Youth Organizations

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american field service
arthur howe jr.

big brothers big sisters of america
raymond j. hoffman

b'nai b'rith youth organization
max f. baer

boys and girls clubs of america
cheri tiernan

boys and girls states
james c. watkins

boy scouts of america
lee shumow

camp fire usa
rosemary kornfeld

distributive education clubs of america
harry a. applegate

four-h programs
frances c. dickson

future business leaders of americaphi beta lambda
betty penzner

future scientists and engineers of america
dorothy k. culbert

girl scouts of the usa
lee shumow

hostelling internationalamerican youth hostels
sam shayon

national forensic league
james m. copeland

national future farmers of america organizationa.
daniel reuwee

quill and scroll
lester g. benz

thomas w. holdsworth
jane a. de shong jones

young men's christian association
joe a. pisarro

young men's hebrew association and young women's hebrew association
bernard postal

young women's christian association
edith m. lerrigo


The American Field Service (AFS) is a nonprofit volunteer-based educational organization concerned with promoting understanding among people throughout the world. Its purposes are to involve high school students, young adults, and teachers in the family, community, and school life of other nations.


Each year the AFS sends more than 10,000 students, young adults, and teachers to a foreign country through one of its several international exchange programs. Through its Americans Abroad Program, the AFS annually provides opportunities for approximately 1,700 American high school juniors and seniors to live and study in one of forty-four foreign countries for a year, a semester, or a summer. Each year, the AFS also brings approximately 2,500 high school students from more than fifty countries to the United States to live for one year or one semester with an American family and attend the local high school. High school graduates can participate in the AFS Community Service Program, which sends men and women for four months to a year to one of twenty countries to perform volunteer work. Community Service volunteers may work with street children, orphans, or people with disabilities. Volunteers may also tutor children in local schools or participate in community development and environmental programs.

Through its Global Educators Program, the AFS sends American teachers, counselors, and educational administrators to Argentina, China, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, and several other countries. Exchange educators live with host families and teach in local schools for one month or one semester. The AFS also brings teachers from other countries to live and teach in the United States for a semester or a year.

AFS programs are administered in cooperation with volunteer organizations throughout the world and with the help of local volunteer chapters in the U.S. communities where students are placed. Participating students and teachers must pay their own program fees. The AFS helps by offering more than $1 million each year in financial aid and scholarships through the Awards for Excellence Merit Scholarship, the AFS World Citizen Scholarship, the Stephen Galatti Scholarships, and other AFS scholarship and financial aid programs.


The AFS is controlled by fifty international trustee members, who meet annually to review policies, guide the development of programs, and elect a board of directors, which conducts the organization's business throughout the year. In most foreign countries participating in AFS programs, a small paid staff coordinates the work of volunteers and serves as liaison with international headquarters. In some counties, a private citizen, a binational center director, or a cultural assistant on the U.S. embassy staff handles the representation procedures.


In the United States there are approximately 3,000 chapters that represent the AFS program in every high school in which an overseas student is placed. These schools are eligible to nominate candidates for the AFS Americans Abroad Program. Each chapter assumes financial responsibility for an overseas student; many chapters also raise funds to assist needy Americans Abroad students.


In 1914 Americans residing in Paris, France, organized the AFS as a volunteer ambulance service to assist French hospitals in the evacuation of the wounded from the French war front. Additional volunteers formed both ambulance and trucking units under the command of the French armies. After World War I the remaining funds were used to operate a postgraduate scholarship program for the exchange of American and French students. During World War II the AFS provided ambulance drivers for the French forces and later for the British forces in the Middle East. Units also served in Italy, France, Germany, and on the IndiaBurma front. The international scholarship exchange program began in 1947 when fifty-two students came from ten countries to the United States for one year. Since then, nearly 290,000 students have participated in AFS exchange programs.

internet resource

American Field Service. 2002. <>.

Arthur Howe Jr.

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is a social service organization that provides guidance for young boys and girls who lack normal parental and family relationships. Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is committed to the principle that every boy and girl needs adult companionship, and it encourages mature, responsible men and women to offer friendship and counsel to boys and girls who have been deprived of such support from their fathers, mothers, and other adult family members.


Big Brothers Big Sisters of America serves member agencies in the United States and Canada. It enlists dedicated men and women from all walks of life to help guide, instruct, and influence young girls and boys from economically and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds. Adult volunteers (called "Bigs") dedicate themselves to developing positive social and educational attitudes in young boys and girls. As a result of their assignments to Big Brothers Big Sisters, boys and girls have shown marked improvement in schoolwork and decreases in juvenile behavioral problems. According to the organization's national office, children involved in the program have developed more positive attitudes toward school, achieved higher grades and better attendance records, strengthened their relationships with family members and peers, and demonstrated higher levels of self-confidence and trust. Boys and girls in the program were also less likely to become drug and alcohol abusers.

Although there is no structured educational program, all men and women who volunteer as Big Brothers or Big Sisters are concerned with helping boys and girls learn the best ways of relating to society. Many Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies have a High School Bigs program in which mature teenagers can serve as mentors and role models for atrisk elementary and middle school children. In some communities, agencies work with local police departments to provide early intervention for first-time juvenile offenders by matching them with a Big Sister or Big Brother. In most instances, referrals to Big Brother agencies come from local schools.

Big Brothers Big Sisters staff carefully screen prospective volunteers, then match them to children with whom they can form a useful, harmonious, and long-lasting relationship. Adult volunteers undergo orientation before meeting the child to whom they are matched. After the organization brings together the child and adult, the pair will meet regularly to go to movies and shows, visit museums and parks, attend sporting events, and engage in various other activities and outings. Bigs may also help children with schoolwork and talk to them about problems at home. Big Sisters and Big Brothers are free to spend as much money as they wish while with the child.


In some large metropolitan centers there may be several separate Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies that help match children and adults. Most smaller communities have only one such agency. A large national board determines program policies and standards for all Big Brothers Big Sisters agencies. A small paid staff at the national headquarters organizes regional professional staff conferences, council meetings, and an annual meeting at which all agencies are represented. Each local agency has its own board of directors. Many of the local agencies receive a portion of their support from local United Way appeals; much of the work is financed by contributions from foundations, private donors, and corporate partners.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is affiliated with Big Brothers Big Sisters International (BBBSI). Established in 1998, BBBSI promotes and supports the development of Big Brothers Big Sisters-type programs throughout the world by offering materials, funding, consultation, and professional training. Agencies have been established in many countries, including Australia, Poland, South Africa, Japan, and Israel.


The work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of America is carried out at the local agency level, where volunteers are interviewed and screened prior to being accepted as Big Brothers or Big Sisters. Boys and girls are also introduced to the program at the local agency level, where an adult and a young person are assigned as a team. No dues or fees are charged either to the adults or children. Most youths who take part in the program are between the ages of ten and fourteen. The majority are boys; about half are minorities. Most of the children come from low-income households and single-parent families, many of which have a history of substance abuse or domestic violence.


The Big Brother concept of one man working with one boy began in 1904 in New York City as a result of a clerk's interest in children's court. The clerk, who was concerned with the increasing rate of juvenile crime, spoke to a church men's club about the problem. As a result, each man in the club agreed to befriend a boy who had experienced behavioral problems. Later that year, an organization called Catholic Big Sisters was formed in New York; it was the first known Big Sisters program in the country. Although other similarly motivated groups joined the movement, Big Brothers of America was not officially organized until after World War II. The organization undertook a growth and development program that encouraged communities to form agencies. It sought highly skilled social workers to staff local agencies; launched a public information program; and initiated a research program to determine need, effectiveness, and value for the national organization and its local affiliates.

By 1970 there were 192 member agencies in the United States and Canada, with 175 other communities in the process of organizing agencies. In 1977 separate Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations merged into Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the national headquarters was established in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. By 2001 the organization had over 500 affiliates in communities across North America.


Beiswinger, George L. 1985. One to One: The Story of the Big Brothers Big Sisters Movement in America. Philadelphia: Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.

Furano, Kathryn. 1993. Big Brothers Big Sisters: A Study of Program Practices. Philadelphia: Public/Private Ventures.

Greif, Richard S. 1997. Big Impact: Big Brothers Making a Difference. Boston: New Hat.

internet resource

Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. 2002. <>.

Raymond J. Hoffman

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


The B'nai B'rith Youth Organization (BBYO) is an international organization whose purpose is to help young Jewish people achieve personal growth so that they may lead satisfying and socially useful lives in the Jewish community and in the larger community in which they live. The BBYO encourages its members to participate in a broad program of cultural, religious, community service, educational, human relations, athletic, and social activities.


All BBYO activities are designed as learning experiences. The community-service program combines fund-raising and personal service. Each local chapter contributes to the International Service Fund. The money is used for leadership training activities within the BBYO and for such philanthropic organizations as the Leo N. Levi Memorial Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas; the B'nai B'rith Children's Home near Jerusalem in Israel; the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE); and many others. B'nai B'rith Youth Organization groups also participate in local Jewish Welfare Fund campaigns, local health drives, and other local community-service efforts. The BBYO operates two camps for members: the B'nai B'rith Perlman Camp in Starlight, Pennsylvania, and the B'nai B'rith Beber Camp in Mukwonago, Wisconsin. In addition, the BBYO sponsors summer exchange programs for members to study and work in Israel, with Israeli teenagers traveling to the United States and other countries.

In the area of personal service, the BBYO sponsors the Adopt-a-Grandparent Program, in which youngsters provide companionship to the aged in or out of institutions. B'nai B'rith Youth Organization groups also entertain and help children in hospitals, homes, and other institutions. BBYO members read to the blind and help the physically and mentally handicapped. Further BBYO activities include tutoring underachievers, taking disadvantaged children to museums and recreational events, and collecting books for use in economically deprived areas.

