LOS ANGELES — In a small meeting room in the Villa Flores senior housing development downtown, a group of 9-year-old girls are planning their next project. They look at maps and plot their routes for what will serve as Girl Scouts Troop 16155’s hiking challenge. But there are no dirt trails, rocky hillsides or campgrounds on their route. Just concrete streets, crossings and restaurants.
This is a distinctly urban hike — a fitting project for a Girl Scouts troop that is based in downtown Los Angeles and has attracted mostly Latinas from East L.A., downtown and south of downtown. Only about a fourth of the 58 girls who have joined since the troop was formed in June live above the poverty line.
It’s a new demographic reality that Girl Scouts of the USA is confronting — and embracing — in the face of declining membership. The shift is significant for the century-old organization that is more often associated with white-dominated suburbia, van pools and cookie sales in strip malls.