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Girl Scouts of the USA Encourages Young Latinas to Stay Connected at Fifth National Latina Conference

Pop star JD Natasha performs and Dora the Explorer Emcees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 14, 2005

CONTACT:
Ursula Castrillon
Girl Scouts of the USA
(212) 852-8132
ucastrillon@girlscouts.org

Andrea Lillo
Patrice Tanaka & Company, Inc.
(212) 229-0500 ext. 276
alillo@ptanaka.com

NEW YORK, N.Y.–About 500 Girl Scouts, family members, and volunteers have joined forces to address the specific needs of young Latinas at Girl Scouts of the USA's fifth National Latina Conference, which takes place today through July 17 in Uniondale, N.Y., in partnership with Girl Scouts of Nassau County. The 2005 National Latina Conference is sponsored by Bank of America and has the theme "Connect to Friends, Family and Envision the Future."

Some 300 Latina Girl Scouts ages 11-17 have traveled from across the U.S. and Latin America to participate in workshops that cover education, financial literacy, self-esteem, entrepreneurship, and other issues. These Girl Scouts also will meet notable young Latinas, such as pop star JD Natasha, who serves as keynote speaker, and performer Kathleen Herles, the voice of TV character Dora the Explorer. Participants will celebrate the Latino spirit with activities ranging from Latin cooking to salsa dancing. The conference is open to any Girl Scout interested in experiencing and learning about Hispanic culture and the issues Latinas face.

Girl Scouts has seen a 21 percent increase in Latina membership over the past three years and now counts Latinas among its fastest-growing membership segments. "Our National Latina Conference provides an opportunity to share issues and concerns common to all girls but in an environment that more fully addresses the specific needs of Latinas," said Kathy Cloninger, CEO of GSUSA. "Inclusiveness and diversity are founding principles of Girl Scouts, and the National Latina Conference is one many ways we're working to help girls of all backgrounds grow into strong and productive adults."

Donna Ceravolo, Executive Director of the Girl Scouts of Nassau County, Inc., added, "Whether a girl can attend the entire Conference or just a day, she will take with her a memorable, life-changing experience."

A 2003 study by the Girl Scout Research Institute shows that Latina girls worry more than Caucasian, African-American, and Asian girls about finding people their own age they can talk to and trust and about finding adults they can talk to and trust.

Latinas also often face specific challenges in areas such as navigating the education system, financial security, and career development. For example, despite a cultural emphasis on education, just 12 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. receive a college degree, according to Sallie Mae, a company that provides federally guaranteed student loans. While they value home ownership, Hispanics have a home ownership rate of less than 50 percent, compared to a rate of 68 percent for all populations, according to the Census Bureau. And while Hispanic women-owned businesses grew 63.9 percent between 1997 and 2004, many Latina entrepreneurs struggle with financing and cultural barriers.

JD Natasha Kicks Off Conference Emceed by Dora the Explorer

Seventeen-year-old singer-songwriter JD Natasha kicks off the conference with a keynote address on how she overcame obstacles to achieve her dream of becoming a recording star. Born of Argentine and Cuban-American parents, Natasha also will perform and greet participants one on one. Kathleen Herles, the 14-year-old Latina who is the voice of Dora the Explorer, is serving as the conference emcee.

Girl Scouts of the USA serves Latinas through a range of initiatives, including a Spanish-language Web site, www.girlscouts.org/espanol, which launched last year; strategic partnerships, including an alliance with CD-ROM publisher Ember Media, with which GSUSA launched TheKey2: An Interactive Guide to the Top Colleges and Universities for Hispanics; and Follow the Reader, a reading program aimed at Spanish-speaking girls to help them strengthen their English language skills. In 2003, GSUSA co-founded Partners in Hispanic Education, an alliance of the nation's leading Hispanic organizations, corporate leaders, and national private entities that organizes and hosts education programs in cities around the country.

Girl Scouts of the USA is the premier organization for and leading authority on girls with 3 million girl and adult members. Now in its 93rd year, Girl Scouting cultivates character, confidence, and social conscience in girls while teaching them the critical life skills to succeed as adults. In Girl Scouting, girls discover the fun, friendship, and power of girls together. The organization strives to serve girls from every corner of the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. To volunteer time or make a donation, Spanish speakers can call (866) 830-8700 or visit www.girlscouts.org/espanol. For information in English, call (800) GSUSA 4 U, or log on to www.girlscouts.org.

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