Monday, September 22, 2014

Spotlight on National Young Woman of Distinction, Varsha Sathappan

The National Young Women of Distinction honor is given by Girl Scouts of the USA to ten Girl Scout Gold Award recipients whose Take Action projects demonstrated outstanding leadership, had a measureable and sustainable impact, and addressed a local challenge related to a national and/or global issue. The girls and their projects will be showcased on the Girl Scout Blog in advance of being honored at the 2014 national convention in Salt Lake City this October.

Varsha Sathappan: Health is the Greatest Gift
Age: 18
Hometown: San Jose, California
Years of Girl Scouting: 9

Inspiration:

Kodikottai is a town in Southern India so small that it doesn’t even exist on Google maps. While visiting her family there last year, Varsha saw firsthand the huge disparities that exist in the world with regard to healthcare access. Vallal Mena Hospital, the local outpatient clinic, did not have an inpatient ward, a place for mothers to stay after giving birth, or an adequate supply of medicine. Locals suffered as a result; some children had never even been seen by a doctor.

How Varhsa is Changing the World:

Varsha believes in the Buddhist proverb that says “without health, life is not life; it is only a state of languor and suffering—an image of death.” The first thing the hospital desperately needed was a ward. So, with the support of her council, Varsha raised $19,000 to build one. The ten-bed ward now serves between 70 and 80 patients every day, and as word of Varsha’s project spread, additional donors jumped in to help expand the hospital’s services, which now include an ambulance!

Varsha also organized a pediatrics camp with the help of doctors from the US, including her own mom. Many kids with unidentified hearing, vision, or cardiac issues were seen and treated.

Varsha faced some serious hurdles during her project, from the land and construction permits she had to obtain to the local officials who just wouldn’t take a teenage girl seriously. But through patience, maturity, and awesome management skills, Varsha showed the world how much a teenager can really do!

Next Steps:

Varsha participated recently in a medical internship program for high school students looking for international experience. She will be studying medicine at Rice University this fall, and continuing to organize pediatric camps.  Girl Scouts will honor Varsha and her fellow National Young Women of Distinction on Sunday, October 19 at our 2014 Girl Scout Convention.
Friday, September 19, 2014

Tune in! GSUSA National Celebrity Spokesperson Robin McGraw and CEO Anna Maria Chávez on Dr. Phil

With the 2014 Girl Scout Convention right around the corner and the anticipation building every day, we’re excited to announce that Robin McGraw has been named national celebrity spokesperson for Girl Scouts of the USA! Besides being a television personality, entrepreneur, lifelong philanthropist, and two-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, Robin is a Girl Scout alumna, a former Girl Scout troop leader, and a longtime supporter of programs that benefit women and children.

"I cannot tell you how much this means to me," says McGraw.  “I was a Girl Scout growing up my entire life, and was a Brownie troop leader before I even had children.  We all must be diligent and passionate in our support for girls and it begins today.”

In her first official act as spokesperson for Girl Scouts, Robin produced a public service announcement (PSA) alongside our very own Anna Maria Chávez.  Robin urged people to volunteer by visiting girlscouts.org, bringing attention to the 30,000 girls still waiting to be Girl Scouts.


“Girl Scouts is lucky to have such a passionate and notable alumna and former troop leader come back to us in this new capacity,” says Chávez. “Robin is an example of what we need from more adults – a commitment to our nation’s girls. As a volunteer, she had the unique opportunity to positively impact young girls’ lives, and as we work together to increase the number of volunteers so more girls can become Girl Scouts, she again will have a direct impact on building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place.”

If you’re anxious to see more from Robin, tune in to a special episode of the Dr. Phil show airing Friday, September 19, featuring Anna and twenty girls from Girl Scouts of Greater LA. And last but certainly not least, Robin is slated to be a featured speaker at the 2014 Girl Scout Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah!

