Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Golden Girls of Troop 520

Troop 520 of Girl Scouts of Nassau County

Meet the “Golden Girls” of Girl Scout Troop 520 of Girl Scouts of Nassau County. Not only have most of the girls been together since Daisies, but 10 of the 11 girls have earned the Gold Award—and the 11th is currently waiting for final approval on her completed project. Check out their inspiring projects to see how these Girl Scouts are working to make the world a better place.

Julie Alonso is 18 years old and has been in Troop 520 since kindergarten. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She was on the varsity swim and crew teams, is a member of the National Honor Society, and volunteers at St. Francis Hospital. She will be attending Vanderbilt University in the fall.

Her project is titled “I Wish I Knew…” and focused on skin cancer awareness and prevention.  Julie states that she came up with the project because “the issue is very central in my life. Many of my family members have developed skin cancer. I thought it was an important topic to educate myself and other young people about. This cancer is one of the easiest to prevent, but you have to start from a young age. I loved working with children, giving people information on skin cancer they didn’t know about, and seeing how surprised and motivated they were to take action against this preventable disease. I learned that skin cancer is the most preventable form of cancer, yet it is the most prevalent. I also learned that the actions we take while we are young directly correlate to our chances of developing the disease later on. Additionally, I learned some things about myself. I learned to be a better public speaker and also to plan everything in advance. Earning my Gold Award and participating in Girl Scouts as a whole taught me how to interact with other people and establish a sense of community. It gave me friendships, opportunities, and experiences that will last me a lifetime.”

Gabriela DeCastro is 18 years old and has been in Troop 520 since kindergarten. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, History Honor Society, and Key Club. She will be attending Boston College in the fall.

Her project is titled “¡Español Para Los Niños!” She taught Spanish for beginners to children ages 9 to 12, and held several “classes,” each focusing on a different topic. She supplemented the vocabulary taught in each session with interactive stations where lessons were reinforced in a fun and memorable way. Gabriela states that “the idea for my project was derived from the fact that foreign language programs were cut due to budget constraints in our elementary schools. Knowing a foreign language opens up many doors for individuals, allowing them to connect and interact with more people. It also creates a greater appreciation for another culture. I thought it was important to take the first step in teaching children a foreign language, as this might spark an interest that could lead them to continue the language for years to come. Also, since I am Hispanic, the decision to do a Spanish class was simple. It was a great experience because it allowed me to connect with children of our community and educate them in something I am passionate about. Through my project, I learned how to be a better leader and have grown as a person. It really was an important experience for me to be able to connect with members of my community and to give back.”

Skyler Gaccione, 17 years old, has been in Troop 520 since kindergarten. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She plays varsity volleyball and is a member of the National Honor Society. She will be attending Boston College in the fall.

Her project is titled “Canine Connection” and focused on the bond between dogs and children, in particular, children with special needs. She researched how dogs can be therapeutic and beneficial to a child with special needs as well as to any child who feels isolated. “Knowing that all too often a family will take in a new dog, only to have the dog end up at the pound because it wasn’t right for the family, I decided there needed to be a place for families to go where their child could interact with different dogs to see how they react before adopting one. This is especially important with special needs children who may have heightened sensory receptors that cause them to react to stimuli such as loud barks or fur that sheds. Allowing a family to ‘test the waters’ was the focus of the project. Workshops were run in which the children could sit and read with the dogs in the ‘quiet corner,’ simply pet the dogs, or even observe them from a comfortable distance. Some children would dress the dogs up, run through ‘obstacle courses’ with them, watch them do tricks, or be educated on the basics of pet care—for example, how to recognize if your dog is sick, how to interpret a dog’s body language, how much work is involved in having a dog, what type of dog breeds might be right for a family, and similar topics. The interactive workshops varied depending on the needs of the children being hosted. The experience was both challenging and moving. I had never worked with special needs children in a setting like this before. I faced many challenges, such as holding their attention span for the length of a workshop. However, seeing how excited they were to play with the dogs was a powerful image. It also reinforced the lesson of how important it is to give back and help out others. Earning my Girl Scout Gold Award, as well as being a Girl Scout for 13 years, has taught me many invaluable life lessons. It has taught me life skills such as leadership, and it has also provided me with morals that I live my life by, such as compassion. Lastly, I am grateful for the desire it sparked in me to give back to my community and help those in need.”