The BBYO also sponsors various interfaith initiatives and runs the College Ambassador Alumni program and the Holocaust Expression Theatre. Religious services and holiday celebrations, as well as contests in athletics, drama, oratory, storytelling, creative writing, sermon writing, music, and visual arts are held at the chapter level. Local winners proceed through chapter and regional levels to the international finals held at Perlman or Berber Camp.

The BBYO publishes numerous pamphlets about Judaism for use by teenagers. The organization also publishes adviser newsletters, various program guides and other program aids, and newspapers called Shofar and The Commish.


The BBYO is a federation of three youth organizations: the Aleph Zadik Aleph (AZA) for high school boys, the B'nai B'rith Girls (BBG) for high school girls, and the B'nai B'rith Teen Connection for middle school boys and girls. Each local chapter has a volunteer adviser who is supervised by the professional staff of social group workers. Chapters are united into regions, each of which has a youth structure, an adult policymaking structure, and a professional staff structure. There are thirty-seven BBYO regions in North America, which report directly to the BBYO International Executive Board. The international office is responsible for setting standards and goals, budget and staffing, and publications. Most programs and activities are organized at the local level.


Because Jewish aspirations are emphasized, membership is open only to Jewish youths. Parents of BBYO members need not be affiliated with the larger B'nai B'rith organization. By 2000 the BBYO had more than 50,000 members in over 1,500 chapters throughout the world.


The B'nai B'rith youth movement originated in 1924 in Omaha, Nebraska, with a single chapter of sixteen boys who opposed the exclusive high school and college social fraternity system. Three other chapters were formed during the same year, and the four groups held their first convention in July 1924. In 1925 the youth organization received official sponsorship by the B'nai B'rith organization. The first chapter of B'nai B'rith Girls was founded in 1927 in San Francisco, California. In 1944 the two organizations merged and became the BBYO. The Teen Connection was established later to meet the needs of younger boys and girls.

internet resource

B'nai B'rith Youth Organization. 2002.


Max F. Baer

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


The Boys and Girls Clubs of America's tradition of service to the nation's youth began in 1860, when the first Boys Club was established in Hartford, Connecticut. Since then the organization has grown to serve millions of young people in thousands of Boys and Girls Clubs across the country.

The national organizationoriginally named Federated Boys Clubs, and later Boys Clubs of Americawas founded in 1906 by the fifty-three local Boys Clubs in existence at that time. The purpose of the organization was to provide leadership and programs for member clubs, and to help establish new clubs in disadvantaged communities. In 1990 the name became Boys and Girls Clubs of America (B&GCA), reflecting an expanded mission of service to all young people who need the support, guidance, and character-development experiences the clubs provide.

In the closing years of the twentieth century, Boys and Girls Clubs of America experienced dramatic growth, chartering more than 1,000 new club locations. Many factors contributed to this successful outreach effort, among them the dedication of national volunteersmen and women whose experience and knowledge are drawn upon to advise and strengthen the organization. Strong partnerships with committed corporations and foundations also provide invaluable support, helping raise funds and awareness on behalf of Boys and Girls Clubs of America and local clubs.

B&GCA's efficient use of financial resources has won national recognition. In a 2000 "Philanthropy 400" report, The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked B&GCA thirteenth among all nonprofit organizations, while placing B&GCA in the number one position among youth organizations for the seventh consecutive year. Forbes, Fortune, Money, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report have all ranked B&GCA among the top charitable organizations in America, based on cost-effective use of donor dollars. Smart Money magazine ranked B&GCA as one of the two top children's charities, and among the top ten of all nonprofit organizations, based on financial efficiency, strength of reputation, and program effectiveness.

Boys and Girls Clubs of America continues to maximize its human and financial resources to reach more young people and communities in need. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, an estimated 15 million American children live in poverty. Half live in urban areas, and many face serious obstacles to achieving productive futures, but all deserve the chance to achieve their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens and leaders.

B&GCA's commitment to growth and quality is based on its concern for deserving youth, as well as the national interest: soon these boys and girls will become the mainstay of America's economy. Club programs and services promote and enhance the development of boys and girls by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, and power. By aiding their development, all of society benefits.

B&GCA is especially committed to high-quality after-school programming. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, nearly half of all juvenile crimes occur on weekdays between 3 p.m. and 8 B&GCA's proven after-school programs not only keep children safe and out of trouble, they also provide a prime opportunity to increase learning. Young people in B&GCA's after-school programs show better achievement in math, reading, and other subjects.

Among the children in greatest need are those living in America's public housing developments. In 1986 fewer than forty clubs operated in public housing. By the end of the twentieth century, however, more than 400 public housingbased Boys and Girls Clubs served more than 150,000 youths. This number grows steadily, thanks to effective collaboration between clubs, schools, housing authorities, government agencies, and private funding sources.

B&GCA continues to break new ground, reaching out to at-risk youth in nontraditional ways. Boys and Girls Clubs work with young people in schools, homeless shelters, shopping malls, and on military bases and Native American lands.

Boys and Girls Clubs of America's mission is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those from disadvantaged circumstances, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens. While America's youth face many difficult challenges, Boys and Girls Clubs continue their tradition of offering proven solutions that work. Clubs have provided millions of girls and boys with daily character-development programs, firmly establishing a nationwide reputation as "The Positive Place for Kids."

Cheri Tiernan


Boys State and Girls States are educational programs aimed at teaching American high school students the duties, privileges, rights, and responsibilities of American citizenship. Boys State programs are funded and organized by the American Legion; Girls State programs are funded and organized by the American Legion Auxiliary. The program provides teenagers with handson experience in government by enabling them to participate in the practical functioning of fictional "states."


The content and method of Boys State and Girls State programs vary from state to state, but all adhere to the basic goal of teaching about government from the city to the state level. Most state programs last for one week, but some run for as many as fourteen days. Enrollments also vary, with as few as 25 to as many as 1,500 participants in a single "state." Most state programs are held at a college campus or other educational institution.

Participants in Girls State and Boys State programs become citizens of a mythical fifty-first state. As such, they help plan and execute all the main functions of the state, guided by the basic laws and procedures of the actual state where the program is being held. The practical and nonpartisan program is designed to teach students how government actually works in a democratic society.

On arrival, each boy or girl is assigned to a "city," where he or she joins other "citizens" in establishing a city government. They begin by electing a mayor and other city officials, including perhaps a city administrator, city council members, judges and district attorneys, and a sheriff. The newly established city government then enacts and enforces ordinances to govern the city. In larger Boys State and Girls State programs, cities may be organized into counties, which establish county governments. Participants in larger programs may also set up banks, post offices, schools, clinics, and even stores.

At the beginning of the program, each participating student is appointed to an imaginary political party. Most Boys State and Girls State programs include two parties (e.g., Tories and Whigs, Nationalists and Federalists). The two parties are not modeled after the real Republican and Democratic parties, but are meant to teach participants how political parties function and how a two-party system of government works. Party members develop their own party platforms, highlighting issues the participants think are important. Citizens of each party nominate members to be candidates for various city and county offices. They also hold caucuses and political conventions to nominate party members for state office, after which candidates run campaigns and statewide elections are held. Some states even hold inaugural ceremonies after elections, where the new "governor" and other officials take an oath of office.

Elected officials then form state governments and name various appointive officials, including perhaps an attorney general, a secretary of state, and a state treasurer. State officials also establish a supreme court and lower courts, where citizen attorneys defend and prosecute lawbreakers. In addition, citizens elect state representatives and senators and form a functioning legislature.

Each Boys State and Girls State also includes "journalists," who interview candidates and public officials, report on events within the city and state, and write editorials. The state paper is edited, printed, and published by the student participants themselves, with the goal of teaching the importance and function of a free press in a democratic society. In most states, a newspaper will be published each morning with the news of the preceding day. A summary journal may be published at the end of the program.

During the program, participants also engage in seminars where they discuss subjects pertaining to government, law, and politics. Real public officials and professional leaders often present special lectures about government and citizenship. Student participants are further guided by volunteer adult counselors, most of whom are actual attorneys, judges, teachers, law enforcement officials, and civil servants.

Every year, outstanding "citizens" from the Boys State and Girls State programs around the country are chosen to participate in the Boys Nation and Girls Nation programs in Washington, D.C. In these programs, run by the national American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary organizations, students take on the roles of "senators," representing their state within a fictional federal government.


The majority of participants in Boys State and Girls State programs are high school juniors or seniors who have been sponsored by an American Legion post or auxiliary unit. Students interested in taking part in a Boys State or Girls State program must apply to their local legion post. Application procedures and selection criteria vary from state to state, but in most cases, applications are reviewed by a board of legion members who select the best candidates. The board may require applicants to undergo an interview before final appointment. In general, the legion is looking for candidates with above average academic records, demonstrated leadership abilities, and high moral character. Applicants must also show an interest in government, current events, and public service.

Financial support for Boys State and Girls State programs comes from the budgets of the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary national organizations, as well as the state and local legion and auxiliary units. Additional funding is provided by local businesses and other civic and nonprofit organizations. Student participants pay no fees.


The American Legion Department of Illinois conducted the first Boys State program in 1935 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois. Two Illinois Legionnaires, Hayes Kennedy and Harold Card, initiated the program to counter the influence of the Young Pioneer Camps being promoted by the Communist Party during the 1930s. The Legion Auxiliary of the District of Columbia initiated the first Girls State program in 1938. The first Boys Nation, then called Boys Forum of National Government, was held in 1946. The first Girls Nation was held the following year. By 2000 Boys State and Girls State programs were held annually in every American state except Hawaii.

internet resources

American Legion. 2002. <>.

American Legion Auxiliary. 2002. <>.

James C. Watkins

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) provides educational programs for boys and young men that can be delivered through local organizations. The aims of the BSA programs are to develop character, citizenship, and fitness among its members. The Scout promise (oath) and scout laws identify the specific virtues the BSA wishes boys to pursue. Those virtues are honesty, loyalty, helpfulness, friendliness, courteousness, kindness, obedience, optimism, courage, thriftiness, cleanliness, and reverence.

