Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Meet GSUSA’s 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts

From creating comprehensive, age-appropriate mental health programs to fighting against human trafficking and child marriage, this year's National Gold Award Girl Scouts are creating positive changes to address society's most pressing issues. They exemplify how Girl Scouts confidently stand up for what they believe in, advocate for causes, and take action to solve community problems, showcasing Girl Scouts’ commitment to civic engagement.

“Our 2018 National Gold Award Girl Scouts demonstrate how girls are creating positive, sustainable change to improve their communities and the world,” said GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo. “With their incredible aspirations, innovative problem solving, and risk-taking spirit, these girls are exactly the kind of employees 21st-century companies are looking for. They are well on their way to becoming the business leaders, activists, scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and artists who will build our collective future."

Meet these inspiring change-makers:

Caroline M.—Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York

Pollinators, like bees, are essential to New York’s agricultural industry and global food security, yet more than 450 species are threatened by habitat collapse and other environmental stressors. To protect pollinators, Caroline set up the first municipal solar pollinator gardens in her state. As ideal pollinator habitats, these gardens located within solar arrays help secure local food sources. Caroline also rallied political support for her food security efforts and environmental advocacy. Working with her governor and other state officials, she secured $300,000 in state funding for pollinator research and habitat development. In addition, she helped create and advocate for legislation to develop guidelines for vegetation-management plans to be used by persons or corporations that claim to provide pollinator protection. The legislation, which passed both the New York State Senate and Assembly, is currently awaiting the governor’s signature to become law.

Haley W.—Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan 

To address a lack of mental health knowledge and curricula in her state, Haley developed We Stand Together, a comprehensive, multi-level program that offers age-appropriate mental health education for students in grades K–12. Through this program and local partnerships, Haley engaged 9,000 students and their families in lessons about topics ranging from stress management to suicide prevention. Her innovative and interactive program ultimately reached 30,000 people, successfully bolstering empathy and mental health awareness in her community. It is currently expanding to other school districts in Michigan and several other states.

Kelly C.—Girl Scouts of Tropical Florida 

A massive 1.1 billion young people worldwide are at risk for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), and one in five teens in the United States now has NIHL by age 19 due to their exposure to damaging levels of sound from personal audio devices and noisy entertainment venues. Kelly set out to inform teens, parents, and educators about this permanent, yet preventable, form of hearing damage. Working with Ear Peace: Save Your Hearing Foundation, she scripted, filmed, and edited an educational video, Band Together to Protect Your Hearing, which is used in the foundation’s teacher training workshops for 392 schools in Miami-Dade County. She has educated elementary and high school students about hearing conservation, presented on this topic at a statewide music educator’s conference, and presented to 125 teachers at a professional development workshop. Kelly has also created and distributed educational posters and informative brochures to pediatric offices and hospitals statewide. She plans to expand this distribution to a nationwide campaign.

Nikole R.—Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina 

With a keen interest in the power of history and storytelling to unite people, Nikole decided to share the untold stories of local heroes with her broader community. To do so, she interviewed 29 veterans from diverse backgrounds and conflicts and compiled their stories into a four-hour documentary. By showcasing the veterans’ experiences, especially their struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, Nikole taught her peers about the sacrifices and severe mental and physical consequences of fighting for freedom. The documentary, Our Veteran Stories: FOREVER Live Our Dorchester County Heroes, is now a permanent part of her community’s historical and archive center as well as the South Carolina State Museum’s library, where it will continue to educate and inspire students of different races, backgrounds, and beliefs for years to come.

Sakshi S.—Girl Scouts of Northern California 

Working with Amnesty International and Girls Learn International, Sakshi learned about gender-based violence and was inspired to tackle the issues of human trafficking and child marriage. Sakshi created Project GREET (Girl Rights: Engage, Empower, Train) in which she designed, created, and distributed documentary films, a training curriculum, a website, and a YouTube playlist to engage and educate audiences on these topics. The materials address root causes, statistics, misconceptions, warning signs, and community actions to stop trafficking and child marriage. Sakshi also wrote an extensive curriculum, “Guidelines to Rehabilitate Young Trafficked Girls,” a tool for activist organizations to set up vocational training programs for girls who are at risk of being trafficked or were previously trafficked. Working with 35 partner organizations, Sakshi’s films have been screened in over 59 locations in 15 countries. She also presented Project GREET materials at the United Nations’ 62nd Commission on the Status of Women, where she discussed child marriage; trafficking-prevention laws; and cultural practices with ambassadors, activists, and survivors.

