We here present the first of two articles on the American Heritage Girls and its Stanley chapter, Troop NC0512.
The American Heritage Girls are all about making good girls great.
And they’re about molding tomorrow’s leaders today. That’s the word Wednesday from Judy Billings of Stanley, a veteran of the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation (SBI), now a detective for the Stanley Police Department. Billings is also a spokeswoman for the local chapter of the American Heritage Girls, Troop NC0512, which meets at its charter church, First Presbyterian in Stanley. Her daughter, Chloë Billings, now a Gaston College student, is a veteran of Troop NC0512.
The troop has been a prominent fixture on the local service scene for quite a while now. As Mrs. Billings informed, it will celebrate 10 years of service this autumn.
So what are the American Heritage Girls (or AHG)? What do they do? Aren’t they just a knock-off of the Girl Scouts?
“Well,” said Billings, “not exactly! The American Heritage Girls organization was formed in Ohio by founder and executive director Patti Garibay, back in 1995, as a response to some rather worldly programming implemented by the Girl Scouts of America that had steered that program away from Christian values. The AHG is a Christ-centered character and leadership development program for girls 5 to 18 years of age. The AHG is dedicated to the mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community and country. Our progressive program emphasizes six key components, known as the AHG Program, to achieve the mission of building women of integrity.
“The AHG’s Program Emphases create a well-rounded experience for girls,” she added. “The key components include the following: faith, leadership, social/emotional, the outdoors, citizenship and life skills. A girl who completes the AHG Program will be a Christ-following servant-leader who is honoring, relational, anchored in Christ and competent: a woman of integrity.”
A different kind of group, making a difference
Billings continued that the AHG’s organizational structure is somewhat different from that of the Girl Scouts. American Heritage Girls Troops are chartered through a church, private school or other non-profit organization that abides by the AHG Statement of Faith. The troop is owned and operated by the charter and requires a core group of individuals who form the troop board. The charter representative must be a member of the chartering organization and act as a liaison between the troop board and the charter organization. The troop board consists of a co-ordinator, vice co-ordinator, charter rep, treasurer and shepherd.
Troop NC0512 meets twice a month at First Presbyterian, August through May. A summer break is taken, with an activity here and there to keep the girls engaged over the summer months. Currently the cost to register a girl with the troop includes a $35 registration fee and a $35 program support fee. Uniforms are required, which typically run around $100 for a new girl, and this includes Class A/Class B uniforms and an American Heritage Girls handbook, as Billings informed.
“For day-to-day activities with the troop, let’s go through the program emphases to show how girls are engaged in each of these areas,” she said. “A typical meeting begins with the opening flag ceremony, the recitation of the AHG Oath and Creed, a devotional and announcements with the entire troop. The girls then split into their individual units for badge work or service projects. Unit levels are based on age and grade level.”
The units are Pathfinder (5-year-olds, kindergarten), Tenderhearts (first-third grades), Explorers (four-sixth grades), Pioneers (seventh-eighth grades) and Patriots (nine-12th grades).
“A faith component is built into each troop meeting by our troop shepherd, engaging the girls in real-world devotions, often including hands-on activities, to make it easier for girls to understand and grow in their faith,” said Billings. “Girls at all five levels of the AHG may earn their Faith Award, with different programs designed for each stage in a girl’s development. An example of this with our troop, would be the Tenderhearts and Explorers participating in a program called ‘Bible Belles,’ where girls are led through a series of books about strong women of the Bible, and they then complete activities relating to the lives of these women to demonstrate how they served God and His purpose for their lives.
“Leadership is built into each component of the program,” she added. “The AHG Program is rich in leadership opportunities for girls of all ages. Girls discover their passions, acquire project management skills, hold leadership positions and participate in leadership training. This begins with the younger girls being given tasks to complete by unit leaders, as simple as collecting all the art supplies to be put away at the end of the meeting. As girls get older, more responsibility is given to them. Our Pioneers and Patriots often run the troop. They are responsible for organizing the troop opening, teaching younger girls the flag ceremony and proper flag etiquette. Responsibilities include clean-up at the end of the evening, delegating tasks and ensuring the meeting space is cleaner and neater than when we started. They are also often in charge of planning, organizing and executing troop special events and service projects.”
Special events include such things as father/daughter activities, mother/daughter activities, an AHG Christmas party and awards ceremonies. Service projects include those that involve serving the community or another agency, such as a shoebox-packing party for Operation Christmas Child, clean-up of the Mustard Patch Community Garden at the Stanley First United Methodist Church Common Ground or filling the bird feeders at the Stanley Total Living Center, as Billings explained.
“Unlike the Girl Scouts, the girls join one troop and stay with that troop for the entirety of their participation with the AHG,” she informed. “It is not broken into different troops by age levels. Girls form lasting bonds that stay with them throughout the program and beyond. Troop special events bring girls together at events outside of normal troop meetings, where they can interact freely with each other while participating in new activities. This forms the basis for the social and emotional aspects of the program.”
NEXT TIME: We hit the great outdoors!