Friday, July 15, 2016

Hear It From a Girl Scout: "There's No Such Thing As Ready"

In collaboration with Alcoa Foundation, Girl Scouts of the USA has provided eight Girl Scouts since 2013 with the Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship, which is available to Gold Award recipients who complete Gold Award projects related to science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). Morgan Ferone of Girl Scouts, Hornet's Nest Council received the Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship in 2014. Morgan is attending University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is studying Biology, Religious Studies, and Chemistry. 

What have you been up to, and how are your college STEM studies going?
When I first came to the University of North Carolina I didn’t know what I was going to major in, what my goals were, or what my extracurricular activities would be, and I could have never imagined I would end up where I am today. I started my career at UNC with a bit of a “STEM sampler”—my freshman year consisted of calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, and even geology, and this allowed me to discover which subjects made me the most curious, the most energized. I trusted my gut and declared a biology major with a minor in chemistry as well as a  major in religious studies, and I have not regretted that decision once, even as the more challenging coursework began to roll in.

As a sophomore, more comfortable in my own skin and on campus, I began to discover the wealth of opportunities available at UNC—I took a class on HIV/AIDS through the school of public health; I was accepted to a class in the nursing school for next fall to train as a doula; I attended the 37th Annual Minority Health Conference; I will be a delegate at the American Mock World Health Organization conference this fall; and I traveled with Global Medical Training to Nicaragua for a medical service spring break. And these are just a few of the exciting things this past year has entailed and that I have to look forward to in the fall.

After succeeding in my molecular biology and genetics class last fall, I was invited by my professor to be a mentor for the class in the spring. When my enthusiasm for teaching became apparent, I was asked to move into an even more significant teaching/tutoring role for a cell and developmental biology class in the upcoming semester as a supplemental instructor. But the most significant development of the year was that I joined a research lab, where I worked for course credit in the spring semester and am now a part-time summer employee. Working in a research lab has been one of the most challenging but also most fulfilling things I have done since coming to UNC. Engaging with the process of science outside of the classroom, where I have seen concepts I read in a textbook applied to real experiments, has been an incredible experience. I have been fortunate enough to have brilliant (and patient) mentors in the lab who have helped me to develop the critical, creative, inquisitive mindset of a scientist, as well as the technical skills required to perform experiments. I now have a true appreciation and passion for the hard work of basic science that is so often taken for granted.

It has been an amazing, wild ride these first two years, and I am excited to see what the next two have in store!

What challenges have you faced, and how did you overcome them? 
A major challenge that I faced when I came to UNC was my own ignorance about all the options available to me there. For example, I had not even heard of the school of public health until my sophomore year when it was almost too late to apply, and although I’m happy with the course I’m on, I regret not broadening my scope and giving myself the opportunity to at least consider whether it would be something I would be interested in. I think most high schools leave students with a limited mindset about the options available to them at a university; after studying subjects like “math,” “English,” “physics,” “biology” for so many years, it was hard for me to realize that there were majors out there like biomechanical engineering, exercise and sports science, health policy and management, nutrition science, and on and on. Overcoming this limiting perspective took time, and it helped to talk with professors and older students and to take advantage of information sessions and other events on campus, such as  the Minority Health Conference which I attended. This allowed me to see the diversity of academic pursuits and even the diversity of careers within one field. It was so important for me to engage with events on campus and to not be afraid to talk to the older girls in my sorority or go to office hours because that was how I broadened my perspective and became aware of the incredible things going on around me.

The other challenge that I faced was securing my research position. Although I didn’t start working in the lab until January of my sophomore year, I realized I wanted to do so in my freshman year—but there was a lot of work required to find labs, contact principal investigators, find a sponsor within the biology department, figure out the mountain of paperwork, and, then, eventually get started working at a place where I had absolutely no experience. The moral of the story is, this great job didn’t just fall into my lap—I had to put in a lot of work to make it happen and, if at any time I had stopped putting in that effort, it wouldn’t have come through. College is so fun, with so many cool things to do and great new friends to make that the real challenge is overcoming the inertia of “the way things are” in favor of making “the way things could be” a reality. The truly great adventures and experiences don’t just happen themselves; the challenge every student faces is not to let their college years consist of school, friends, and Netflix, but to realize and actualize the potential for so much more.

Looking back, how has Girl Scouts and the Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship impacted your college experience? 
It’s very difficult to write concisely what Girl Scouts has given me; it has been such a significant part of my life that it has truly impacted me in every meaningful way, now in college and, surely, after I graduate as well. The best way to describe the impact of Girl Scouting on my life is clichéd, but true: it has given me courage, confidence, and character. My experience as a Girl Scout has given me the courage to pursue incredible opportunities and experiences in the face of uncertainty or fear. So much of my self-confidence today is grounded upon accomplishments I achieved through Girl Scouting. Earning my Gold Award, for example, gives me the confidence to take on other projects, and  the many public speaking opportunities I had through Girl Scouting are the foundation for my confidence in front of an audience now. And, of course, the values that Girl Scouting aims to instill in its members—to serve God and country, to help people at all times—are central to the core of my character, thanks to experiences in Girl Scouting over the years. The Alcoa Chuck McLane Scholarship has had a positive impact on my college experience in different ways. First, it afforded me the opportunity to go to Girl Scout National Convention during my first semester as a freshman, which was an incredible and inspiring event. Although the financial aid has allowed me the freedom to pursue other opportunities, like a medical service spring break trip, being awarded a scholarship means so much more to me than just money, because it is a vote of confidence in me from Alcoa, an endorsement of sorts. And the investment Alcoa has made in me encourages me to invest further in myself, leading me to expect more from myself, to push myself, and to never settle.

