American Heritage Girls: A Girl Scout Alternative Shining a “Different” Light.
It is safe to assume everyone knows who the Girl Scouts are but have you heard of American Heritage Girls? They are the “Christ-centered alternative” to Girl Scouts USA. In fact, they are “the best kept secret” according to founder Patti Garibay. It’s an organization that is growing by leaps and bounds every year and they are not only teaching American heritage principles to young girls but they are encouraging them to shine their God-given beauty to the rest of the nation.
What follows is my interview with Patti Garibay, the creator of American Heritage Girls.
JK: You were previously involved in Girl Scouts USA. I read the founding history of American Heritage Girls and why you decided to end your participation with GSUSA and start this organization. What was the turning point for you in walking away from the Girl Scout organization?
Patti Garibay: I made the decision based on a foundational change in GSUSA. I was a delegate for the Girl Scouts and there was a major change called Proposal 3 in the GS promise. The one that we would all recite as a young girl. No longer would you have to recite the line where you promised to love God but it could be whatever you believed in or nothing at all. I knew that was a Pandora’s Box and truly opening up the Girl Scouts (founded on Judeo-Christian values) to any faith or no faith at all would really change the direction of the organization. I felt this was a moral dilemma. Was I going to serve Girl Scouts or was I going to serve my Savior? It wasn’t just myself though. In my small town there were other moms concerned and together, around a kitchen table, we began to formulate a program that we never ever dreamed would be of the magnitude that it is today. Apparently, God had a bigger plan for American Heritage Girls.
JK: The American Heritage website clearly states its mission, vision, creed and statement of faith. You are completely upfront that you are a “Christ-centered alternative to the Girl Scouts”. Why is it so important to be completely transparent about the spiritual aspect of AHG?
Patti Garibay: As parents we are called to raise up our children in the way they should go and it is critical that we do our due diligence and really check out what we are putting our children in. We are called to be their gate-keeper to help them grow up. It is a part of what we need to do as parents from finding out what kind of clubs they are in to the media they watch. We know that AHG is not for everyone. It was never intended to be but we are for a lot of people who agree with our values. We want them to know what we believe because it is only fair to let parents know exactly what they are going to get with us.
JK: I read a quote by your father when you were deciding whether or not to start AHG. He said to you, “Why curse the darkness when you can light a candle?” Our youth, particularly our girls, are bombarded by cultural images that are void of morality and integrity. What sets AHG apart in shining that light in what can be a very dark world?
Patti Garibay: It’s teaching the girls how beautiful they truly are and not by society’s standards but by the fact that they are created in the image of God himself. If they can learn that from mentoring by faith-filled adults and people who love them in a safe and secure all-girl environment, I think it can change a lot of societal ills for the girls. Think of all the different issues that are hitting the girls today like self-image problems, cutting and promiscuity. All of these are connected to identity. We need to teach up the girls that their identity is unbelievable because we are modeled after the Divine. We don’t need girl power. We’ve got the real power! If American Heritage Girls and its message with groups like yourself (Politichicks.tv) can get women to understand their true identity and their beautiful place in society, things can really change in this country.
JK: When I read the words American Heritage, I immediately think of our Founding Fathers and the birth of this nation. I think our youth have lost an understanding of how this country was founded and the very real spiritual/faith aspect of freedom tied to our heritage. Does AHG educate the girls in understanding the importance of this American heritage?
Patti Garibay: Absolutely and therefore that is why the name was created. To really help our girls learn of the sacrifices of freedom for this nation. To understand the Judeo-Christian heritage, whom 90% of our founders believed, that it was freedom to worship not freedom from worship. We teach the girls a lot of the history of our country. We have so many different badges that teach the girls not only about the Founding Fathers but the WWII Veterans and the Freedom Seekers from the National Underground Railroad. All these different groups that were trying to continue the freedom that was begun in the hearts and minds of those that came to this country who founded it. We hope to continue that today in the hearts and minds of our young ladies.
JK: According to your recent growth numbers, AHG has grown in the last three years by 97.7%. I read that over 90% of people who join your organization have left the Girl Scouts. You continue to grow and expand. What are some reasons why girls and parents are choosing AHG over organizations like Girl Scouts?
Patti Garibay: People who call us are so disappointed because they thought the Girl Scouts were something that they aren’t any longer. We try to encourage them and shine that light in the darkness. Here’s a candle in AHG. Our program is a scout type organization that allows the girls to set goals and achieve those goals. It allows them to understand team work and to even understand the importance of the interview process in applying to college but we balance that with the love of family, love of their church, love of their country and the need to serve others. Our service component is so strong. We are helping girls understand what God’s design is for their life. It really is different than the Girl Scouts. It’s not just girl power. It’s not just roles girls should assume. It is about any role that God is calling them to. The faith component is what makes us so different from the Girl Scouts.
JK: There has been so much negative controversy with the Girl Scout organization and with their latest promoting of women like Wendy Davis and Kathleen Sebelius who are staunch abortion advocates. What is AHG’s position on abortion?
Patti Garibay: Well, it is a timely thing that you should talk to me today because today we have announced our new “Respect Life” patch. We are committing and telling the world that because AHG has a strong biblical world-view, we respect all life from conception to natural death. We encourage our girls to do the same. Our girls like to do the March for Life and the Forty Days of Life campaign but they also like to go into nursing homes and serve the elderly or adopt grandparents. It goes from conception to natural death where we teach the girls that life is sacred and beautiful.
JK: It is my personal belief, after reading all that the corporate level of Girl Scout USA promotes, that their intent and mission is to raise up young feminists. As the creator and leader of American Heritage Girls what is your vision for the girls that are involved in your program? Or better yet, fill in this blank: “We at AHG want to raise up girls who_________________.”
Patti Garibay: We want to raise girls whose hearts yearn to follow the will of God for their life. I would like to share an essay from a recipient of our highest Stars and Stripes Award. She writes, “I believe the Stars and Stripes Award has helped me to discover what God intends from my life. I have seen first-hand the importance of serving others as Christ commanded and the joy that comes from doing it for Him. I’ve seen how grateful people are to be served which for me is the physical manifestation of the joy in heaven. By taking the time to ponder the mysteries of God’s plan, I have seen even the most miniscule detail is enough for Him to work wonders in our lives. I’ve also had to learn to trust Him entirely. Many times I thought I would never be able to complete this award but even now I believe it is only by the grace of God that I have been able to accomplish so much. To Him, I give all the glory both for my Stars and Stripes and for everything.” This seventeen year-old is the type of example we are talking about at AHG. Young women who mature in their faith walk because of the trials and tribulations they experience at AHG and in life.
To learn more about AHG go to www.ahgonline.org and watch this promotional video.