Daniela Haigian is 18 years old and has been in Girl Scouts since first grade and in Troop 520 since fourth grade. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She is president of the National Art Honor Society, treasurer of the History Honor Society, and a member of the National Honor Society, Math Honor Society, Interact club, and Spanish Honor Society. She will be attending Georgetown University in the fall.

Her project is titled “Adventures in Reading” and was designed to improve literacy and enhance reading comprehension in elementary school students. Daniela notes that “Reading is an essential life skill, and it is very important for students to be able to understand and analyze books. As part of the program, I held workshops at the Manhasset Public Library and the Manhasset/Great Neck Economic Opportunity Council that involved group discussions and activities designed to stimulate an interest in reading. Earning my Gold Award was a very enriching experience because it taught me to take initiative to achieve my goals, to persevere in working toward the goal when faced with obstacles, and to lead as I conducted workshops. More importantly, it was enriching because I saw the impact of my work on the students I helped.  Being part of Girl Scouts and earning the Gold Award has made a big impact on me. I have learned the importance of giving back to others and the strength of community. From my project, Adventures in Reading, I learned how to be creative by devising engaging activities for students and how to exert initiative in order to organize and create a successful program.”

Julia Henry, 17 years old, has been in Troop 520 since kindergarten. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She is a member of the varsity crew and swim teams, a youth lector at St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church, and a member of the St. Mary's youth group. This year she was also a catechist for sixth-graders. A member of the National Honor Society, she was recently named salutatorian of the Manhasset high school class of 2016. She will be attending Harvard University in the fall.

Her project, titled "Literacy Awareness and Importance in Webster Springs, West Virginia," focused on encouraging and enhancing reading and writing skills in the young people of Webster Springs. In addition to preparing all relevant materials for her project, Julia traveled to and lived in Webster Springs in connection with her project. She notes that her project “consisted of a week-long day camp for the youth of the Webster Springs community that enriched reading and writing skills. I also ran a book drive with the help of The Dolphin Bookshop in Port Washington, New York, to benefit the Webster Springs Public Library. The camp was an overall success, and I am so thankful to the Manhasset community for its support of my efforts to help the people of the impoverished community of Webster Springs. Girl Scouts has taught me the goal-setting, time management, and decision-making skills that have aided me in finding success in many different aspects of my life. It has given me confidence and inspired me to be among the women who change the world and make it better for the next generation. Lastly, earning the Gold Award was a way of proving to myself that I can do anything I set my mind to, no matter how insurmountable it may seem."

Paige Mantikas is 18 years old and has been in Troop 520 since second grade. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She is a member of Manhasset high school’s student senate, the National Honor Society, History Honor Society, and Spanish Honor Society. She is a member of the varsity field hockey team and is a volunteer at North Shore University Hospital. She will be attending Boston College in the fall.

For her project, titled “Team Goal,” she created a field hockey camp for students with disabilities. Her project was rooted in the concept of “teamwork” and her desire to teach the qualities of effective teamwork, such as trusting your teammates and working toward a common goal, to children with disabilities. Paige volunteered at the Lowell School in Bayside, New York, —which serves children classified as learning disabled, speech impaired, other-health impaired, and emotionally disturbed—but notes that she didn’t have much experience before that working with children with disabilities. She said, “I didn’t know what to expect and how teaching them to play field hockey would turn out. My goal was to teach these children the importance of teamwork through learning the game of field hockey. Before the camp began, I collected donations of equipment to give to the school. Most of the students had never really played or even heard of the sport before. Slowly and carefully, we taught them something new each day. From dribbling, hitting, and passing, we educated the students on all the basics of the sport, but more importantly, they learned to work and play with each other. I also learned from them—they taught me patience and to not take everything for granted. Creating the field hockey camp and working with the students was a very rewarding experience. I came completely outside of my comfort zone, and I was surprised by how much I actually ended up loving it. Earning the Gold Award opened my eyes beyond my community. I learned how the smallest acts of kindness can go a long way in the lives of many people.”

