Girl Scouts successful in recruiting Hispanics

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ATLANTA - A program that seeks to recruit Hispanics for Girl Scout troops has been booming in metro Atlanta, with more than 1,600 girls involved by last year in some 46 Hispanic troops.

Though Hispanic girls have long been in the Girl Scouts, the organization has recently targeted those who might not speak English for specific recruiting efforts.

In 2003, two years after the effort started in metro Atlanta, there were 400 Hispanic Girl Scouts in the area, said Consuelo Luna, who oversees the effort for the Girl Scout Council of Northwest Georgia. Last year, the number had quadrupled, and another 1,000 Hispanic girls belong to traditional troops.

"Girl Scouts is basically an American tradition, so being part of this allows them to be a part of America, too," said Jenny Kocher, who is originally from Colombia and oversees Hispanic troops in several metro Atlanta counties.

Ms. Kocher recently joined troop leader Norma Mendoza at a meeting in DeKalb County to discuss cookie sales, the Scouts' biggest fundraiser of the year.

Ms. Kocher said that girls from the Hispanic troops will have a tougher sale than other Scouts, in part because the Girl Scouts aren't well known among Hispanics.

Soledad Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant, had never heard of the Girl Scouts until her 9-year-old daughter asked if she could sign up.

But two years after the girl joined, Ms. Ramirez said she can see the benefits.

"More than anything, she is learning to respect people," she said.


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