Girl Scouts

Girl Scout Troop 3197
Chinatown, New York City, New York

Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

May 19, 2004

By Ellen Christie, staff writer

A congressional resolution was passed in 1978 to recognize
Asian Pacific Heritage for ten days each May. In 1990, Congress
designated the entire month of May as Asian Pacific American Heritage
Month. May was chosen to commemorate the first immigration of Japanese
people to the U.S. in May of 1843, and to mark the completion of the
transcontinental railroad in May of 1869, as most workers who laid the
tracks were Chinese immigrants.

This year’s theme is “Freedom for All—A Nation We Call Our
Own.” Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated with
community festivals, government-sponsored activities, and educational
activities for students. Girl Scouts are proud to promote awareness of
and appreciation for different cultures. This month we note the
historical contributions of Asian and Pacific peoples in the United
States and its territories.

Lighting the Way for Tradition

In New York City, Girl Scout troops have been active in
Chinatown since the earliest days of Girl Scouting. This month, the
Museum of Chinese in the Americas will honor troop 3197 at a dinner
which pays tribute to exemplary pioneers and inspiring citizens who
have broken barriers in sports, media, and politics and served as
positive role models for the Asian American community. In addition to a
10-course banquet, the girls will be treated to performances of song
and dance selections from Broadway hits.

The girls of troop 3197 are not only well-known locally,
but nationally as well. In 2000, a historic lighting of the top of the
Empire State Building in red and gold—the symbolic colors of good luck
and prosperity to many Asians—was the result of these girls’ efforts to
seek a new way to celebrate the Chinese New Year. New Yorkers and
tourists alike were able to marvel at the red and gold lighting for the
first time in the building’s history because of the tenacity and
dedication of these inspiring Girl Scouts.

A Community’s Cornerstone

Established as early as 1920, Girl Scout troop 3197 has
made the True Light Church in Chinatown its home. While they
participate in many fun and educational projects, the troop’s community
service efforts have been their focus. With exemplary mentors like Amy
Chen, a manager with Avon, Inc., the girls are encouraged and inspired
to make a difference. Chen makes the time for the girls because she
sees how much they gain from Girl Scouting. “Troop 3197 is a Chinatown
institution, and was my troop as a girl!” Chen says. “Today, as its
leader, I continue traditions and also help girls with new challenges.
Girl Scouts discuss roles they have in the communities they belong
to—ethnic, social, and geographic. We recently created ‘A Kid’s Guide
to Chinatown,’ and volunteered at a community garden.”

An American Journey

Asian groups such Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Filipino
have been migrating to America since the mid-1800s. Southeastern Asian
groups such as Vietnamese, Cambodians, Thai, Laos, and Hmong started
their migration after the Vietnam War, with many coming to the USA as
refugees. Recently, peoples from South Asia such as India, Bangladesh,
and Pakistan comprise many of the newer Asian immigrants. Indians
comprise the fastest growing immigrant group.

Today, more than half of our nation’s 13 million residents
of Asian descent speak an Asian or Pacific island language at home. The
most commonly spoken languages are Chinese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and
Korean. This month, Girl Scouts of the USA is proud to launch our Fact
Sheet in six Asian languages.

For more information about Girl Scouting in your area,
please visit contact your local Girl Scout council.

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