The Girl Scouts of the USA is a youth organization for American girls living at home and abroad. It was founded in 1912 by Juliette Gordon Low as a female counterpart to the Boy Scouts of America, and similar organizations exist worldwide. A Girl Scout has the opportunity to participate in many activities that allow her to build personal skills, values, and self-esteem. Some common activities for girl scouts include camping and other outdoor activities, earning badges and awards for completing tasks, and community service.
There are currently six levels of Girl Scout membership, according to age. Daisies are in kindergarten or first grade, Brownies in second or third grade, and Juniors in fourth or fifth grade. Older members include Cadettes in sixth, seventh, or eighth grade, Seniors in ninth or tenth grade, and Ambassadors in 11th or 12th grade. Girl Scouts of different levels have different activities open to them.
Girls scouts of all levels may sell Girl Scout cookies, and participate in outdoor troop activities, though Daisies may only camp with a parent present. As girl scouts progress through different levels, earning badges and awards becomes more challenging. Daisies and Brownies, for example, earn Petals and Try-Its respectively, which do not require them to show proficiency in an activity, but simply to learn about or try something new. Older girl scouts are allowed to earn higher awards, including the Bronze, Silver, and Gold Awards, the three highest awards in Girl Scouts.
Girl scouts of all ages attend troop meetings and participate in outdoor, community service, and cultural activities with other Girl Scout members. Girl Scouts share a number of traditions, one of the most well known of which is selling Girl Scout cookies. Girl Scouts also share the Girl Scout Handshake and the Girl Scout signal for silence. They participate in ceremonies called bridging when progressing to a higher level in Girl Scouts. Another Girl Scouts activity is the brief Scouts' Own service, which includes prayers, readings, and music and is often centered on a theme such as fairness or friendship.
Girl Scouts also celebrate special holidays. Thinking Day, on February 22, is a day for Girl Scouts to think about girls of other cultures and countries, and sometimes to collect donations for international projects. Halloween is also Juliette Gordon Low's birthday, and Girl Scouts celebrate by dressing in costume and having birthday cake.
Cadettes and Seniors can participate in Destinations, travel programs in which Girl Scouts from all over the country take a trip together. Destinations are usually within the United States, but sometimes take place in other countries. In order to participate in a Destination, a Girl Scout must turn in an application with references and have an interview. The selection process for Destinations can be very competitive.