The BSA programs attempt to achieve the stated aims and develop the identified virtues through several methods. First, adult scout leaders are meant to serve as role models who guide members through an advancement system. Second, scouts select activities in their small groups, and each member is expected to take on and share leadership roles. Third, as members demonstrate that they have attained skills through mastering and completing specific challenges set forth in the manuals, scouts earn awards, badges, and advancements to the next level of scouting. Community service and outdoor activities are central features of the programs.


At the beginning of the twentieth century there was a general consensus, both in the United States and Europe, that boys needed educational and recreational activities beyond those provided by schools. In 1910 William Boyce, a publisher from Chicago, incorporated the BSA, after meeting with Robert Baden-Powell, the British author of Scouting for Boys. On incorporation in the United States, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) under-took to support the formation and maintenance of Boy Scout programs by community organizations. The Sons of Daniel Boone, founded by Daniel Beard, merged with the BSA and Beard became the first national scout commissioner. Ernest Seton, who had founded the Woodcraft Indians, became the first volunteer national chief scout. The U.S. Congress chartered the BSA in 1916. Membership grew rapidly to approximately 850,000 boys by 1930.

Legal Status and Governance

Although the BSA holds a congressional charter, the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that the BSA is a private organization that can restrict membership. The BSA has chosen to exclude atheists and homosexuals from both membership and volunteer positions. The exclusionary policy has been highly controversial.

Local community and religious organizations sponsor troops led by adult volunteers. The national executive board, made up of volunteers representing local councils, sets guidelines and approves materials and content of leader training and scouting programs. The executive board elects the chief executive who is responsible for operating the BSA. There are several thousand paid employees who administer the organization. Throughout the United States there are 300 local councils organized into twenty-eight areas in four regions.


Boy Scouts may be seven through twenty years of age. The initial programs, which are family and home based, are Tiger Cubs for first graders (seven years old), Cub Scouts for second through fifth graders (eight through ten years old), and Webelos Scouts for fourth and fifth graders preparing to be Boy Scouts. Boys in the initial programs attend meetings in dens comprising about eight to ten boys, and the dens are organized into packs. Boy Scouts, who are eleven through seventeen years old, are organized into patrols of five to eight boys who are part of larger troops. Varsity Scouts are fourteen through seventeen years of age. Venturer Scouts are boys or girls from fourteen through twenty years old. Approximately four percent of Boy Scouts earn the Eagle Scout rank, the highest advancement in Boy Scouting, which is obtained by accomplishing specific requirements and badges. In the year 2000 there were approximately one million active scout members and half a million adult volunteers in 52,582 troops.


The BSA publishes the magazines Boys' Life and Scouting. Handbooks are published for boys and leaders at each level of Boy Scouts. Pamphlets, training manuals, and guidebooks provide information for members, parents, and leaders.

Influence and Significance

Few independent external evaluations of the BSA are available. However, several small studies point to benefits of participation, such as a positive sense of self, leadership skills, work habits, and a sense of responsibility to the community through participating in the Boy Scouts.


Hoyt, Kenneth. 1978. Exploring Division Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A., and Career Education. Rockville, MD: Educational Resource Information Center.

Kleinfeld, Judith, and Shinkwin, Anne. 1983. Getting Prepared: Nonformal Education in Boy Scouts. Rockville, MD: Educational Resource Information Center.

internet resource

Boy Scouts of America. 2002. <>.

Lee Shumow


Camp Fire USA is a national youth organization that offers leisure-time education and recreation programs to all girls and boys from preschool through twelfth grade. The aim of the organization is to assist girls and boys in preparing for adult life through gradually more complex experiences.


Camp Fire USA's programs are designed to be youth-centered and fun but with serious learning goals, such as fostering tolerance, building friendships and relationships with adults, developing a sense of family and community, and providing service to others in need. Unlike many youth organizations, Camp Fire programs do not segregate boys and girls. All clubs and activities are coeducational. The four program levels of Camp Fire USA are: Starflight for boys and girls from kindergarten through second grade, Adventure for children in third through fifth grades, Discovery for children in sixth through eighth grades, and Horizon for boys and girls in ninth through twelfth grades. Each year some 200 Camp Fire members are named Wohelos, the organization's highest honor.

Most Camp Fire clubs include eight to twenty members who meet at least once a week after school, in the evenings, or on weekends. Each club is lead by one or more adult volunteers. At meetings members may play games, sing and dance, learn crafts, and explore nature. Camp Fire clubs also visit interesting and educational places and take camping trips. Older members engage in community-service activities, such as visiting homes for senior citizens, serving food at a homeless shelter, or tutoring younger children.

Camp Fire USA sponsors special self-reliance and community-service classes. These include I'm Safe and Sure, to teach children in kindergarten and first grade about home safety and family responsibility; Count on Me Kids, to teach children in kindergarten through second grade about alcohol and drug prevention; I Can Do It! to teach second and third graders about safety and nutrition; I'm Peer-Proof, to teach fourth through sixth graders how to build friendships and resist negative peer pressure; I'm Taking Care, to teach fifth and sixth graders how to care for younger children; and A Gift of Giving, to teach kindergarten through sixth-grade children to identify community needs and get involved in worthwhile community-service projects.

Camp Fire clubs are actively involved in teen leadership development. Every two years Camp Fire USA organizes a Youth Leadership Forum, during which hundreds of Horizon members gather to discuss issues of importance to society. In 2001 the forum addressed violence and how to combat it. Camp Fire teenagers also spend time exploring career possibilities.


Camp Fire programs are carried out by 120 Camp Fire USA councils serving over 650,000 boys and girls annually in forty states and the District of Columbia. Each council oversees the work of numerous local clubs. Camp Fire USA has a national executive director and policymaking body called the National Council. Representatives from the regional councils serve on the National Council.


Camp Fire USA accepts members without regard to race, gender, socioeconomic status, disability, sexual orientation, or religious affiliation. Most boys and girls who participate in Camp Fire programs are between the ages of five and eighteen. They are guided by adult volunteers and are sponsored by individuals and by civic, religious, fraternal, educational, and other organizations. Financial support is derived from membership in the United Way, private and corporate donations, the sale of official merchandise, program fees, and membership dues. The organization also raises funds though its annual fundraiser, the Camp Fire candy sale.


Camp Fire Girls was founded in 1910 by Luther Gulick, a medical doctor, and his wife, Charlotte. It was the first nonsectarian organization for girls in the United States. The organization began including boys in 1975 and changed its name to Camp Fire Boys and Girls to emphasize the coeducational nature of the programs. The organization changed its name to Camp Fire, Inc., in 1984. By 2001 boys accounted for 46 percent of Camp Fire membership.

In 1999 the organization adopted a new mission statement: "Camp Fire builds caring, confidant youth, and future leaders." In 2001 the organization changed its name to Camp Fire USA and launched a major image-awareness campaign, which included television, radio, and magazine spots designed to educate the public about the value and mission of Camp Fire programs.


Allen, Martha; Buckler, Helen; Fiedler, Mary; and Schaumburg, Ron, eds. 1980. Wo-He-Lo: The Camp Fire History. Kansas City, MO: Camp Fire, Inc.

internet resource

Camp Fire USA. 2002. <>.

Rosemary Kornfeld

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) is a youth organization for American and Canadian high school and college students interested in business, marketing, management, and entrepreneur-ship. The major goals of the organization are to prepare students for careers in business and marketing; to develop the leadership abilities, self-confidence, and citizenship of DECA members; to engender an understanding of the free enterprise system; and to foster in its members a healthy competitive spirit, high standards of business ethics, and proper social and business etiquette. DECA works in cooperation with high school and college marketing and business education programs.


DECA programs are designed to create interest in all phases of marketing management and distribution study and to provide avenues of expression for individual talent. DECA programs offer members the chance to learn about marketing and international business, become involved in commerce, and develop leadership, competitive, and interpersonal skills. Chapter programs, which are always classroom centered, usually include the cooperation of the local business community; most national programs are run in partnership with national and international corporations. Such partnerships offer DECA members the chance for practical application of the skills and concepts they learned in the classroom. In addition DECA's partnerships with business afford members the opportunity to meet professional businesspeople, giving budding young entrepreneurs and marketers a head start in forming the networks of associates they will need for a successful career in business. Operation Holiday Help, for example, is a popular DECA program through which students who want to work during the holiday season are offered opportunities for on-the-job training and an introduction to local businesses.

DECA sponsors a variety of leadership development and competitive events programs, including the Creative Marketing Project, the E-Commerce Business Plan Event, the Free Enterprise Event, and the Civic Consciousness Project. DECA also sponsors numerous creative marketing projects, through which members study and survey the economic development of their communities. Many local, state, and international businesses employ DECA members because of their interest in and related study of that particular business. DECA contributes to the employability of its members by encouraging and conducting competitive activities in such areas as advertising, sales, job interviews, public speaking, public relations, online advertising design, marketing studies, and management decision-making.

DECA sponsors numerous marketing-related meetings, seminars, workshops, and conferences. State and regional DECA Leadership Conferences are held every fall, leading up to the annual International Career Development Conference. A popular Apparel and Accessories International Marketing and Finance Mini-Conference is held every year in New York City. An annual Sports and Entertainment Marketing Conference focuses on such activities as advertising, promotions, and niche groups. DECA's State Officer Leadership Institute, held each summer in Washington, D.C., teaches DECA state officers how to successfully fulfill their responsibilities.

DECA encourages high school students to stay in school and continue their education at postsecondary institutions by offering scholarships and awards to exceptional and needy DECA members. DECA presents more than $125,000 each year to winners in competitive events and awards more than $250,000 annually in scholarships. DECA's most important recognition program is the National Marketing Education Honor Award, given to outstanding high-school-senior business students and DECA leaders.