Let’s all get ready for Robin!
Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Selma Rutledge, Follow the Roadrunner, Girl Scouts Gateway Council

With recruitment in full-swing, we are continuing our series that will share stories about some of our amazing volunteers with the entire Girl Scouts community.  There are 30,000 girls waiting for the chance to be a Girl Scout, so the time is now to build our volunteer force!  These exceptional people prove that anyone can be a Girl Scout volunteer:  they are young professionals, senior citizens, men, and so much more.  And 88% of Girl Scout volunteers believe their lives are better because they volunteer. So what are you waiting for? Volunteer today!

For as long as she can remember, Selma Rutledge has worn a piece of Girl Scouts insignia on her clothing.  Whenever prompted by women, young and old, she always remarks, “I am a Girl Scout!  Follow me!”

A longtime volunteer with the Gateway Council in Florida, Selma’s involvement with the Girl Scouts began after a life-changing event that no parent ever wants to experience.  “It was 1979, and I got a knock at the door.  The police came to say that my son, who was on a trip at the time, had drowned,” Selma recalled.  “But at that very moment, this voice came to me and said, ‘You have many sons and daughters.  Pay it forward.’  That’s what keeps me going.”

That little voice in Selma’s head propelled her to give back to the youth community in Jacksonville for 35 years and to make an impact on their lives.  “Every child, every girl I see, I want to tell them you can make it,” said Selma.  “Don’t say you can’t until you put forth the effort.”

As one of the oldest active volunteers of the Gateway council, Selma continually reaches across all boundaries and lines to make sure every girl has the chance to be a Girl Scout.  In particular, through the S.H.A.R.E. (Show Her a Real Experience) program, she has helped to raise over $30,000 in the last two years which goes right to providing financial assistance to girls who want to join Girl Scouts, but couldn’t without your support.  As a tribute to her fundraising efforts, a stage at North Fort was named the Selma Rutledge Stage, after her.

When lauded for her hard work, Selma humbly remarked, “I try to do the best I can.  It’s not all about me; it’s about the girls.  As they grow, it helps me to grow.  I’m much older, and I need to see them come in behind me and continue serving.”

Selma is also the recipient of numerous local appreciation awards, including the Sustaining the Mission Award, Outstanding Leader Award, and the Thanks badge.  She hopes that, through leading by example, she can inspire others to do the same.  “Through Girl Scouts, young people can learn a lot by dealing with the girls.  They can become great leaders,” said Selma.  “If they see they can do something that can help somebody along the way to improve the world, then that’s it.”

Though Selma may be 81 years old, to her age is nothing but a number.   “I walk two miles every day to stay active,” Selma said.  “My children call me the roadrunner.”  And she has shown no signs of slowing down.
Monday, September 15, 2014

Spotlight on National Young Woman of Distinction, Camille Borders

The National Young Women of Distinction honor is given by Girl Scouts of the USA to the top ten Girl Scout Gold Award recipients whose Take Action projects demonstrated outstanding leadership, had a measureable and sustainable impact, and addressed a local challenge related to a national and/or global issue. The girls and their projects will be showcased on the Girl Scout Blog in advance of being honored at the 2014 national convention in Salt Lake City this October.

Camille Borders: Girls Run the World: Encouraging Political Activism in Young Women
Age: 17
Hometown: Blush Ash, Ohio
Years of Girl Scouting: 11

Inspiration:

“If I was suddenly met by Aladdin and his blue genie in the dry Arabian heat, I know exactly what I would wish for,” Camille said. Her wish would be that other girls and women would find the courage to step up and lead. Of course, without a genie, Camille had to make her wish come true in a different way.

Seeing that women made up only 18 percent of the U.S. Congress, Camille realized that the lack of women in politics is a major issue that needed to be addressed. The same study also showed that this lack of political ambition among women is connected to a lack of encouragement to run for office. If she could provide girls with the right kind of support and confidence, she could help fix the gender gap in politics.

