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Betsy Denson
or 1-800-392-4340, ext. 1236


Lady Oliver
or 1-800-392-4340, ext. 1361

Girl Scouts and Sam Houston State University Help Latinas Take the Lead

For the six weeks this spring, Hispanic Girl Scouts in grades 4-6 began participation in an ongoing leadership development program. Latinas Taking the Lead (LTL) is a partnership between Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council and Sam Houston State University that is helping these Junior Girl Scouts to explore an understanding of self, an understanding of others and an examination of their values in order to grow their leadership potential. The seven-session course is also a research study using pre and post testing to measure the benefits of the leadership training to the self-esteem and leadership behaviors of Hispanic girls.

The girls who are participating in Latinas Taking the Lead are being mentored by Latina women, ages 18-29, who graduated from an adult leadership development program in 2003 and 2004. Members of the Hispanic Women of Leadership organization served as program leaders for the 18-29 year olds. The current LTL program is made possible with the support of various community partners and Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA).

The idea to extend the leadership training to younger girls and to track the results is both the idea and the dissertation research study of Marilyn Butler, a Sam Houston State University faculty member who teaches economics and who is also pursuing her doctorate in Higher Education Leadership from the College of Education at SHSU. The leadership model that she developed in concert with Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council incorporates generations of role models and is an ideal application for Latina youth. “Through girl planning boards, leadership behaviors were put into action by planning and implementing a service project, a business venture and a family celebration,” says Marilyn. “It is exciting to see the girls grow in confidence as they use their leadership skills.”

The body of knowledge supporting the research study for Latinas Taking the Lead indicates the following:

  • the population of Texas was approximately 35.1% Hispanic in 2005, which represents an increase from 32% in 2000 (Texas State Data Center, Institute for Demographic and Socioeconomic Research, University of Texas at San Antonio, 2007)
  • The state demographer, Steven Murdock, has stated that by the year 2040, the majority population of Texas will be of Hispanic origin.
  • Nationally, the largest segment of the Hispanic population is 0-5 five years of age, which will result in a younger population (Murdock, 2007)
  • In the US, less than 50% of the Hispanic population, 25 years or older, has an educational attainment of high school graduation or less (Pew Hispanic Center from the 2005 American Community Survey, 2006).

As a researcher, Marilyn was challenged by the initiative of the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB), Closing the Gap. THECB is striving to achieve greater equity in education for all Texas citizens. Based on statistics, there is a positive correlation between educational attainment and socio-economic status. The youth leadership development model, Latinas Taking the Lead, will help prepare Hispanic youth for a brighter future. The cultural context of this program can also be adapted to other ethnic groups.

“Education is the gold key that opens the door to increased opportunities and assured success for all families,” says Patricia Cabrera, GSSJC Board Member and parent development coordinator with HISD-Strategic Partnerships. “By weaving in parent participation to these sessions, the values of education, leadership and civic engagement are also reinforced within the entire Latino family unit. The ultimate beneficiary of this program will be the greater community!”

Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 3.7 million girls and adults. Today, as when founded in 1912, GSUSA helps cultivate values, social conscience, and self-esteem in young girls, while also teaching them critical life skills that will enable them to succeed as adults. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Chartered by GSUSA to provide Girl Scouting locally, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is one of the largest Girl Scout councils in the country serving over 63,000 girl members and 18,000 adults in 25 southeast Texas counties. For more information call 1-800-392-4340 or visit

GSSJC Pluralism Statement
Embracing and promoting pluralism is an integral part of every activity and plan of Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council, not disconnected or separate projects. Only individuals willing to accept and be educated about the basic tenet that Girl Scouting is for all girls may serve in volunteer leadership or staff positions.

GSSJC | Communications Department
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