Lauren Merola is 18 years old and has been in Troop 520 since kindergarten. In addition to Girl Scouts she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She plays on the varsity lacrosse team, the varsity basketball team, the varsity soccer team, and the U19 Italian National Lacrosse team. She serves as vice president of Manhasset high school’s student senate and is a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, the English Honor Society, and the Key Club. She will be attending the University of Southern California in the fall.

Her project is titled “Magical Melodies” and brought music to a local nursing home for Alzheimer’s and dementia residents. Lauren’s personal experience was her incentive for the project. “Music provided the only form of communication between my Great-Aunt Rosie, who’d suffered a stroke, and me. We loved to hum to the tunes of Frank Sinatra and sway to the crooning of Tony Bennett. Music was our bond and the only way she was able to recognize me and speak to me. Experts say that music can awaken the brains of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia, allowing them to communicate more effectively. I used this knowledge to help rejuvenate the brain activity and memory of these patients, to put a smile on their faces, and to alleviate their suffering. Though it was tough to organize and coordinate the performances, it was even harder in the beginning of each show to have to relive the harshness of cognitive deficits because it reminded me a lot of my Aunt Rosie. However, toward the end of the shows, the residents had much more energy and were able to effectively talk and sway to their favorite songs with their loved ones! From my project, I learned not to take advantage of life's basic blessings. The ability to remember one's family and favorite music is lacking for some, and going through this experience really opened my eyes and allowed me to appreciate all the little things I may take for granted. About myself, I learned that I am determined to complete tasks and love making others happy. It truly is a blessing to be a Girl Scout and have this opportunity to change a corner of the world.”

Stephanie Palma is 17 years old and has been in Troop 520 since kindergarten. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women’s Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She is a member of the National Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, English Honor Society, and Key Club. She is also captain of the varsity field hockey team. For the past seven years she has been a company dancer in Moves and Motions Dance Company. She will be attending Vassar College in the fall.

Through her project, titled “The Power of Dance in Easy Steps,” Stephanie provided a series of classes at Adventures in Learning in the Manhasset/Great Neck Economic Opportunity Center, teaching fourth-, fifth-, and sixth-graders the importance of fitness and nutrition and how to do these things on a budget. The program was divided into two parts— the first hour of each session focused on nutrition and healthy eating and the next hour was a dance class. Stephanie notes that it was important to prove “to children that it is easy to be healthy without spending a superfluous amount of money on expensive foods or gym memberships. As a competitive dancer and field hockey player, nutrition is a huge part of my life and I recognize the importance of staying in shape and eating right so I can perform to my greatest ability. I thought it best to do my project on this topic because I live it everyday and am therefore well informed. Class after class, I could see improvement in the kids by the wealth of information they displayed after nutrition class and the smiles on their faces as they learned new dance moves that got them excited. I learned to appreciate the art of teaching. It is certainly not as easy as it may look sometimes! I had to come up with creative ways to excite the children about learning something they’d had no interest in before. I created a nutrition bingo game to test their knowledge of the information I taught them and let them always play freeze dance as an incentive to get active. The winner got a smelly sticker! Earning the Gold Award has taught me that there is no task too extreme or challenging to overcome. The Gold Award is a rigorous award that requires enormous dedication, however, through the process, I learned that little by little a person is capable of achieving a goal with a motivated mindset and a passion for what the award is about, in my case nutrition and fitness.”

Alexandra “Ally” Steck, 18 years old, has been in Girl Scouts since kindergarten and in Troop 520 since fourth grade. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, the History Honor Society, Interact club, the cross-country team, and the track team. She will be attending Villanova University in the fall.

Her project, “Community Service Database,” culminated in the creation of an electronic database for various community service opportunities available to interested young people. Ally notes that “the idea for my project came to me after I struggled to find places to volunteer. After going through several different websites, I eventually came to an organization that aligned with my interests. I began to think of the most efficient way a high school student could find an organization involved in something she or he is passionate about or wants to pursue in the future. Creating a database organized by what each organization works toward or is involved in seemed like the best method to allow high school students to find an organization in a timely manner that also aligned with their interests. Working on my project required a lot of time and patience to fully learn the program/website in order to create my database. I became more independent—I had to move outside my comfort zone to learn everything I could about creating an online community so that I could build my project. I also acquired time-management skills while completing the project during a packed junior/senior year. Earning the Gold Award has allowed me to explore and acquire new skills that were useful then and will continue to be useful now and in the future.”

