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New badges for the modern Girl Scout

Junior Girl Scout Brianna Bourne, 9 of East

Junior Girl Scout Brianna Bourne, 9 of East Meadow, poses in Newsday's studio with some of the new badges that the organization is releasing. (Jan. 11, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

Alexa Belulovich was disappointed when she learned she can't afford the house she wants in Hewlett. But she has time to get over it: She's only 12.

After the Girl Scouts of the USA came out with 136 new badges this year, Alexa's troop in Lynbrook voted on the five badges the girls would like to work on together. No. 1: Financing My Dreams.

The girls used an online U.S. Department of Labor salary calculator to see what they'd earn in their hoped-for careers and searched Multiple Listings sites for houses they would like to buy. Then they met as a troop with a real estate agent to assess whether they'd be able to handle their mortgages.

The news was a surprise for Alexa, who wants to be an elementary school special education teacher: She can't afford the home she picked. "There wasn't a lot of money left after I paid my mortgage. I only had $100 left," Alexa says. "I learned you have to be really organized about your money. Just because you like it, doesn't mean you can afford it. I'll just buy a different house because I really like the career."

A COMPLETE REVAMP

These kind of life lessons are the reason for the revamping of the entire Girl Scout program from kindergarten Daisy level to high school Ambassador level, bringing it into the 21st century, says Anna Maria Chávez, chief executive of Girl Scouts of the USA.

Other new badges include Comic Artist, Digital Moviemaker, Geocacher, Eating for Beauty, Netiquette, Website Designer, Good Credit, Car Care and -- how could they not include this one? -- Cookie CEO. Even old favorite badges that taught skills such as cooking have been updated for a new era. For instance, the "Locavores" badge teaches girls to prepare seasonally appropriate meals from items grown or produced locally.

Many new badges address finances and technology. The badge challenges are age-appropriate -- a Daisy badge might involve learning about the cost of school supplies while an older girl's badge would instruct about investing in a college education. "The whole focus is different," says troop leader Annemarie Dodge of Amityville. "This new way, it's exploring things the girls might be interested in careerwise."

The revamp coincides with the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouting this year. Leaders and girls are absorbing the new program, presented in six new, loose-leaf binder-style handbooks, one for each level of scouting: Daisies, Brownies, Juniors, Cadettes, Seniors and Ambassadors. They include quotes from contemporary role models such as financial expert Suze Orman, businesswoman Mary Kay Ash and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

"It's a lot of new stuff in a very short period of time," says Donna Rivera-Downey, director of marketing for the Girl Scouts of Nassau County. "The program was stale; some of the stuff in it was out-of-date. It's really updated the whole program."

SOMETHING FOR ALL

Brianna Bourne, a 9-year-old Girl Scout from East Meadow, says she's looking forward to earning the Digital Photography badge -- she wants to be an actress, and she volunteered to be a "media girl" for the Scouts, meaning she poses for photographs and is interviewed when the Nassau County scouts are approached by reporters. "I just like photography," she says. "It sounds like it would be a fun badge to earn."

Even within one troop, many individual interests can be accommodated. Gabby Urena, 12, of Lynbrook is looking forward to trying the Comic Artist badge because she likes to draw. Eva Gomez, also 12, wants to try Eating for Beauty. "I feel that it's important to eat healthy," she says.

Katie Lenz, 12, has her eye on the Public Speaking badge to learn self-confidence, making eye contact with an audience. Colleen Germain, 12, wants to complete the Business Plan badge so she can start an organization helping kids who have cancer.

"They look really cool," Gabby says of the new badges, which come in different shapes, including circles, triangles, diamonds and rectangles. They will continue to be placed on the girls' uniform vests or sashes, as they've been in the past. Girl Scouts began earning badges in 1917.

Eva's mom, Kathleen Huggard Gomez, 47, a former Girl Scout herself, says she is pleased that the badges are "keeping up with the times. They build really important skills the girls are going to need for the future.

How the Scouts got their start

"Here Come The Girl Scouts!" by Shana Corey (Scholastic, $17.99) introduces girls to Juliette Gordon Low, who founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, Ga., 100 years ago. The first meeting of 18 girls was on March 12, 1912. The picture book is intended for girls ages 5 and older.

Savannah Smiles join Thin Mints

It's Girl Scout cookie time on Long Island, and a new cookie called "Savannah Smiles" ($4 a box) marks the 100th anniversary of scouting: a lemon-flavored, half-moon cookie with powdered sugar. A free app reveals the closest spot to buy cookies: Visit girlscoutcookies.org to download.

What's your favorite Girl Scout cookie? Take our poll.

Share your daughter's favorite Girl Scout badge. Submit them here.

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