Sarah M.—Girl Scouts of Central Texas 

In some regions of the world, girls can miss up to 20 percent of school a year during their periods because of the high cost or lack of menstrual products, such as sanitary pads. Sarah traveled to rural Bolivia, where she organized eight workshops that taught girls, families, and educators how to sew washable pads. She also raised funds to donate new sewing machines and taught community members how to repurpose other materials, such as umbrellas, to make pads. Sarah’s efforts, which focused on sustainable community involvement, helped hundreds of girls gain access to affordable menstrual resources so they can continue with their education uninterrupted. 

Selina N.—Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta

Selina launched GirlsFIRST Jr., a program that sparks girls' curiosity in STEM through engaging, hands-on activities in a supportive, all-girl learning environment. With her sponsorships and the $5,000 she raised, Selina developed free workshops, coding seminars, and other resources to promote girls’ education and innovation in science and technology. And through the 17 events she hosted worldwide, including three seminars in China, she reached over 7,000 girls ages 10–13, parents, and educators. With her team, she also designed a STEM toolkit containing student activities, an instructive manual and videos on how to host STEM camps, and a STEM Storybook for elementary educators available in six languages. 

Shelby O.—Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast 

Shelby founded the nonprofit Jr Ocean Guardians to combat waste and defend the environment. Initiating a movement called No Straw November, she encouraged people who don’t medically need a straw to reject unnecessary plastic straws during November, because they’re a main source of ocean pollution. As a result of her advocacy, Shelby’s resolution proclaiming November to be No Straw November in California was approved by the state legislature. She also conducted a letter-writing campaign to executives at prominent corporations, convincing a leading airline to formally discontinue its use of nonrecyclable plastic straws and working with other companies to improve their sustainability practices. Shelby’s organization, with support from Girl Scout troops and notable environmental activists, has eliminated the use of millions of plastic straws and promoted reusable alternatives. 

Susan S.—Girl Scouts of San Jacinto 

Susan learned about a town in Guatemala where children spoke a local Mayan dialect only, rather than also speaking the country's official language of Spanish. These children struggled in primary school, and their illiteracy was often linked to difficult life outcomes, like dropping out of school and experiencing poverty. To promote literacy and primary school readiness, Susan partnered with Guatemala SANA, recruiting Spanish speakers to record children's audiobooks, setting up a library, and establishing regular language programs. Because of her efforts, over 400 children visit the library every month to listen to and read books, and most of them score at or above reading level in Spanish by the time they enter public school. By creating instructions on how to record and donate books and teaching members of a local school dropout-prevention program how to record the books, Susan also ensured that the library would continue to offer families effective educational tools.

Trinity W.—Girl Scouts Heart of the South 

Recognizing the healing power of art therapy, Trinity set out to help teen girls with mental illnesses and emotional challenges learn healthy ways of coping. She organized the Note 2 Self Art Expression Workshop and Showcase, through which she developed materials that enhance mental health resources and social justice programs in her community. After raising $3,000 to fund her workshop, Trinity taught girls about art expression as a means of achieving mindfulness and supporting their mental well-being. At her showcase and through various social media platforms, she educated 1,500 people about teen mental health issues.

Being named a National Gold Award Girl Scout, becoming a Gold Award Girl Scout, and receiving generous scholarships are just a few of the countless experiences girls have through Girl Scouts. To join or learn about volunteering, visit
Friday, October 5, 2018

Hurricane Florence Update: Fundraising Restriction Lifted

Hurricane Florence was a massive storm that hit parts of North Carolina and South Carolina, bringing with it historic amounts of water that caused several areas to have to evacuate more than once over the past few weeks. In the spirit of the Girl Scout Law, many Girl Scouts have reached out, asking how they can help their sister Girl Scouts and their families, as well as our council colleagues and their loved ones, recover from this natural disaster.