The association's national publications include DECA Dimensions, the official membership magazine featuring business and association news, as well as articles about job skills, leadership, and citizenship; the bimonthly Advisor, which offers instructional materials and tips to teachers of business and marketing; the annual DECA Guide, which contains guidelines concerning DECA's competitive events programs; and the DECA Images Catalog, which features DECA products and curriculum materials.


Local chapters are usually organized within a high school as part of the school's business and marketing program, with the business and marketing teacher coordinator serving as chapter adviser. All chapters within a state belong to a state association under the leadership of the state DECA adviser. Each state association elects its own student advisers. Student delegates elected by each state in turn elect their own national leaders.

The national organization, composed of state associations, has a national executive director and a board of directors made up of state supervisors of distributive education and an appointed representative of the U.S. Department of Education.

The national DECA organization includes a Collegiate Division of DECA, which was formed in 1970. DECA is also affiliated with Delta Epsilon Chi, an international organization for college students preparing for careers in business, marketing, and management.


Any high school or college student with an interest in business, marketing, and entrepreneurship is eligible to become a DECA member. In 2001 there were over 180,000 DECA student members and faculty advisers in secondary and postsecondary schools in all fifty states, U.S. territories, and Canada.

internet resource

Distributive Education Clubs of America. 2002. <>.

Harry A. Applegate

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


Four-H is a youth organization dedicated to fostering better family living, community progress, social understanding, and civic responsibility. It sponsors projects in agriculture, homemaking, personal improvement, community service, and good citizenship.


The earliest 4-H programs were tightly focused on agriculture and other rural concerns. Since then, however, the 4-H has evolved into a nationwide organization operating under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Cooperative Extension Service. It has chapters in urban and suburban as well as rural counties and has redefined its mission from improving agricultural production to developing the character and skills of young people in a variety of different ways.

Four-H activities are administered through the county extension agencies in the states, and students may join through their schools. The program offers meetings, camps, workshops, and social activities, but the core of the program is the 4-H project. Members are expected to tackle projects from one or more of eight categories: citizenship and civic education, communications and the expressive arts, consumer and family sciences, environmental education and earth science, healthy lifestyle education, personal development and leadership, plants and animals, and science and technology. Projects are designed to allow the participant to "learn by doing," in accordance with the 4-H slogan.

Organization and Support

Approximately 6.8 million young people are members of 4-H clubs nationwide. Leadership is provided by the USDA, and the program is administered through county extension agents. Council groups at the state, district, and county level provide planning and guidance. Individual clubs are led by adult volunteers, many of whom were themselves 4-H club members during their youth. Meetings are usually held in the home of the club leader, in community centers, or in schools. The local clubs draft their own programs, in accordance with the general organizational standards set by the USDA.

There are no dues for membership in the 4-H. The bulk of the program's funding comes from the government, but civic groups, local businesses, and other organizations often donate to 4-H groups at the local level. In addition, local clubs may hold fund-raising activities for a particular project.


Any boy or girl age nine to nineteen is welcome to join the 4-H, regardless of race or creed. Interested young persons can join a club through their school or by contacting the county extension office in their area. There are no dues. The early clubs allocated projects according to the gender attitudes of their time, assigning boys to farm and livestock projects and girls to domestic skills, such as canning, baking, and sewing. Today, however, this has changed: all projects are open to any member, with no distinction made between boys and girls.


At the start of the twentieth century, rural America was still the cornerstone of the nation's economy, but times were clearly changing. Young people were moving to the cities, while older people were holding tenaciously to outmoded farming techniques, so that many of the family farms were in danger of failing. In the Midwest, local civic leaders and educators responded to these problems by looking for ways to make agriculture attractive to young people, while also making improved farming techniques more available to established farmers. Out of this original grassroots movement, the 4-H clubs were born.

The early clubs were based on the idea that education, especially agricultural education, was best accomplished through hands-on experience. This principle has remained a core concept in 4-H. Much of the organization's early success came from the effective use of members as demonstrators of new farming technology. For example, to spread the word about improved seed corn strains, contests were held in which the young person who achieved the best crop would win a prize. Project-based contests were, and continue to be, held at a countywide level, and they have widened to include competitions in such diverse activities as livestock breeding, conservation, and personal development.

By 1914 4-H had become a truly national movement, and the Smith-Lever Act, passed by Congress in that year, forged a formal link between the local clubs and the County Extension Service of the USDA. With the passage of this act, the local groups became eligible for federal funds. To help foster a national identity, the leadership of the movement adopted an official emblem, a three-leaf clover with a capital H on each leaf, denoting Head, Heart, and Hands to express the organization's emphasis on personal development through action. The fourth H was added soon after; at first it stood for Hustle but was quickly changed to Health. The 4-H philosophy is summed up in the official pledge:

I pledge

My Head to clearer thinking,

My Heart to greater loyalty,

My Hands to larger service,

and my Health to better living

For my club, my community, my country, and my world.

internet resource

U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2002. <>.

Frances C. Dickson

Revised by

Nancy E. Gratton


Future Business Leaders of AmericaPhi Beta Lambda (FBLA-PBL) is a nonprofit 501 (c)(3) educational association of students preparing for careers in business and business-related fields. The association has four divisions: FBLA for high school students; FBLA Middle Level for junior high, middle school and intermediate school students; PBL for postsecondary students; and the Professional Alumni Division for business people, educators, and parents who support the goals of the association.

FBLA-PBL is headquartered in Reston, Virginia, and organized on local, state, and national levels. Business teachers/advisers and advisory councils (including school officials, business people, and community representatives) guide local chapters, while state advisers and committee members coordinate chapter activities for the national organization. FBLA-PBL, Inc. is funded by membership dues, conference fees, corporate contributions, and grants.

Dr. Hamden L. Forkner, head of the Commercial Education Department of the Teachers College of Columbia University, developed the FBLA concept in 1937. In the fall of 1940, the National Council for Business Education accepted official sponsorship of FBLA, and on February 3, 1942, the first high school chapter was chartered in Johnson City, Tennessee. In 1958 the first Phi Beta Lambda chapter was chartered in Iowa. The Professional Division (originally the Alumni Division) began in 1979; as of 2001 the latest group to join FBLA (in 1994) was the FBLA Middle Level, for students in grades five through nine.

The board of directors is comprised of local and state educators, business leaders, and the membership division presidents. The board sets policy and employs a president/CEO, who directs a national staff program and association programs. The association's national center is an 11,600 square foot building, which was completed in 1991. The 1.6-acre site it occupies was purchased through a grant from the Conrad Hilton Foundation.


Total membership, including students and advisers, approaches a quarter million members. The high school level has more than 215,000 members, while Phi Beta Lambda (postsecondary level) reaches over 10,000 college students. The newest group, FBLA Middle Level, is showing remarkable growth with 8,000 student members, and is also developing member interest for the high school level.

Conferences, Seminars, and Publications

Each year the best and brightest of FBLA and PBL convene at the National Leadership Conference to compete in leadership events, share their successes, and learn new ideas about shaping their career future. These four-day sessions are considered the pinnacle of the FBLA-PBL experience, especially for those running for national office.

FBLA-PBL also sponsors conferences and seminars for members and advisers, which are designed to enhance experience initially developed on the local and state level. The Institute for Leaders is a four-day seminar focused on leadership experience for state and local chapter officers, members, and advisers. Participants build lifetime leadership and career skills in tracks focusing on entrepreneurship, communication, and FBLA-PBL leadership. The institute is held in conjunction with the National Leadership Conference. Each fall, new leaders and advisers from chapters across the nation gather for National Fall Leadership Conferences, which are regional conferences designed to guide and motivate their success for the year. This includes workshops, seminars, and a plenary session, as well as the benefit of networking among their peers.

FBLA-PBL publications bring fresh ideas, new directions, and network-building news to members and advisers. They are published three times each year (except Tomorrow's Business Leader, which is produced quarterly). Tomorrow's Business Leader is circulated to FBLA and FBLA Middle Level students; Adviser Hotline to high school teachers; Middle Level Advisers' Hotline to Middle Level teachers; and PBL Business Leader to PBL members and advisers. The Professional Division receives The Professional Edge. A new electronic publication, PBL E-line is distributed to PBL advisers by e-mail three times per year, with additional publication as needed.

FBLA-PBL is officially endorsed by the American Management Association, the Association for Career and Technical Education, the Career College Association, the March of Dimes, the National Association of Parliamentarians, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, the National Business Education Association, the National Management Association, and the U.S. Department of Education.

Betty Penzner


Future Scientists and Engineers of America (FSEA) is a national nonprofit organization of elementary, middle, and secondary school science clubs. The FSEA aims to identify, motivate, and inspire young girls and boys who have the potential to become scientists, engineers, and science teachers and give them the opportunity to experience science and technology through challenging, interesting, and fun science projects.


FSEA clubs are organized to give students an opportunity to meet and benefit from sharing scientific interests and abilities. Each club is a scientific community in miniature and is free to develop a program most suited to the interests and needs of its members. FSEA projects are designed to stimulate interest in mathematics, science, engineering, and technology and to train students in techniques of innovation and creativity, problem solving, and trial and error to achieve a stated objective. Most projects are handson and team oriented; projects can take anywhere from several hours to an entire semester to complete. Club members can design their own projects or they can use an FSEA-designed project. The national FSEA office provides materials and directions for almost fifty projects for different age levels.

Some projects are simple, such as the Model Airplane, where teams of two students learn about aerodynamics by building and testing a rubberband-powered model airplane; and the Marble Slide, by which students experiment with potential and kinetic energy by rolling marbles down different types of inclines. Other projects are more advanced, including the Earthquake Tower, where teams of two students learn about drafting and engineering by designing and building a thirty-inch wooden tower that can withstand a simulated earthquake; and the Land Yacht, where teams build a vehicle that will move as far and fast as possible in the wind produced by a fan.

The national FSEA office conducts workshops for science teachers, parents, and sponsors who want to organize a science club in their local school or want training in how to help students successfully complete advanced FSEA projects. The FSEA also issues an extensive list of volunteer science and technology experts who can answer questions and help students complete difficult projects.