Amanda Wysota is 18 years old and has been in Troop 520 since kindergarten. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society, the Key Club, and a member of the cross-country team. She will be attending the University of Florida in the fall.

Her project is titled “Social Seniors” and through it she introduced senior citizens to computer basics, including social media, and enabled them to feel more comfortable using technology. Amanda explains that “social media has become one of the principal ways people stay in contact with each other. In addition, there is so much information relevant to seniors available online. Unfortunately, many senior citizens are not aware of the technology available today, and if they are, do not know how to make use of it. Whether just speaking to their grandchildren or staying in touch with family members and friends, learning to use technology will benefit their lives greatly. Many senior citizens are intimidated by computers. The underlying cause of this problem is the lack of know-how. I put together a program using simple language and clear handouts to teach how easily a person can navigate a computer. In addition, I demonstrated a step-by-step process on computer basics, on how to use Skype and Facebook, and how to send and receive email. Seniors have special needs. Font types must be simple to read and the size of the type must be larger. My PowerPoint presentations and handouts had to reflect this. In addition, when presenting to seniors about a complex topic like computers, you need to speak slowly and clearly. I could not assume any knowledge on the part of my audience. When my PowerPoint failed in the middle of a presentation, I had to use the Internet and proceed without any notes—it was a challenge, but I was effective because I was well prepared. This project taught me to be patient, understanding, and ready for any obstacles that might arise. Earning the Gold Award and working on my project taught me to put patience and the needs of others before my own. Being a Girl Scout has made a huge impact on my life in that I've learned to communicate in a mature manner and acquire life skills not taught in school.”

Kalliopi Kapetanos is 18 years old and has been in Troop 520 since second grade. She has completed her Gold Award project and is awaiting final approval. In addition to Girl Scouts, she is involved in the Junior Coalition of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer.  She is a member of the Spanish Honor Society and a member of the crew team. She will be attending Fairfield University in the fall.

Her project is titled “Cooking on a Budget” and was designed to provide healthy menu options and recipes for those who rely on food pantries as the principal source of ingredients for their meals. Kalli notes that “I chose to work on this project because I believe it is important for everyone to get a good, healthy meal, no matter what their socioeconomic status may be. Throughout my project, I learned what it is like to care for others. This process was part of what  influenced me to choose to study nursing in college. I learned the importance of health through this project and came to understood that everyone needs to watch what they eat to be healthy and, at the same time, have good-tasting meals, no matter how they get their ingredients. In addition to exploring what ingredients can be found in food pantries, I also had to test the recipes. Part of the project included simple techniques for growing herbs and some vegetables in window gardens. The Gold Award helped me gain organizational and leadership skills and develop responsibility. These life lessons will be useful in college and later as I pursue my career.”

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Happy Father's Day!

A Father’s Day Message from Andrea Bastiani Archibald, Ph.D., Chief Girl & Parent Expert

This Sunday, we take a moment to honor and celebrate the fathers and father figures who, through their dedication, unconditional love and boundless support, have touched our lives in immeasurable ways.  So, with sincere respect and admiration, I would like to take this opportunity to wish all fathers, especially those within our Movement, a Happy Father’s Day!

While this holiday often does not garner the fanfare it so rightly deserves, we must never underestimate just how influential fathers are in the lives of girls.  We know from our own internal research that a girl’s relationship with her father establishes the foundation for confidence building, for healthy future relationships and for her expectations of men.  The guidance, wisdom and personal investment that truly devoted fathers provide are invaluable in the development of vibrant, fully engaged and well-adjusted children. Their roles as committed providers, caregivers, and role models should never be undervalued or taken for granted, because their presence waters the seeds that blossom into our future leaders.

Of course, so many fathers are an integral and welcome part of the Girl Scout experience.  Several of our volunteers and colleagues are dads whose commitment to our mission is vital, and whose efforts touch countless lives every day, in communities across the globe. The generosity demonstrated by these remarkable men is a testament to the impact one selfless individual can make in shaping the life path of girls.

