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FOR THE KIDS : Taking the Lead : Scouting's biggest challenge these days is finding leaders. New policies make it easier for busy adults to get involved.

March 26, 1992|JANE HULSE | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

These days it's not that easy to become a Girl Scout.

It's not that Scouting has become more rigorous. But rather, a shortage of leaders sometimes leaves would-be Scouts on waiting lists for months or even years.

Scout leaders have traditionally been women, but more and more women are working outside the home and they don't have time to become involved in Scouting.

Changing times have led to changes in Girl Scouts, which celebrates its 80th anniversary this year. Nowadays they even recruit troop leaders differently.

"We always have plenty of girls," said Marjorie Mata, a Girl Scout official in Ventura County. But finding leaders is the challenge.

To attract new leaders, the organization has stepped up recruitment and loosened policies to make it easier for busy adults to get involved.

No longer are leaders solely non-working mothers. Men can become Scout leaders, as long as the co-leader is a woman. It's not that unusual any more to see a husband-wife team run a troop. The outdoor aspect of Scouting appeals to men, Mata said.

Traditionally, troops have met on week days, after school on the school grounds. But now they meet on weekends, at night, and sometimes in the leader's home, or maybe in the clubhouse of an apartment complex.

Parents aren't the only ones who lead troops. Single people are encouraged to get involved. In Ventura, a blind mother has been a leader. Sometimes several adults get involved, rotating meeting responsibilities among them.

It takes two adults to start a troop, but they can't begin until they have undergone 12 hours of basic training that covers everything from arts and craft activities to bookkeeping.

For the first time this summer, would-be Ventura County Scout leaders will have the option of training in a tranquil, wooded setting. They can spend a weekend in August at the Arnaz Program Center near Ojai.

Priscilla Carrillo, 11, tried for a couple of years to join a troop at Sunkist Elementary School in Oxnard. Finally, last fall an opening came up and she grabbed it.

As a first-year Scout, she may already have set a record. She sold 1,060 boxes of cookies during the spring cookie sale.

"She's all gung-ho," said her mother, Elvira Carrillo.

* FYI

Scouting begins with kindergartners in the Daisy program, followed by Brownies (grades 1-3), Juniors (grades 4-6), Cadettes (grades 7-9), and seniors (grades 9-12). For membership or leadership information, call 649-9363.

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