FSEA clubs are organized in elementary, middle, and high schools that have agreed to sponsor the club as a sanctioned school activity. As such the school provides a room for club meetings and for storage of materials, as well as a teacher to lead the club. Clubs usually consists of about twenty-five members and can include students from several grade levels. Elementary school clubs start in the fourth grade. Most FSEA clubs also include parent advisers and volunteer mentors. Ideally, mentors will be professional or retired engineers or scientists, or college students majoring in the sciences. Local clubs are organized into regions, headed by a volunteer regional director. The FSEA national headquarters has a small staff that helps new clubs get started, provides training for advisers and mentors, designs new science projects, and ships project materials and manuals to local clubs.


FSEA membership is open to all boys and girls from the fourth through twelfth grade who are interested in science and technology. Membership dues are $5 per year, with the parents, school, or private sponsors contributing an additional $60 per student each year to pay for program materials. That fee covers costs for up to five projects for each student each year. Many clubs organize fund-raisers, such as bake sales or car washes, to help pay program fees.


The FSEA was founded in 1989 by George Westrom, a rocket scientist and science educator. In 2001 there were FSEA clubs in hundreds of schools across the United States.

internet resource

Future Scientists and Engineers of America. 2002.<>.

Dorothy K. Culbert

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


The Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) describes itself as an "informal educational organization dedicated solely to girls." GSUSA seeks to help girls to develop character and skills, which will help them to succeed throughout their lives. The GSUSA program, promise, and law are all designed to promote the four main goals of the organization. First, GSUSA strives to help girls to develop their full potential. Girls gain competencies through participating in activities and are expected to develop positive self-esteem as a result. Second, GSUSA fosters the development of social skills, including understanding and respect for one another and for individual differences. Third, GSUSA aims to promote sound decision-making skills and the ability to enact decisions based on values, ethics, ideals, and convictions. Fourth, GSUSA encourages Girl Scouts to use their talents and work cooperatively with others to improve their communities and society.

The Girl Scout programs involve participation in a variety of activities. Individual girls and troops choose activities based on the interests and needs of members. Activities are focused in the following areas: (1) arts; (2) environment; (3) global awareness; (4) health and fitness; (5) literacy; (6) mentoring; and (7) science and technology. Badges are earned to recognize skills and knowledge that girls have gained through participation in a set of activities. Girl Scout camps are available throughout the country, and girls are encouraged to attend the camps in order to develop skills and accomplish goals in the camp setting.


Juliette Low founded the Girl Scouts of America (GSA) in 1912 to expose girls to outdoor experiences and to involve them in community service. Initially she modeled the Girl Scouts on the British Girl Guides. The first group of eighteen Girl Scouts met in Savannah, Georgia. GSA was incorporated as a national organization in 1915 and grew and diversified rapidly to a membership of 137,000 girls by 1926. Since its inception, Girl Scouts has sought to be inclusive. African Americans, Native Americans, and girls with disabilities were members as early as the 1920s. Girl Scouts changed programs and activities to meet the needs of girls and to adapt to historical circumstances throughout the twentieth century. The GSUSA was reincorporated under a congressional charter in 1950.

Legal Status and Governance

GSUSA is a nonprofit organization governed by the National Board of Directors. The national president provides leadership for the National Board. A national executive director leads the national staff. Most (99%) of the 915,000 adults who work for the Girls Scouts are volunteers. There are approximately 300 local Girl Scout councils throughout the United States. Girls join local troops of which there are 233,000. The local troops are led by volunteer leaders who receive training through their local councils.


Girl Scouts are organized into small groups that meet with leaders who have been trained to facilitate the programs. Girls between the ages of five and seventeen may join Girl Scouts at any time. Girls join at the appropriate age level and are not required to have been a member at previous levels. Levels include Daisies (five years old or kindergartners), Brownies (six and seven years old), Juniors (eight through eleven years old), Cadettes (eleven through fourteen years old), and Senior Girl Scouts (fourteen through seventeen years old).


GSUSA publishes numerous books, reports, and pamphlets. Books for use by leaders and scouts are available. The Research Institute of GSUSA sponsors and publishes research on the needs and development of girls.

Influence and Significance

The GSUSA conducted an extensive evaluation in 1997. Girls, their parents, and adult volunteers reported that scouting had made positive contributions to their development. In another study, Louis Harris and Associates interviewed a sample of women listed in Who's Who of American Women and found that 64 percent had participated in Girl Scouts compared with 42 percent of a random sample of adult women in the United States. Respondents identified contributions that belonging to Girl Scouts had made to their development.

internet resource

Girl Scouts of the USA. 2002. <>.

Lee Shumow


Hostelling InternationalAmerican Youth Hostels (HIAYH) is a nonprofit organization that emphasizes the values of simple and inexpensive travel and offers reasonable overnight accommodations in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and parts of Asia, Africa, Europe, and South America. The major educational aims of HIAYH are to help people of all ages gain greater understanding of the world and other people through outdoor activity and educational travel and to develop fit, self-reliant, and well-informed citizens.


HIAYA offers inexpensive accommodations to travelers from around the world. Hostels may be located in urban high-rises with hundreds of beds or in small rural houses with fewer than twenty beds. Some hostels are located in preserved historic buildings. Most hostels have cafeterias or self-service kitchens; many also offer recreational facilities, meeting rooms, swimming pools, laundry facilities, libraries, and bicycle rental services. In 2001 overnight hostel rates ranged from $8 in rural areas to $24 in large cities such as New York City and San Francisco, California.

When travelers stay at HIAYH hostels, the organization offers them the chance to meet and interact with other travelers and with people from the community where the hostel is located. HIAYH programs help broaden a traveler's understanding of an American or foreign community by providing a rich intercultural experience. Programs are offered to groups and individuals and are variously designed for children, teenagers, adults, and senior citizens. At many hostels special activities and programs are designed for people with disabilities and for disadvantaged youths.

Each summer HIAYH plans and sponsors numerous hostelling trips through the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, Israel, Japan, the Caribbean, and other areas. The trips, which are priced low enough to offer planned travel to people with limited financial means, range from one week to eight weeks. Hostelling International also offers educational and cultural tours in cities where hostels are located. Tours are conducted by local volunteer guides, who share inside information about their cities and neighborhoods, describe local history and customs, and offer tips about the most interesting places to visit and the best places to find good affordable meals.

The organization's Teach-In Program provides hostel guests and local school children and community members the opportunity to learn about one another's countries, customs, languages, and societies. The Cultural Kitchen program offers teenagers the chance to meet and talk with travelers from around the world. Participants stay overnight at a hostel and work in the hostel's kitchen to prepare and share an evening meal. Travelers to New England can participate in the Passport to Adventure Program, which focuses on geography, diversity awareness, and environmental education. The Discover Your World Program in southern California teaches interpersonal skills and intercultural understanding to economically and educationally disadvantaged youths from the Los Angeles area. Participants stay overnight at a Los Angeles hostel, meet with international travelers, and visit local museums and historical sites.

HIAYH issues periodic Hostelling International Guides to sites around the world. The organization also publishes numerous newsletters, brochures, and bulletins to help people plan their trips. In addition, HIAYH offers online travel resource centers, which are continually updated and include links, maps, advice about transportation and attractions, visa and customs laws, and other information.


HIAYH operates a network of 125 hostels throughout the United States. The national organization comprises thirty-four associate councils, which function as local offices and provide visitors with special programs, events, and activities. Several HIAYH council offices operate Travel Centers, where members can purchase train and bus passes, airline tickets, tickets to local attractions, backpacks, sleeping bags, and other travel necessities.

HIAYH is headed by an executive director and a national board made up of representatives from the thirty-four associate councils. HIAYH is affiliated with the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF), a network with nearly 4,500 hostels in more than 70 countries.


Membership in HIAYH is open to people of all ages. A member must purchase a hostel pass, which is valid for use in all hostels throughout the world. Membership is free for people under 18 years of age. Adults pay from $15 to $25 annually, depending on their age. People can also purchase lifetime memberships for $250. The organization's operating income comes from program and memberships fees, accommodation payments, private contributions, sales of publications, and partnerships with businesses involved in the travel industry.


The youth hostel idea was first conceived in 1909 in Germany by an elementary school teacher Richard Schirrman. Eleven national associations were represented at the first International Youth Hostel Conference, which was held in Amsterdam in 1932. In the United States, AYH was founded in 1934 by two school teachers, Monroe and Isabel Smith, who started the first American hostel in Northfield, Massachusetts. From its beginning, AYH has been a completely integrated movement. Hostels have been established on farms and in schools, camps, lodges, students' houses, and community centers; they are open to people of any age, nationality, income level, or religious affiliation. The first American urban hostel was opened in May 1965 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, at Fairmont Park, when the city turned over the famous colonial Chamounix mansion to a local group for use as a metropolitan youth hostel.

internet resource

Hostelling International American Youth

Hostels. 2002. <>.

Sam Shayon

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


The National Forensic League (NFL) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit educational honor society founded in 1925 by Bruno E. Jacob at Ripon College, Wisconsin. Its purpose is to encourage and motivate high school students to participate in and become proficient in the speech arts: debate, public speaking, and oral interpretation of literature.

Since its founding, NFL has enrolled more than 1 million members in all fifty states, U.S. possessions, and several foreign countries. At the start of the twenty-first century more than 2,600 high schools, 93,000 high school students, and 3,500 high school teachers were active members.

Any public or private high school is eligible to become affiliated with NFL upon payment of dues and with the permission of the school's principal. High school students enrolled in an NFL member school who rank scholastically in the top two-thirds of their class and who have earned twenty-five NFL points may apply for NFL membership by paying a onetime fee. Students earn points by participating in interscholastic speech and debate contests, student congresses, or community speaking. NFL encourages improvement of student speech skills by awarding NFL points and granting degrees based upon points earned. These degrees are: Degree of Merit (25 points), Honor (75 points), Excellence (150 points), Distinction (250 points), Special Distinction (500 points), Superior Distinction (750 points), and Outstanding Distinction (1,000 points).