So this Father’s Day, with tremendous gratitude, let us show the dads in our lives just how much their strength, devotion and encouragement is treasured every day.  And let us also remember those fathers and father figures no longer with us, but who continue to be a source of inspiration – now and always.

Hear It from a Girl Scout: Engineers Without Borders

Sarah Hartman and Jessica Fedetz of Girl Scouts of the Chesapeake Bay not only earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, but are now turning the passions they developed in Girl Scouting into rewarding engineering careers. Check out their stories and their advice to other Girl Scouts going for gold!

Girl Scout Engineers from Gina Dzielak on Vimeo.

What do you love about Girl Scouts?

Sarah Hartman (SH): Since graduating from high school and moving to university, I have reflected on my 12 years in Girl Scouts many times. It was not until I was no longer attending weekly meetings that I realized the impressive and long-lasting effect Girl Scouts has had on me. Girl Scouts was filled with stimulating activities, tangible skills, and lifelong friends. It taught me to be comfortable in my own skin. From a young age, I was encouraged to be confident in my ideas and to lead others. I remember many Girl Scout events where I found myself leading others and speaking in front of groups. This has built a sureness in me that lasts to today.

Jessica Fedetz (JF): Girl Scouts has exposed me to a vast array of life skills and career options, and has shown me how to use my resources to pursue opportunity. Girl Scouts helped me experience the outdoors through camping, kayaking, white water rafting, and more—developing my confidence. I love how Girl Scouts empowers young girls and women to pursue their dreams, no matter how big or small.

What impact has Girl Scouts had on your life?

SH: Girl Scouts has also taught me service and to love the environment. From camping trips to environment badges to river cleanups, I learned the importance of the world around me. Before “going green” had really caught hold, Girl Scouts was teaching me the value of the natural world. It was also exposing me to all the ways I, even as a young girl, could give back to my community. Caroling at retirement communities, beach-grass planting, and projects with the state park—service became an integral component of my Girl Scout experience and childhood. I have continued serving my community since my involvement in Girl Scouts.

JF: Through the Girl Scout badges my troop pursued, which always emphasized sustainability and being environmentally friendly, and through countless camping trips, I was exposed to the beauty of the earth around us. This guided me into my current major in environmental engineering. Most importantly, Girl Scouting has shown me the importance of serving the community I live in and has made me aware of my own capabilities and strengths as an individual. It has helped grow my decision-making skills and leadership qualities, and has helped me define my passions more concretely. Girl Scouts has also taught me the importance of my faith in my life through the Girl Scout Promise: “On my honor, I will try: to serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.” These words have become my mission in life and have reminded me what is important.

Tell us about your Gold Award project and how it has helped you in your life.

SH: I worked on my Gold Award project while in high school. Inspired by my troop leader, who spent a season teaching my troop how to sew and create our own quilts, I created the Sewing Service Club at my school. I realized that many of my peers had never learned how to sew, despite the fact that it is an important skill to know. The first year the club ran, we sewed quilts made from recycled fabrics for a local elementary school. The club also visited the school many times throughout the year to build a relationship with the children. My Gold Award project allowed me to combine an interest in service, teaching, and the environment into something tangible that would support both high school and elementary students. It was a challenging experience, but one that has taught me a lot. By completing the Gold Award, I gained the confidence needed to turn my passions and ideas into something that benefits others.

JF: My Gold Award project involved building raised garden beds at Linden Hill Elementary School and developing a gardening club for fourth- and fifth-grade students, so that they may learn the importance of healthy eating and taking care of the earth around them. It also provided an opportunity for children to learn through hands-on experiences. This project helped me develop my communication skills, my ability to lead and direct people of all ages, and my organizational abilities. The experience helped me develop confidence in my abilities to take on a large task and break it down into small steps in order to make something that seems impossible, possible.

What advice would you give to other girls who are working toward their Gold Award?

SH: Through the Gold Award, I learned that if you need help, sometimes all it takes is to ask. Both friends and strangers will support you if you give them the opportunity. Additionally, the beginning of a venture can be difficult because resources must be collected and a lot of time is required to make the beginning a success. Communication with all involved groups is also incredibly important.

JF: Don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way and choose a project that you care about. You will run into problems and challenges, but that is all part of the experience and will help you grow as a person.

What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them?