There are several ways you can contribute to the recovery efforts in these areas. For one, we’ve learned that when girls experience natural disasters like Florence and are surrounded by recovery efforts, participating in Girl Scouts can help them and their families feel some sense of normalcy—so GSUSA, with the strong support of its National Board, has lifted fundraising restrictions so that girls can raise money to support membership scholarships for girls at Girl Scouts - North Carolina Coastal Pines and Girl Scouts of Eastern South Carolina.

Fundraising efforts will be undertaken with the sole intention of providing membership scholarships to impacted girls. Such scholarships typically cover dues as well as uniforms, credentials (e.g., insignia worn on uniforms), and other Girl Scout materials that, for many girls at affected councils, have been damaged or destroyed. Note that anyone can provide this support, not just girls—visit or text “FlorenceRelief” to 41444 to give to a specific council or choose “other” to designate how you’d like to direct your donation.

Additionally, the impacted councils have shared other ways you can aid with their recovery efforts:

  • Girl Scouts - North Carolina Coastal Pines, the hardest-hit council (close to 70 percent of its footprint has been declared a federal disaster area) has listed several things you can do to support Girl Scouts in the area.
  • Girl Scouts Carolinas Peaks to Piedmont, which sustained flooding at Keyauwee Program Center, its camp property in Randolph County, is looking for volunteer contractors to help rebuild bridges and repair a dock and roads. The council is also holding a Hurricane Florence cleanup on Sunday, October 14, at the program center.

We also encourage you to check out some relevant resources that Girl Scouts offers:

Thank you to the many girls, colleagues, alums, and families who have reached out and pitched in already! The impacted councils are grateful for the outpouring of support. We don’t need a natural disaster to know how strong our Movement is, but it’s heartening during such times to see our mission in action, as Girl Scouts work together to make our world a better place.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Save The Date: Meet the Nation’s Top 10 Gold Award Girl Scouts on October 11th

2018 National Gold Award Girl Scout
There are many amazing moments girls share in Girl Scouts. Making forever friends at camp, exploring new places with their troop, and trying all sorts of fun things with their Girl Scout sisters are just a few! And Girl Scouting reaches its peak with the Girl Scout Gold Award, the most prestigious award in the world for girls and only available to Girl Scouts.

The journey to becoming a Gold Award Girl Scout begins in high school—when eligible girls identify a real-world problem, submit a project proposal to address it, gain approval, and take action to complete their project. And each year, of the 5 percent of Girl Scouts who earn the Gold Award, ten exceptionally inspiring girls with extraordinary G.I.R.L. (Go-Getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader)TM spirit get recognized as National Gold Award Girl Scouts—the highest distinction in the Girl Scout Movement.

(Credit: @juliaveldmanc)

In completing their Gold Award projects, these young leaders have demonstrated impressive business savvy, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively to support the causes they believe in. A self-starter attitude and entrepreneurial spirit shine through their projects; some of them have successfully worked with politicians to drive legislative change, and many have educated countless people on important issues of the day.

On October 11, this year’s ten standout Girl Scouts will be honored at a ceremony in New York City for their passion, work ethic, creativity, and unparalleled leadership in creating solutions for some of today’s most pressing local, national, and global issues. The event will highlight this year’s United Nations theme for International Day of the Girl Child and the importance of preparing girls, through economic development, for the world of work. Be sure to follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) and tune in to the live broadcast on Facebook at 6 p.m. ET!

Additionally, if you're in the New York City area, we invite you to stop by Girl Scout Central on Wednesday, October 10 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. ET to meet the extraordinary recipients of the National Gold Award Girl Scouts.
(Credit: @libbyvanderploeg)

Clearly, together with companies like Toyota Financial Services, Girl Scouts of the USA is helping girls become financially savvy leaders with real-life, age-appropriate financial skills—girls who gain the tools necessary to make a positive impact in their communities.