The NFL believes that contests are one of the most effective educational devices. The National Speech Tournament has been held continuously since 1931 (except during World War II). Contests are held in the following areas:

  • policy debate
  • value debate
  • legislative debate
  • U.S. topic extemporaneous speaking
  • foreign topic extemporaneous speaking
  • original oratory
  • interpretation of dramatic literature
  • interpretation of humorous literature
  • duo interpretation
  • commentary
  • impromptu speaking
  • prose reading
  • poetry reading
  • expository speaking
  • storytelling

More than $100,000 in college scholarships is awarded to the winning students at each national tournament. Qualification for the national finals is earned by placement in one of the 103 district tournaments, conducted in all parts of the nation.

A nine-member executive council governs the league. Four councilors, who are active high school coaches and teachers, are elected every two years by the membership. Each elected councilor serves a four-year term. The ninth councilor is a high school administrator, who is elected every two years by the other councilors. The NFL president and vice president must be councilors and are elected by the council every two years.

The National Student Congress, first established in 1938, has met continuously since 1952. Students are elected from 103 district congresses to serve in the national congress. Student legislators author bills and resolutions, learn to use parliamentary procedure, conduct hearings and committee meetings, engage in floor debate, and vote on proposed legislation. During congress week, eighteen preliminary chambers elect members to eight semifinal chambers, which in turn name twenty-four senators and twenty-four representatives to a final congress. A scholarship is awarded to the superior legislator in each house of the final congress.

The NFL publishes its monthly magazine, Rostrum, during the school year, which features news of the league, educational articles to improve student skills, and teaching materials for coaches. The National Forensic Library contains more than fifty videos of the nation's finest high school and college speech educators, each teaching their specialty. These tapes are free to member schools.

NFL was founded with the motto: "Training Youth for Leadership." NFL alumni are found in the business community, the professions, academic institutions, government, communications, and the arts. Prominent NFL alumni include President Lyndon B. Johnson, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, many senators and representatives, Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, the scholar Lawrence Tribe, college presidents David Boren and John Sexton, television personality Oprah Winfrey, and CSPAN founder Brian Lamb.

James M. Copeland


Future Farmers of America (FFA), officially called the National FFA Organization, is an educational organization for high school and college students who are interested in agriculture. The National FFA Organization works in conjunction with the National FFA Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that seeks partnerships with corporations, foundations, and government agencies to help provide funding for FFA programs. The FFA's main objective is to develop in its members qualities of leadership, character, scholarship, cooperation, and citizenship through agricultural education. The FFA is an integral part of many high school agriculture programs. The organization operates in cooperation with the Office of Vocational and Adult Education in the U.S. Department of Education, as well as with state and local boards for vocational and agricultural education.


The FFA offers a variety of programs designed to supplement schoolwork by encouraging the practical application of classroom instruction in agricultural science. Many FFA programs also offer information and incentives for students wishing to pursue a career in agriculture. Local FFA chapters sponsor educational tours, agriculture workshops, and on-the-job training. Local chapters also organize recreational activities and hold their own award ceremonies and fund-raisers. The National FFA Organization helps local chapters by supplying program guidance and materials, by offering scholarships and awards, and by sponsoring an annual FFA week, an annual national convention, and agri-science fairs with activities at the local, state, and national level. In addition, the national organization sponsors numerous conferences and workshops covering many agriculture-related topics, and publishes a quarterly student magazine called New Horizons, a monthly member newsletter called Update, and Making A Difference, a bimonthly magazine for FFA chapter advisers.

The FFA's many programs include the New Century Farmer Program, which helps young people become aware of new opportunities in twenty-first century agriculture. New Century farmers are sent on traveling seminars to meet with and learn from innovative professional farmers and agriculture educators around the country. FFA Global Programs send members to foreign countries where they can learn the value, traditions, and role of agriculture in other cultures.

Because the majority of FFA members hope to pursue careers related to agriculture, the FFA sponsors numerous career development events at the chapter, state, and national level. These events help members explore the hundreds of career options available in the modern agriculture industry, from agronomy to food technology, forestry, floriculture, agricultural communications, and environmental and natural resources management. The FFA also provides information, incentives, and financial aid to members who wish to become college and high school teachers of agriculture.

Another career development program, Supervised Agricultural Experience (SAE), offers members an opportunity for handson application of the agricultural skills and principles they learned in the classroom. A student involved in SAE may be placed in an agriculture-related job or may start his or her own agriculture-related business under the guidance of an adult mentor.

In 1984 the National FFA Collegiate Scholarship program was established to counter a trend toward rising costs and declining enrollment in agricultural colleges. Each year, the National FFA Organization awards more than $1 million in scholarships to hundreds of FFA members. Many FFA scholarships are sponsored by local businesses and national corporations.

Among the numerous awards offered by FFA are the H. O. Sargent Award, which recognizes FFA members who have actively supported cultural diversity in agriculture. The award is named in honor of H. O. Sargent (18751936), an agricultural educator who worked to establish an organization similar to FFA for African-American students.

The National FFA Organization also presents three annual Honorary American FFA degrees for exceptional adult teachers and other individuals who have demonstrated support for agricultural education. The annual VIP awards and distinguished service citations are given to individuals, agencies, and organizations that have made a continued contribution to agricultural education over a long period of time.

FFA star medals are awarded to outstanding FFA members of differing age and grade levels. Star Discovery medals for seventh and eighth graders and Star Greenhand medals for exceptional first-year members are awarded at the chapter level. Star Farmer, Star Agribusiness, and Star Agriscience medals are given to outstanding members involved in SAE programs; these awards are given at the chapter, state, and national level. State-level star awards include a $200 prize. National-level star awards include prizes of $1,000 to $2,000.


Local FFA chapters are usually organized at a high school, with the school's agriculture and science teachers serving as chapter advisers. All chapters within a state belong to the state FFA association, which is headed by an adviser and executive secretary.

The National FFA Organization is governed by a board of directors and a board of student officers. The elected officers of the adult board include a president, four vice presidents representing different regions in the United States, and a secretary. The board of directors also includes several members of the Office of Vocational and Adult Education in the U.S. Department of Education. Student officers are elected each year by the national convention delegates. State associations and local chapters elect their own officers annually.

The National FFA Foundation is administered by a board of trustees representing the businesses, industries, organizations, and individuals who have agreed to sponsor FFA activities. The foundation board also includes representatives from state FFA associations, vocational agriculture teachers, and members of the Vocational and Adult Education Division of the U.S. Department of Education.


Any boy or girl aged twelve to twenty-one who is enrolled in an agriculture course or program is eligible to become a member of FFA. The FFA also includes honorary and alumni members.


The FFA was organized in 1928 and was chartered by the U.S. Congress in 1950. In 1965 a similar organization for African-Americans called the New Farmers of America merged with the FFA. Women were accepted as national FFA members for the first time in 1969, although some chapters had accepted women members much earlier. In 1988 the organization changed its name from Future Farmers of America to the National FFA Organization. In 2001 the FFA had approximately 457,000 active members in more than 7,300 urban, suburban, and rural high school chapters located in all fifty states, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, and Guam.

internet resource

National FFA Organization. 2002. <>.

A. Daniel Reuwee

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


The Quill and Scroll Society is a high school honor society devoted to fostering interest and excellence in the field of journalism. It has member chapters in all fifty states and in forty-four countries around the world, serving more than 14,000 students.


Quill and Scroll fulfills its mission in a variety of ways. It administers the Edward J. Neil Memorial Scholarships, granted annually to ten seniors who have demonstrated excellence in high school journalism, and the Lester G. Benz Memorial Scholarship, granted to a high school journalism faculty or yearbook adviser who desires to further his or her education with journalism courses at the college level.

The organization also sponsors contests, open to high school student members. The International Writing, Photo Contest awards a prize to the winning student submissions in eight categories of journalism, including editorial writing, feature writing, and photojournalism. The Yearbook Excellence Contest awards a prize to the participating high school that is judged to have produced the best yearbook.

Quill and Scroll also offers a news media evaluation service to participating high schools, in which the school's newspaper and other media are given a detailed critique along with suggestions for improvement. In addition, the society publishes Quill and Scroll magazine, which features articles on the journalism profession.

Seeking to advance the cause of good journalism to as broad a public as possible, Quill and Scroll also awards prizes to nonmember schools and individuals who have, in the opinion of the national committee, made singularly important contributions to the profession.


Quill and Scroll is governed by a board of trustees, the Quill and Scroll Corporation. The board is responsible for administrating the affairs of the national society. The Quill and Scroll Foundation administers the scholarship program and conducts research in high school journalism.

Local chapters operate autonomously, when it comes to planning local activities, under the leadership of a faculty adviser drawn from the journalism or English department. Participation in most of the nationally sponsored contests and activities requires an application form filed with the society's head quarters.


High schools must apply for a charter from the national organization before they can open an official chapter of Quill and Scroll. Individual membership can only be achieved through a local school chapter. Faculty members of a chartered school who teach journalism courses or who advise the school news paper or yearbook automatically become society members. Prospective student members must be in their junior year, must be in the upper 30 percent of their class, and must work on one or more of the school's publications. In addition they must secure the recommendation of their publication's faculty adviser. Applications for membership must be approved by the secretary-treasurer of the national society.

Members do not pay dues but are obligated to pay an initiation fee. On initiation, the new member receives a gold badge bearing the society insignia and is issued a membership card. In addition he or she receives a year's subscription to Quill and Scroll magazine.


The Quill and Scroll Society was founded in 1926 by a group of educators at the University of Iowa, led by George H. Gallup, best known for his groundbreaking work in public polling (the Gallup Poll). At the time of its inception, the Quill and Scroll was in tended to foster interest and excellence in the field of journalism. From these beginnings in Iowa, the Quill and Scroll Society has spread to schools throughout the country and overseas.

internet resource

Quill and Scroll Society. 2002. <>.