How Camille is Changing the World:

Camille created a non-partisan seminar, “Girls Run the World: Encouraging Political Activism in Young Women,” to challenge girls to change the status quo. Camille used a team of women’s political organizations and a few other helping hands to organize the seminar and ensure that it would be an annual event.

Camille showed the girls what other female activists had done in the past, and then the group of 30 engaged in conversation and panel discussions with current role models. Most of the girls said they felt more encouraged to read the news and run for their student councils after participating.

Camille’s project drew the interest of a nearby school district, the state capital, and also another Girl Scout troop that hoped to share it with other girls. Camille has a dream and is working to achieve it. Her passion for helping empower girls is such an inspiration!

Next Steps:

Camille will be attending Washington University to study Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. Girl Scouts will honor Camille and her fellow National Young Women of Distinction on Sunday, October 19 at our 2014 Girl Scout Convention.
Thursday, September 11, 2014

Volunteer Spotlight: Bruce Sexauer, Mr. Troop Leader, Girl Scouts of Alaska

With recruitment in full-swing, we are kicking off a series that will share stories about some of our amazing volunteers with the entire Girl Scouts community.  There are 30,000 girls waiting for the chance to be a Girl Scout, so the time is now to build our volunteer force!  These exceptional people prove that anyone can be a Girl Scout volunteer:  they are young professionals, senior citizens, men, and so much more.  And 88% of Girl Scout volunteers believe their lives are better because they volunteer.  So what are you waiting for? Volunteer today!

When you ask someone what they think of when they hear “Girl Scouts,” the answers will usually include cookies, crafts, and camping.  But for one Alaskan dad, he thinks of his all-girl LEGO robotics team, the Electronically Overdressed Survivors.

By day, he works at the Army Corps of Engineers, but by night, “I am, in fact, a troop leader,” Bruce said with a laugh.  “People are usually a bit confused by that at first, but that’s my role.  I get to lead this special troop of girls as a part of the Girl Scouts Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) program and get them ready for competition.”

The competition?  First LEGO League (FLL), a themed robotics competition pitting teams against each other at the local, national, and international levels.  This year’s theme is education, following on the previous years’ theme of natural disasters.

At the beginning of Bruce’s involvement with FLL, he was not a troop leader, but was asked to be a judge.  He came home that day, as per usual, and talked to his daughter, Ellie, now 12.  While talking about their days, they came to realize that Ellie was participating in the same competition Bruce was asked to judge.  He accepted the position, and was able to see his daughter’s competition firsthand.   “We went that first weekend and I got hooked,” said Bruce.  “After five years of being involved, I became the head coach of my daughter’s team, or essentially their troop [leader].”

At face value, FLL seems like a single-sided competition:  build a robot and have it perform simple tasks.  However, Bruce maintains it is much more complex than it seems.  As Bruce explained, “One-fourth of the competition is overall score, but there is also a robot and programming portion, where the girls describe how they designed the robot; a research component, where they investigate the theme, identify a problem, and present a solution to the judging panel; and finally, a core value component, where the participants have to demonstrate values like ‘gracious professionalism,’ not unlike the values of the Girl Scouts.”



While Bruce was, obviously, never a Girl Scout, he said this experience has given him a great appreciation for the organization, as well as volunteering.  “I have to thank the Girl Scouts for sponsoring this team and letting a dad take the lead,” Bruce said.  “Stereotypically, in STEM fields, people think boys would be better than girls, but we won our [co-ed] state competition last year, and we’re breaking that stereotype every day.”

But just because they’re winners, doesn’t mean they’re going to slow down.  “Our plan is to win state this year again, and work our way to an international competition that’s being held in St. Louis,” Bruce divulged.  “We have a great team, a fantastic group of young ladies, and I want to know much more we can achieve by working together and motivating each other.”

But as much as the girls are learning about robotics, Bruce is learning even more about himself.  “Sometimes you have to keep the rough and gruff exterior, but when there are deeper issues going on, you need to turn on the empathy,” said Bruce.  “It’s thrilling to be able to work with them, especially my daughter.”