country have faced allegations and lawsuits from health clubs contending unfair competition. This month, the YMCA of Pittsburgh and the Windwood Health and Sports Club in Marshall, Pa., are scheduled for arbitration as part of a lawsuit by the club over the YMCA’s plans to build a 40,000-square-foot facility in nearby Franklin Park.

Representatives from the International Health, Racquet and Sports Association, which has led the lobbying against YMCA health clubs, were happy to see a third party raise the issue. “Would we encourage them to pursue charitable business, and not get into the upper market of fitness? Yes,” says association public policy director Helen Durkin. “But they can, so we just say, ‘Pay taxes.’ ”

The YMCA argues that the disagreement lies in who its perceived audience is. “The objectors to a YMCA serving all in a community presume that those who are better off are not helped, or served, by this organization,” said the YMCA’s letter to CAWG, signed by general counsel Janet Koran. “The aim is to bring communities together through programs which are not an end in themselves, but a means to an end. That end is to break down divisions within a community.”

Contact: CAGW (202) 467-5300,; YMCA (312) 977-0031,


Sidestepping ‘No Child Left Behind’: In an attempt to avoid federal penalties for failing to meet regulations under the No Child Left Behind Act, three Vermont school districts shifted federal Title I funding away from “failing” schools, so that those institutions instead will face more moderate consequences under the state’s accountability plan for non-Title I schools.

School officials say the temporary fix is intended to spare them from having to set aside 20 percent of their Title I money for supplemental services. Such a set-aside would take away funding from programs already set up to help students, says Leonard Brown, superintendent of the Windham Northeast Supervisory Union.

White House Hopefuls Discuss Youth: Democrats seeking the presidential nomination have been making stops at the University of New Hampshire in Durham to talk about youth issues. Eight declared candidates were slated to appear in late October and early November at a series of forums organized by the Every Child Matters Education Fund. Topics included child abuse prevention and treatment, education, after-school programs and child health. Support for the event came from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the William T. Grant Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers and the Civil Society Institute. Contact: (202) 393-0202,

The candidates were also scheduled to appear at a televised forum with 20-somethings in Boston on Nov. 4, sponsored by Rock the Vote and CNN.

Research Fellowship: The D.C.-based American Youth Policy Forum is scouting for its 2004 Howe Fellow, who will be responsible for carrying out a self-designed youth policy research project focused on helping disadvantaged youth. Applications for the full-time, yearlong fellowship, which comes with a $25,000 stipend, are due Jan. 9. The fellowship is named after the late Harold “Doc” Howe, who served as U.S. commissioner of education and was a long-time leader in the development of the federal government’s role in education. Applications should be submitted to the Harold Howe II Fellowship, American Youth Policy Forum, 1836 Jefferson Place NW, Washington, DC 20036. Contact: AYPF (202) 775-9731,

Spanish Ruled Bad for Girl: Nebraska District Judge Ronald Reagan has told a father to significantly cut down on speaking Spanish to his child or face restrictions on his visitations with her. The mother said she raised the 5-year-old to speak English, while the girl’s father, Eloy Amador, was in prison, and that since getting out he has upset the girl by making her speak Spanish and try Spanish foods. The father said he wants to introduce her to his language and culture.