Lester G. Benz

Revised by

Nancy E. Gratton


SkillsUSAVICA is a national organization serving high school and college students (and their instructors) who are preparing for careers in technical, skilled, and service occupations, including health occupations. SkillsUSAVICA has 250,000 members annually, organized into nearly 13,000 chapters and fifty-four state and territorial associations.

SkillsUSAVICA was founded in 1965 as the Vocational Industrial Clubs of America (VICA). It is a nonprofit educational organization, incorporated in the District of Columbia. The association changed its name to SkillsUSAVICA on July 4,1999. It is governed by a board of directors elected from the corporation's members.

SkillsUSAVICA, Inc. members of the corporation are not to be confused with the student and instructor members of the organization known as SkillsUSAVICA. Corporate members are those persons designated by the state boards of vocational education to be responsible for trade and industrial education, technical education, and health occupations education in each state, territory, or possession of the United States where secondary and/or postsecondary state associations have been chartered by the corporation.

Five corporate members, one from each Skills-USAVICA region, are elected to serve staggered three-year terms as the board of directors. The board, in turn, elects its own officers. In addition to the corporate members elected to the board, there are four exofficio members: the vice president of the Trade and Industrial Division of the Association for Career and Technical Education; the chair of the State Association Directors Association; the chair of the Youth Development Foundation of SkillsUSAVICA (the fundraising arm of the organization); and the chairelect of the Youth Development Foundation. In addition, the bylaws allow a total of four business and/or organized labor representatives on the board and a representative from the National Association of State Directors of Vocational Technical Education Consortium (NASDVTEc).

The board of directors is responsible for directing and managing the affairs, funds, and property of the corporation. The board sets policies in accordance with its certificate of incorporation, its bylaws, and the laws of the District of Columbia. The board administers the national student organization, which is composed of the chartered state associations; hires an executive director; and oversees the operation of the organization. In all national matters, state associations are subordinate to the board of directors.

An effectively-run SkillsUSAVICA chapter prepares America's high-performance workers in public career and technical programs. It provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship, and character development, and it builds and reinforces self-confidence, positive work attitudes, and communications skills. It emphasizes total quality at work, including high ethical standards, superior work skills, lifelong education, and pride in the dignity of work. SkillsUSAVICA also promotes understanding of the free enterprise system and involvement in community service.

More than 13,000 teachers and school administrators serve as professional SkillsUSAVICA members and instructors. More than 1,000 business, industry, and labor sponsors actively support SkillsUSAVICA at the national level through financial aid, in-kind contributions, and involvement of their people in SkillsUSAVICA activities. Many more work directly with state associations and local chapters.

SkillsUSAVICA programs include local, state, and national competitions in which students demonstrate occupational and leadership skills. At the annual national-level Skills USA Championships, more than 4,000 students compete in seventy-two occupational and leadership skill areas, and each year new areas are added. SkillsUSAVICA programs also help to establish industry standards for job-skill training in the lab and classroom.

SkillsUSAVICA's Total Quality Curriculum program emphasizes the competencies and essential basic workplace skills identified by employers and the U.S. Secretary of Labor's Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) and in subsequent national voluntary skill standards. The Professional Development Program guides students through eighty-four employability skills lessons. These include goal setting, career planning, and community service.

Publications of the organization include Sharp, a newsletter for the postsecondary and secondary student members; the Professional, a newsletter for teachers and administrator members of the organization; and Partners in Quality, a newsletter specifically for the organization's business and industry partners and supporters.

internet resource

Skillsusa VICA. 2002. <>.

Thomas W. Holdsworth

Jane A. De

Shong Jones


The Young Men's Christian Association, often called the YMCA or simply the Y, is an international membership organization concerned with the physical, educational, social, and religious needs of young men, women, and boys. The YMCA stresses the Christian code of conduct, ecumenism, and community responsibility, but the organization is open to people of all religious faiths.


>The major programs of the YMCA are conducted through classes and club activities. Program offerings vary from city to city, depending on local needs. Most YMCAs offer a variety of programs addressing adult education (including technical and vocational courses), athletics (especially swimming), health and fitness, child care, community development, arts and humanities, family support, and teen leadership. Club activities for children and teenagers include Hi-Y, Youth and Government, Model United Nations, Black Achievers and Minority Achievers, and the Earth Service Corps. These groups emphasize the development of individual initiatives and leadership qualities. In YMCA urban action efforts throughout the United States, members have undertaken projects for the needy. As one of the six founding organizations of the United Service Organizations (USO), the YMCA also provides welfare, recreational, and religious programs for members of the American armed forces.

YMCA buildings have gymnasiums, swimming pools, and rooms for classes and club activities; many YMCAs also have residence facilities. In addition, the YMCA operates summer-camp and day-camp programs and facilities around the country.


Each local YMCA is an autonomous corporation with its own board of directors and staff and is responsible to its community and the distinctive needs of the people who live there. Each YMCA is also a part of the national organization as a member-affiliate of the National Council of YMCAs, the legislative and policymaking national body. The National Council in turn is a member of the World Alliance, the YMCA international body.


Membership in the YMCA is open to all men, women, and children, regardless of religious affiliation, race, age, ability, or income. In 2000 approximately 970 corporate YMCAs operated almost 1,500 branches, units, and camps in the United States; the organization served over 17 million Americans, making the YMCA one of the country's largest notfor-profit community-service organizations. Financial support for local associations is derived from program fees, membership dues, community chests, foundation grants, charitable contributions, sustaining memberships, and corporate sponsors. YMCAs have also been established in more than 120 countries around the world, providing service to over 30 million people.


The YMCA was founded in 1844 in London by George Williams, a clerk in a dry-goods firm. The first meeting room was located in a coffeehouse. The American YMCA was established in 1851 in Boston by Thomas V. Sullivan, a retired sea captain. The following year YMCAs were formed in New York City and Buffalo, New York; Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts; Portsmouth and Concord, New Hampshire; New London and Hartford, Connecticut; Detroit, Michigan; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and New Orleans, Louisiana. By 1860 there were more than 200 YMCAs with more than 25,000 members in the United States.

Most early YMCAs were open only to men, although a few accepted women members, often unofficially. Some YMCAs were established to serve particular ethnic or immigrant groups. The first YMCA for African Americans was established in Washington, D.C., in 1853 by Anthony Bowen, a freed slave. Beginning in 1875, YMCAs were founded in San Francisco, California, to serve the city's large Chinese population. Thomas Wakeman, a Dakota Sioux, started the first YMCA for Native Americans in 1879 in Flandreau, South Dakota.

Early YMCA leaders were concerned with addressing the difficulties and temptations facing young men arriving in the cities, far from the stabilizing influence of home and family, during the American Civil War and the Industrial Revolution. In the United States revival meetings were the outstanding programs offered, and the associations sent out the first street workers to preach on street corners and around the wharves. They also sent out "gospel wagons" to distribute Christian tracts and Bibles and give sermons in city neighborhoods.

Delegates from fifteen associations met in New York City in 1861 and formed the United States Christian Commission, the first volunteer agency for spiritual and physical aid to American armed forces. During World War I the American YMCA provided religious services, recreational materials, entertainment programs, and canteens in home ports, on the front lines, and in cities overseas.

During World War II, the YMCA, as part of its United Service Organization affiliation, worked with the armed services throughout the world. In the postwar years the international associations undertook service to displaced persons by providing athletics programs, summer schools, entertainment, and children's camps. The YMCA also helped with the repatriation and resettlement of refugees from Europe.

By the end of the war most YMCAs were accepting women and girls as members and had began establishing centers in suburbs and outside of major urban areas. During the 1960s and 1970s, urban unrest in America and a lack of funding caused a decline in YMCA membership and many YMCAs reduced program offerings or closed entirely. The organization managed to rebuild in the 1980s and 1990s by seeking new sources of funding, by renovating many older YMCA buildings and constructing new ones, and by changing its focus to include intensive community outreach, job training, drug abuse prevention, mentoring programs, youth development and leadership training, family support and services, and aid for senior citizens. In 2001 the YMCA celebrated its first 150 years in America.


Hinding, Andrea. 1988. Proud Heritage: A History in Pictures of the YMCA in the United States. Chicago: National Council of the YMCA of the USA.

Macleod, David I. 1983. Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts, the YMCA, and Their Forerunners, 18701920. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Mjagkij, Nina. 1994. Light in the Darkness: African Americans and the YMCA, 18521946. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press.

Mjagkij, Nina, and Spratt, Margaret, eds. 1997. Men and Women Adrift: The YMCA and the YWCA in the City. New York: New York University Press.

internet resource

Young Men's Christian Association. 2002. <>.

Joe A. Pisarro

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


The Young Men's Hebrew Association and the Young Women's Hebrew Association (YMYWHA or often simply "Y") are part of an organization called the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America (JCCA). Jewish community centers are established by residents of a city with a large Jewish population to provide leisure and educational activities for their members. The aim is to strengthen Jewish family life, foster Jewish living in a democratic society, and provide shared experiences for all age groups.


Center programs are multifaceted, flexible, professionally directed, and designed to meet the needs of the community where the center is located. Program activities stimulate personality development, leadership, participation in community affairs, and each member's sense of his or her Jewish identity. Extensive programs for health and physical education, camping, and outdoor recreation afford the opportunity for acquiring new skills and developing friendships. Many Jewish community centers also offer courses in music, arts and crafts, dance, drama, literature, and Jewish studies, in addition to lectures, concerts, art exhibits, theatrical performances, poetry and fiction readings, and cultural festivals.

The JCCA provides to local centers a variety of program materials dealing with all aspects of community center work, and it organizes and conducts regional and national conferences, institutes, seminars, competitions, and intercenter activities. The JCCA also recruits, orients, and places staff in Jewish community centers and oversees scholarship programs for their continued training.