JF: During my Gold Award project, I faced many barriers in communication. People are always busy and if you truly want to show them you are serious about your project, follow up with them often. Phone calls are usually the best way to get in touch with people because they are harder to ignore. Not only is it imperative to communicate often, but also to make sure the people you communicate with understand your goals and what you expect from them.

Sarah and Jessica in the Philippines.

Tell us about Engineers Without Borders. How did you get involved, and what does this experience mean to you? 

SH: Since attending university, I have become highly involved in Engineers Without Borders (EWB)—an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of communities around the world through engineering. I am studying environmental engineering and have found EWB to be a perfect combination of my skills and passion for service. I am able to apply what I have learned in the classroom directly to problems around the world. My involvement in EWB fuels my interest in school and vice versa. Through the organization I have come to see how I can make the world a better place through environmental engineering.

JF: EWB at University of Delaware is part of a larger international organization called EWB-USA. We are committed to designing and implementing sustainable solutions to problems in international developing communities and bridging cultural, economic, and political divides. We are currently working on two projects: one in the Sakata region of Malawi and another on the island of Bohol in the Philippines. I heard about EWB when I was still in high school and was touring the University of Delaware. I really loved the mission of the organization, and hearing about this was a strong factor in why I decided to attend UD. I have been a part of EWB since my freshman year and the community of our organization has helped me to apply everything I am learning in my classes to real-life scenarios. Not only that, but to know that what I am learning in class has the potential to change the lives of people all over the world catalyzes the passion I have for my major. EWB reminds me that engineers do not just have the potential to make a lot of money one day, but they have the potential to make a lot of change with a lot of positive impact on this world. EWB has given me many connections to professional engineers who assist us with our projects, and has developed my public speaking and communication skills. It has allowed me to continue serving others, as I was able to do through Girl Scouting.

What advice would you give to other girls who want to pursue a STEM field?

SH: I am a woman in STEM and I encourage other Girl Scouts to consider STEM as well. However, what is most important is to follow your interests, no matter what they are. I have been very happy in STEM because I enjoy math and science and have been able to combine my main interests, service and the environment, into my major. The key is to work hard and constantly ask questions. You will learn so much more if you continue to ask “why?”

JF: The STEM fields are definitely challenging, and women are definitely a minority in these fields. However, do not let these facts intimidate you. Though the courses are challenging, the challenge has been exciting and has taught me that it’s okay to ask for help from professors and students. The challenge that courses provide strengthens your ability to learn new concepts. Do not underestimate your own abilities and what you are capable of. Though women may be a minority in a field, there are many groups you can join that empower women in the STEM fields, and even if you do not join one of these groups, there are many people who will be there to encourage you along the way. Having other women by your side through the classes is always helpful.

How do you take the lead?

SH: I take the lead by turning my passions into reality. If there is something I am truly passionate about, I find opportunities that can help me actualize those passions. Taking the lead means taking action for something you care about. No matter how big or small the action is, it will reinforce your passions and their expression in the world around you.

JF: I take the lead by trusting in God to give me the strength to accomplish the large tasks that I hope to bring to fruition in my life. Without Him, I would not be able to use my environmental engineering major to bring potable water to developing communities both near and far.
I also take the lead by encouraging those around me to pursue their dreams by asking them tough questions and presenting them with small challenges so that they may be equipped to fulfill those dreams and mentor others.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Girl Scouts Celebrate Golden Centennial on Capitol Hill

Celebrating 100 Years of Girls Changing the World 

Girl Scouts from throughout the United States took to Capitol Hill earlier this week to join GSUSA leadership, members of Girl Scouts’ Honorary Troop Capitol Hill, and more than 200 leaders from government, the military, and academia to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts’ highest award and to recognize the amazing girls and women who have earned it over the past century.

The Girl Scout Gold Award is a symbol of excellence and ingenuity and a testament to what girls can achieve—to their vision and fortitude, leadership and dedication. This centennial was a truly special occasion, marking 100 years of projects whose cumulative effects have rippled across time and geography, and helped to transform our world forever and for the better.
More than 200 Girl Scout Gold Award recipients, members of Congress, Girl Scout leaders, and leaders from the military and academia were present for the centennial cake-cutting on Capitol Hill.