The actions of our organization’s National Gold Award Girl Scouts demonstrate how much girls can accomplish in their pursuit to make the world a better place. Their financial decisions can generate substantial economic impact, and they are fully capable of—and well on their way to—becoming the next generation of leaders. What an incredible achievement!
Monday, October 1, 2018

Negotiate Your Salary—Like a Girl Scout!

If you want something, you need to ask for it.
Sounds simple, but when it comes to salary discussions, why can it feel so tough to ask for more?

One Glassdoor study found that women are more likely to accept a salary without negotiating than their male counterparts—68 percent of women to 52 percent of men. If you’d rather have a tooth pulled than negotiate your salary, you’re not alone. For many women, salary negotiations can be anxiety inducing for several reasons. For one, we might’ve been told from an early age that it’s not polite to talk about money—or we might fear coming across as pushy or greedy to a hiring manager, even though negotiating is seen as a valuable leadership skill.

However, not advocating for what we’re worth can be far more damaging. Most employees receive an annual raise in the form of a percentage increase, and while a standard 3 percent yearly raise doesn’t sound like much now, you’ll really feel those losses over the long term. According to the Center for American Progress, women stand to lose $430,480 over a 40-year career, based on today’s wage gap; other experts estimate a lifetime earnings loss between $1 million and $1.5 million. These losses are even greater for women of color. And because your salary is tied to your retirement contributions, the loss of compounding power can even impact your economic security in retirement.

Bottom line: the stakes are too high for women not to negotiate.

The good news? Girl Scouts grow into strong job applicants: they have the communication skills, teamwork experience, and decision-making abilities that help them stand out in a sea of job searchers, and these proficiencies have become increasingly desirable in recent years. As a strong applicant with marketable skills, you’re in a good position to negotiate.

Knowing how to negotiate is so important, it’s part of the Girl Scout Ambassador Leadership Journey, BLISS: Live It! Give It! But even if you didn’t earn a badge in negotiation, you likely learned some useful negotiating techniques through your Girl Scout experience. Tap into these life lessons to help you nab the competitive salary you deserve.

Be prepared
Being ready for whatever comes our way is central to the Girl Scout experience. Just as you’d toss a first-aid kit and extra water into your daypack before starting a hike, prepare for salary negotiations by doing your research. Use a site like Glassdoor or Payscale to investigate the average salary for similar roles in your industry and geographic location, and ask friends in your industry about salary ranges at their companies.

But don't stop there: dig a little deeper by looking at specific skills associated with the higher end of salaries in your role. If you have those skills, be sure to outline them to your employer and connect them to the salary range you seek. And look for company news that might impact the success of your negotiation; for instance, if company profits have increased in recent years, consider (politely!) mentioning this information if you’re told there’s no budget for a salary increase.

Practice makes perfect builds confidence

Chances are, you didn’t hit a bullseye the first time you tried archery or score a perfect 300 in your first bowling game. As we learned through Girl Scouting, confidence comes with practice, which is why you need to practice your negotiation tactics long before your final round of interviews or your year-end review.

Grab a trusted friend—or someone on your personal executive team—and run through both positive and challenging negotiation scenarios with them. Try honing your “I’m worth it” pitch, highlighting your most valuable attributes; you’ll also want to practice gracefully steering the conversation back to your worth if the hiring manager starts discussing the economy or company problems. You don't want to sound scripted, but the more you practice the more convincing you’ll be.

Be a good listener…and let silence work in your favor
So you’ve prepped for salary negotiations by figuring out the best way to advocate for what you’re worth—now don’t forget to listen! Active listening is a powerful negotiation tool that everyone can use. Does the hiring manager insist that the role is already budgeted for? Acknowledge their concern and ask where they can be flexible: can they offer perks like bonuses or extra vacation days? Similarly, pay attention to the hiring manager’s body language to determine what’s real and what’s for show: a sigh or a wince is a common technique you shouldn’t fall for.

Another powerful negotiating technique is silence—it’s awkward, and whether we like it or not, we often rush to fill those silences. Use silence to your advantage: if the hiring manager nixes the figure you give them, pause before asking for a number you can both agree on. You might be surprised to hear them offer another salary figure during that pause, or at the very least a clarifying statement you can use in any follow-up negotiations.