Jewish community centers throughout the United States and Canada offer day care and early childhood educational services for Jewish children ages three to six. Jewish community centers also offer programs for Jewish senior citizens, permitting elderly men and women the chance to socialize, become involved with their community, and stay mentally and physically fit.

The JCCA and YMYWHA chapters also offer Jewish athletes a chance to train and compete at local, national, and international sporting events through their sponsorships of Macabbi USA and Macabbi Canada. Every year approximately 6,000 young Jewish athletes compete at JCCA Macabbi Games. The best athletes compete at the World Macabbi Games, a two-week international competition held every four years in Israel. In 2001 Macabbi USA sent 360 athletes representing thirty-nine states to Israel to compete in the world games.

The JCCA and YMYWHA work in cooperation with twenty-two resident camps throughout the United States and one in Ontario, Canada. Most camps offer day, short-term, and long-term camping programs where young people can learn swimming, canoeing, horseback riding, archery, and other outdoor activities. Many camp programs also include cultural and creative activities, such as jewelry making, wood sculpting, pottery, dance, and theater. Some resident camps organize family camping events. In addition, many local Jewish community centers run their own day-camp programs.

Through the Jewish Welfare Board Chaplain's Council, the JCCA serves the religious and social needs of Jewish military personnel and their families. Regional consultants and national United Service Organizations (USO) staff provide services to stateside USO clubs and councils and to small, isolated Jewish communities serving Jews in nearby military installations.

Organization and Membership

The JCCA includes 275 affiliated community centers in thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and ten Canadian cities. The JCCA is also affiliated with a Jewish community center in Hong Kong. Together, the JCCA-affiliated centers have a membership of more than 1 million people. Most centers and Ys make membership available to anyone in the community, regardless of religious affiliation. Financial support is derived from membership dues, course and programs fees, fund-raisers, corporate sponsorship, and foundation and private donations.


The first Young Men's Hebrew Association (YMHA) was founded in 1854 in Baltimore, Maryland, to provide services and support for Jewish immigrants. By 1884 approximately seventy such agencies had been organized. They served as libraries, settlement houses, cultural centers, and helped new Jewish immigrants adapt to life in America by offering instruction in the English language and the American way of life. In 1913 the National Council of Young Men's Hebrew and Kindred Associations (YMH&KA) was formed to unite the disparate YMHAs into a national association. The national Jewish Welfare Board (JWB) was founded in 1917 to meet the religious needs and improve the morale of Jewish men in the armed forces. In 1921 the YMH&KA merged with the JWB, making the JWB the national association for Jewish community centers and YMYWHAs. During the 1950s and 1960s many Jewish-Americans moved to the suburbs, and new community centers were established to serve the needs of this more affluent community. The centers began to expand their services to include day camps, travel camps, performing arts, day-care centers, sports programs, adult education, and services for senior citizens.

During the 1970s and 1980s, pride in Israel flourished in the American Jewish community, and many young people became interested in their Jewish roots. In response, Jewish community centers began to sponsor cultural events related to Jewish heritage and history, including Jewish film festivals and celebrations for Hanukkah, Israeli Independence Day, and other Jewish holidays. Many Jewish community centers also organized trips to Israel. The Jewish Welfare Board changed its name to the Jewish Community Centers Association of North America in 1995.


Kaufman, David. 1998. Shul with a Pool: The "Synagogue-Center" in American Jewish History. Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press.

Rabinowitz, Benjamin. 1948. The Young Men's Hebrew Associations, 18541913. New York: National Jewish Welfare Board.

internet resource

Jewish Community Centers Association of North America. 2002. <>.

Bernard Postal

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan


The Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) is a membership organization with a local, national, and international program aimed at helping all women and girls achieve their full potential in a society where justice and peace prevail. The YWCA stresses improving the quality of education with special emphasis on preparing girls to perform their multiple roles in society, providing opportunities for girls and women to continue their education, supplementing the academic work of high school and college students with involvement in community affairs, exploring the problems and needs of women and students in urban settings, and motivating dropouts to return to school or prepare for gainful employment. The YWCA is also actively involved in promoting nonviolence and tolerance throughout the United States and the world.


The YWCA of the U.S.A. offers numerous education programs designed to meet the needs of the community where the YWCA is located. Literacy, tutoring, English as a second language (ESL), and General Education Development (GED) classes are popular in many areas. Many YWCAs also offer welfare-to-work programs to help unemployed women learn to support themselves. YWCA's job training, job placement, and career counseling services enable thousands of women who are out of work to improve their employability and find meaningful jobs. The organization helps working mothers by offering quality child-care services. In 2001 more than 750,000 children participated in YWCA day-care and after-school programs, making the YWCA the largest nonprofit child-care provider in the United States.

Approximately 200 of America's YWCAs provide housing services for women and children; services include emergency shelter, transient housing, and transitional housing. The YWCA will also help needy women find permanent housing.

The YWCA's teen development programs include the YWCA/Pepsico Girls Leadership Program for economically and educationally disadvantaged teenage girls. In 1997 the YWCA launched its Tech-GYRLS program, in which girls ages nine to thirteen can explore computers and other new technologies under the guidance of technology professionals.

The organization's health care and fitness initiatives include sports and exercise programs, breast and cervical cancer screenings and referrals, breast cancer support groups, and courses on sexually transmitted diseases, prenatal care, self-defense, and substance abuse prevention. Further programs and services address crisis intervention, violence prevention, and family counseling. Many YWCAs also offer a program called Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Evaluation for teenage girls.

In its ongoing effort to combat violence, the YWCA of the U.S.A. annually designates the third week in October as Week Without Violence. This observance promotes awareness and alternatives to domestic violence, gun violence, ethnic violence, hate crimes, and violence in the media. In addition, since 1992 the YWCA of the U.S.A. has recognized April 30 as National Day of Commitment to Eliminate Racism.


The World YWCA provides a channel for the sharing of resources and the exchange of experience among its affiliated associations in 100 countries, including the United States. The World YWCA also works for international understanding, for improved social and economic conditions, and for basic human rights for all people. In times of emergency, the World YWCA undertakes and sponsors international humanitarian, welfare, and relief work, irrespective of religious, social, political, national, or racial differences. The World YWCA includes in its membership all women and girls who wish to participate.

The YWCA of the U.S.A. is composed of three types of member associations: community YWCAs, registered and accredited state and regional YWCAs, and student YWCAs. In 2001 there were 312 YWCA affiliates across all fifty states. Each local association governs itself and adopts a constitution in keeping with the requirements of affiliation with the national organization and the needs of the community it serves.

The YWCA of the U.S.A. is headed by a president and a chief executive officer. A twenty-five-member national board of directors works with the president and CEO. The national board unites the autonomous member associations into an effective organization for furthering the YWCA mission. The board also plans the annual YWCA convention for the development of a national program and acts as a link between local YWCAs and the World YWCA. The board is assisted in its work by one national student council representative. Through its placement services and training programs, the national YWCA helps secure professional staffs for the local affiliates.


Membership in the YWCA is open to any girl or woman twelve years of age or older from any economic, racial, occupational, religious, or cultural group. College women may join a campus-based student YWCA. Membership privileges are transferable from one YWCA facility to any other in the country. All dues-paying members seventeen years or older have voting privileges. Boys and men may become YWCA associates and take part in coeducational activities, especially in recreation, education, discussion, and community projects. In 2001 there were approximately 2 million members in the YWCA of the U.S.A. The World YWCA served over 25 million women worldwide.

Local YWCAs derive most of their financial support from the United Way, membership dues, and program fees. The national organization derives its funding from the local YWCAs, earnings on investments, and gifts from individuals, foundations, and corporations.


The organization that became known as the Young Women's Christian Association began as a movement that gradually organized into a full-fledged association. The North London Home for women, also called the General Female Training Institute, founded in London, England, in 1855, is generally recognized as the first YWCA. London's Prayer Union for Women and Girls was organized around the same time. By 1859 these two organizations had merged under the name of Young Women's Christian Association. In 1858 a similar organization called the Ladies' Christian Association was founded in New York City. In 1866 a women's group in Boston, Massachusetts, began using the name Young Women's Christian Association. Such organizations proved popular in the United States, and soon YWCAs were established in other communities around the country. By 1875 there were twenty-eight YWCAs in the United States. The first YWCA branch for African-American women was opened in Dayton, Ohio, in 1889. The following year, the first YWCA for Native American women was established in Chilocco, Oklahoma. By 1900 there were 106 American YWCAs. Realizing the need for centralized administration, the local associations formed the National Board of the YWCA in 1907.

Since the early 1900s the YWCA has pioneered the fight against racial discrimination and segregation in the United States. The first interracial conference in the South was held at a YWCA facility in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1915. In 1936 the first coeducational interracial collegiate seminar was held at a YWCA in Raleigh, North Carolina. During World War II the YWCA gave aid and comfort to Japanese-American residents being held in relocation centers, and the YWCA helped resettled Japanese women and families after the war. In 1946 the YWCA adopted a groundbreaking interracial charter to protest racial injustice. In 1960 the cafeteria of the Atlanta YWCA became the first desegregated public dining establishment in the city.

The YWCA was also a pioneer in offering sex education in its health programs as early as 1906; the organization continues this effort by offering educational programs and services addressing such issues as sexual harassment, sexually transmitted diseases, acquaintance rape, adolescent pregnancy prevention, and birth control.


Boyd, Nancy. 1986. Emissaries: The Overseas Work of the American YWCA 18951970. New York: Women's Press.

Mjagkij, Nina, and Spratt, Margaret, eds. 1997.

Men and Women Adrift: The YMCA and the YWCA in the City. New York: New York University Press.

Seymour-Jones, Carole. 1994. Journey of Faith: The History of the World YWCA 19451994. London: Allison and Busby.

internet resource

Young Women's Christian Association. 2002. <>.

Edith M. Lerrigo

Revised by

Judith J. Culligan