Speakers were members of Congress, including senators Shelly Moore Capito of West Virginia and Tim Kaine of Virginia, representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, Donna Edwards of Maryland, and Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, among others, as well as Brigadier General Diana Holland, commandant of cadets at the United States Military Academy, and Patricia McGuire, president of Trinity Washington University, which awards Gold Award recipients scholarships.

Sashini Passela, a 16-year-old Gold Award recipient from Girl Scouts Nation’s Capital, talked about her project and how she worked to bring opportunities in STEM fields to girls in her parent’s home country of Sri Lanka!

Known today as the Gold Award—and in the past as Golden Eaglet, First Class, and Curved Bar Award—Girl Scouts’ highest award was established in 1916. Earning a Gold Award requires girls to take action in a sustainable way by identifying local or global issues and working to resolve them for future generations. Over the years, Gold Award recipients have improved the lives of millions of people around the world, with achievements that range from rallying a community to clean a local waterway to introducing young girls to STEM, from creating a program to teach swimming to underserved youth to starting a shoe drive to help people in India go to school and work. And these are only a few.
Mike Groff, President and CEO of TFS USA joined the celebrations. 
The terrific day was sponsored by Toyota Financial Services (TFS), whose financial literacy partnership with Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) has helped empower 26,000 underserved Girl Scouts across the country to become financially savvy leaders who could, potentially, take on projects that let them go for gold!

Following the Capitol Hill celebration of the Gold Award, Girl Scout council CEOs and their Gold Award recipients met with their members of Congress to raise awareness of the Gold Award, discuss their projects, and talk about how their work is helping to improve their communities and communities around the world!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Meet Sylvia Acevedo, Interim CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA

 "Who am I? I am Sylvia Acevedo-a lifelong Girl Scout who 'bleeds green.'"

A proud Girl Scout, engineer and rocket scientist, and passionate advocate for both girls and Girl Scouts, Sylvia Acevedo credits her Girl Scout experience with propelling her to success in the corporate and philanthropic sectors.

Acevedo grew up near Las Cruces, New Mexico. When she joined a Brownie troop there, she knew she had found her home. That troop ultimately expanded not only her future, but also that of her family-for one, Acevedo's mother got to practice her English with the troop leaders, who helped her pass her U.S. citizenship test.

"I understand the power of Girl Scouting. I understand how it changes destinies because it changed mine," said Acevedo. "Through Girl Scouts, I launched a rocket into the clear, blue, New Mexico sky to earn my Science badge. Girl Scouts gave me the courage, the confidence, and the character to enter the engineering field at a time when girls didn't do that, when people of my background didn't do that."

She discovered other passions through Girl Scouts as well.

"My favorite badge was my Bicycling badge. I absolutely loved getting outside with my troop," said Acevedo, whose love of both the outdoors and science came together naturally at Girl Scouts.

"Science is all around you in the outdoors, and it's been a part of our Girl Scout DNA from the very beginning. Whether you're studying leaves and flowers on a hike, calculating distances on map, or using a compass, you're using science, you're using math-and you're having fun doing it."Acevedo took the tools and experiences Girl Scouts gave her to Stanford, where she earned a master's degree in engineering, and eventually on to Silicon Valley.

 "At my first engineering job, there wasn't even a bathroom for women because there were virtually no women working in the field," she recalled.

Speaking of STEM, Acevedo is a national advocate for STEM education who serves as a strategic consultant to companies that wish to use technology to capitalize on demographic trends-and she previously served as president and CEO of CommuniCard LLC, a firm that used innovative technology to harness market trends. A talented executive who has held positions with some of the world's most respected companies, Acevedo is also a fervent supporter of Hispanic, girls', and women's causes, and a White House commissioner on the Presidential Initiative for Hispanic Educational Excellence.

Acevedo's love of Girl Scouts and the mission eventually led her to the GSUSA Board of Directors, where she served as secretary and Executive Committee member. And now, as interim CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA, Acevedo wants to continue to give back to a movement that has given her so much.

"Here's what I'm about: I want to get more girls, more families into the Girl Scout Movement so that we can change their lives-their destinies-forever. Let's start now! Go to girlscouts.org to learn how you can get involved-we're waiting for you."