Girl Scouts and Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute Join Forces to Shed Light on Crisis Facing Latinas


March 28, 2007

Michelle Tompkins
Girl Scouts of the USA

Mercy Viana Schlapp
Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute

Washington, D.C.— At a Congressional briefing held last week, Girl Scouts of USA and the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute (CHLI) shed light on the crisis facing Latina teenagers and discussed ways to work together with other organizations to reach out to that group. Patricia Diaz Dennis, Chair of Girl Scouts' National Board of Directors, shared the alarming statistics associated with the significant health and social disparities among Latina teenagers:

Diaz Dennis shared the work being done by the Girl Scouts to help young Latinas build leadership skills and self esteem.  She emphasized the importance of bringing together Latina-based organizations, corporate leaders and policymakers to build partnerships, create supportive policies and increase funding for programs that effectively address this crisis.

"The topic of today's event, Young Latinas in Crisis, is both relevant and pressing. We need to bring to the forefront the challenges our Latina youth face in America today and reaffirm our commitment to find solutions in our health and education policies, and in our youth services," said Diaz Dennis. "It is my hope that through the work of today we can reach a wide audience of policymakers, educators, corporate leaders and advocates alike who will join us as we commit to reverse these trends."

"CHLI has a strong commitment to discuss issues of importance to the U.S. Hispanic community, especially when it concerns the future well-being of our youth, families and nation. I salute Patricia Diaz Dennis and the Girl Scouts for their steadfast dedication to increase the number of Latinas in Girl Scouting and to helping Latino communities throughout our country", said Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Chairman of CHILI.

The briefing included a panel discussion from top policymakers and community leaders including Dr. Cristina Beato, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alma Morales Riojas, President/CEO, Mana, a Latina Organization, Deborah Santiago, Vice President for Policy and Research, Excelencia in Education and Lidia Soto-Harmon, Deputy Executive Director, Girl Scout Council of the Nation's Capital. The audience also heard the perspective of a local Latina teenager as she shared her personal story and her hope for tomorrow.

"Nationally, Girl Scouts has seen a 48 percent increase in Hispanic girl membership in the last five years alone, and similarly, we're working hard to increase the number of Hispanic volunteers. One of the biggest challenges we face within the Latina community is family unfamiliarity with the benefits of our program,” said Diaz Dennis.  "Far too many Hispanics simply don't have a tradition of Girl Scouting. That’s beginning to change. Our councils partner at the local level with other community organizations to spread the word. We recruit adult volunteers from the community and approach the family as a unit. Their daughters need to be Girl Scouts."

About Girl Scouts
Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) is the preeminent organization for and leading authority on girls with 3.6 million girl and adult members. Now in its 95th year, Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. The organization serves girls from every corner of the United States and its territories. Girl Scouts of the USA also serves American girls and their classmates attending American or international schools overseas in 90 countries. For more information on how to join, volunteer, reconnect or donate to Girl Scouts, call (800) GSUSA 4 U (800-478-7248) or visit www.girlscouts.org.

About the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute
Established in 2003, CHLI works to promote new and alternative approaches to challenges faced by the 40 million Hispanic and Portuguese Americans living in the United States today. Through educational partnerships, leadership programs, academic seminars and other events, CHLI provides opportunities for discussion and exploration of strategic solutions for community challenges that in turn, benefit the nation as a whole.