Encouraging girls to become leaders part of the mission

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 7, 2012

By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — When Susan Kluttz was growing up, no one told her she could be a mayor or serve on a city council.
She did both anyway, and Kluttz said she now sees the importance of encouraging girls to be leaders — as the Girl Scouts have done for 100 years.
“I was a Girl Scout in the ’50s, when women were not in leadership roles,” she said. “I think it influenced me to be involved in and love my community.”
As a Brownie and a Girl Scout at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Kluttz said, she was proud to be part of the group and wear its uniform. She also loved the friendships that developed.
Kluttz said scouting teaches children to take responsibility for and participate in their community.
“After my 14 years as mayor and recognizing both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, I think they’re a tremendous asset to young people,” she said. “They teach and promote good citizenship.”
For several years, Kluttz said, she made a point of meeting and shaking hands with all of the third-graders in Rowan-Salisbury Schools as they toured city hall.
“I told them, ‘Whether you’re a girl or a boy, you can have this job,’ ” Kluttz said. “You could be mayor.”
Maggie Blackwell, who serves with Kluttz on the Salisbury City Council, said she looked forward to going to troop meetings during the five years she was a Girl Scout.
“One of the big things I felt was a sense of belonging,” Blackwell said. “It was the ‘group-ness’ of it — all doing the same thing together, and doing unique new things.”
The hardest thing about being a scout for Blackwell? Selling “those doggone cookies.”
“I’m not a salesperson,” she said, laughing.
Dari Caldwell, president of Rowan Regional Medical Center, said she was in Brownies and Girl Scouts for a few years. Her troop met at Kimball Lutheran Church in Kannapolis.
“I just remember loving it,” Caldwell said. “I was real sad when the troop disbanded. Our leader had to quit for some reason.”
She said the thing she remembers and appreciates most is the opportunity to earn badges and learn about so many different subjects.
“I think what impacted me the most is that as a 10-year-old kid growing up in Kannapolis, I didn’t have much exposure to a lot of things,” Caldwell said. “Girl Scouts … opened the window to a world that I might not have realized was there at that age.”
Carol Spalding, president of Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, said she loved getting the chance to lead groups, make things and try something new as a Brownie and Girl Scout. Her “only experience with camping ever” was during her five years of scouting.
“It’s an all-girls group, so there’s nothing you can’t do,” Spalding said. “There’s no role you can’t have. I think that was a clear message. ‘You can be president. You can be head of something.’ That was the expectation, frankly.”
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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