Still feeling anxious about negotiating with your employer? Keep in mind that many hiring managers will expect you to present some kind of counter offer, and larger companies keep wiggle room in their budget for these cases. According to Payscale, 75 percent of people who ask for a raise receive some kind of pay increase. The odds are in your favor, so conquering your fear of the “big ask” can be well worth your while!

Celebrating NASA’s 60th Birthday—and Girl Scouts’ New Space Science Badges!

Photo Credit: NASA

Today the National Aeronautics and Space Association, which we all know as NASA, celebrates its 60th birthday. This incredible milestone reflects six decades of U.S. leadership in space exploration, of incredible technological innovations that have cascaded down into our everyday lives, and of an unrelenting search for answers about the universe. Established in July 1958, when President Eisenhower signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act, NASA officially opened for business on October 1 of that year.

NASA is a valued partner of Girl Scouts that has worked with us to create exciting experiences and badge activities for our girls—and it’s an organization with a mission that is near and dear to my heart. I first discovered my passion for space and astronomy as a young Girl Scout on a camping trip with my troop, and I went on to study engineering and realize my dream of becoming a rocket scientist. I began my career as an engineer working at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, working on the Voyager 2’s exploration of Jupiter’s moons, Io and Europa, as well as the Parker Solar Probe, known at the time as the Solar Polar Solar Probe.

Working at NASA I learned the value of “blue sky thinking”—of generating and ruminating on big ideas regardless of practical constraints—and the important role that each team member plays in the pursuit of big goals. And what could be bigger than a project dedicated to sending a spacecraft to the sun, 93 million miles away? The Solar Polar Solar Probe was our “mission to touch the sun” and would bring us as close as 4 million miles away from it. Now, you might think that 4 million miles is still a pretty long distance, but think of it this way: in football, how much more can you see of the end zone and the goal post from the 4-yard line as opposed to the 50-yard line? Quite a lot!

Photo Credit: NASA

With a spacecraft making such a long and treacherous journey, we had to plan for all sorts of elements that it might encounter: radiation, asteroids, extreme cold, extreme heat, solar wind, and solar sunbursts, to name a few.

So part of my job as an engineer on this project was to create algorithms defining all the factors we had to consider as we were evaluating the equipment that would be doing tests inside the space capsule. We only had a certain amount of space, after all, so we had to consider the instruments the craft would carry, how much they weighed, how big they were, and the effect gravity would exert on them. I had to develop programs to analyze and factor all of those things.

It was a lifelong dream to work at NASA and a true honor to take part in such fascinating and world-changing projects. And the work I did on Solar Polar Solar Probe and Voyager 2 had an incredible impact on the way I think and approach problems. I had to consider the breadth of the universe and the complexities it contained. I didn’t just have to think big—I had to think literally as big as the universe! The infiniteness of the questions and the quest for answers to them inspired me—and it continues to inspire me.

That’s why I’m so excited about Girl Scouts’ new Space Science badges for Girl Scout Daisies, Brownies, and Juniors, funded by NASA’s Science Mission Directorate through a multi-party collaboration led by the SETI Institute. GSUSA developed each badge with support from the SETI Institute’s subject matter expert partners from the University of Arizona, ARIES Scientific, and the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, and with the participation of Girl Scouts of Northern California.

Daisies' Space Science Explorer

Brownies' Space Science Adventurer
Juniors' Space Science Investigator badge

Daisies who earn their Space Science Explorer badge examine the sun and moon and look at the night sky. Brownies who pursue their Space Science Adventurer badge dig into the solar system, the phases of the moon, and the constellations, and then share their findings. And Juniors who tackle their Space Science Investigator badge research a planet and develop models that explain celestial motion, the three-dimensional nature of a constellation, and the size and scale of the solar system.

I get so excited thinking about how many girls across the country are right now discovering a passion for space and astronomy just as I did as a young Girl Scout, thanks to Girl Scouts and our incredible partners at NASA!

So on behalf of the entire Girl Scout Movement, I want to congratulate NASA on 60 years of discovery, innovation, and incredible, visionary work. And here’s to the next 60!

- Sylvia Acevedo, CEO, Girl Scouts of the USA