How do you take the lead?
I take the lead in my life by doing things that scare me. One of my favorite quotes is by Hugh Laurie (one of my favorite actors), and it is something I remind myself of regularly:

“It's a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you're ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”

I am the sort of person who likes to prepare, who likes to plan, who likes to make fully informed decisions, and, while I don’t think that these are bad traits, I think they can sometimes, if I let them, hold me back from doing great things that may require a little risk. The idea that there is “no such thing as ready,” isn’t an excuse to live recklessly, but a mantra that reminds me that I have to start somewhere to get anywhere. I was terrified to go work in a research lab, I had no experience, no idea what to expect, no friends to turn to for advice—I didn’t feel “ready,” but I went for it in spite of that and the reward for that risk has been incredible. I was nervous to apply to the nursing course where I’ll train to be a doula because I wasn’t sure if I was perfectly fit or exactly qualified or if it was the right time in my life. And I’m honestly still scared about what that course has in store for me, what it will mean to be a doula, but if I waited until I thought I was “ready” I’d probably be waiting forever. I take the lead in my life by simply taking it, even when it’s scary, even when I’m not ready.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Girl Scouts on Parade! You Had Questions. We Have Answers!

At Girl Scouts, we've been parading since 1912 and earlier this week we shared the fantastic news that Girl Scouts will participate in the 90th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. That’s right – for the first time ever – Girl Scouts will appear in the historic parade on a Girl Scout-themed float letting everyone see just how they’re building a better world, together, every single day!

We know you’re just as excited as we are and have tons of great questions for us around this monumental news. We’ve got you covered! Let’s take a crack at some of the biggest and most common questions we’ve received, shall we?

Girls’ Participation in the Parade
Parade participants are employees or associates of Macy’s (or its affiliated companies) and their families and friends—a longstanding tradition of Macy’s since 1924. Macy’s will work to identify Girl Scouts within the ranks of parade participants, who will ride the float and walk in the parade.

No matter who rides on the float, our 2.7 million girl and adult members, as well as 59 million living alumnae, are an important part of this experience, and we want them to feel a sense of pride and ownership in November when they see our float traveling down the streets of Manhattan. This is for all of us!

Girl Scouts has been working to create additional opportunities for girls everywhere to take part in the celebration. While some girls will be marching in the parade, others will be able to participate in a user-generated content/social media-driven campaign this fall that gives national recognition to girls who take action by addressing issues in their communities and the world. Look out for details as we get closer to the parade!

Why Girl Scouts Is Participating in the Parade

In an effort to reach a large, family-friendly audience to showcase the positive impact our Movement has on the world, increase our brand relevancy, and spotlight how Girl Scouts take the lead every day, GSUSA collaborated with Macy’s to create a float for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Since The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is the largest family-friendly televised event it is the perfect opportunity.  This initiative is part of Girl Scouts’ strategic marketing efforts.

With the Girl Scout-themed float, we intend to ignite a sense of pride in our Girl Scout past and present, as well as inspire more girls to realize their potential, embrace challenges, and make a positive change in the world. We also intend to motivate viewers to volunteer with, support and/or join Girl Scouts.

Design of the Float 
Our float is unmistakably “Girl Scouts” and that’s because it was informed by girls and the unique elements of our program.

Girl Scouts of the USA worked closely with Macy’s on the design of the float and with its creative team to develop the theme “building a better world,” capturing our mission and a century of what it’s meant to be a Girl Scout.

During a Macy’s Parade studio visit, some Girl Scouts had the opportunity to analyze different elements of the float and share how they plan on “building a better world.”  It was truly invigorating, to say the least!!
We know you can’t wait to see that iconic float make its way through Manhattan. We sure can’t!

Stay in the know as we share updates along the way.  Make sure you follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The 90th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade airs nationwide on NBC, Thursday, November 24, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. to noon across time zones.

Stay green and stay tuned!

Monday, July 11, 2016

3 Fun Coding Projects to Bridge the Summer Learning Gap

Coding is such an incredible adventure that it can up the (learning) fun on even on the hottest summer days. Help her forget the heat or rain outside by lighting up her world and her imagination with these awesome coding projects that let her tell her story through technology.

These fun activities are sure to lift her spirits, empower her to think big, and teach her so much.

1.Let's dance! She can mix dance and code to create some dazzling visuals. This activity is sure to put her brain in motion, and add a little sparkle to any day. Let's do it.

2.Let's animate! She can create her own animated GIFs to share with friends and family. Soooo much fun. Let's do it. 

3.Let's design! Does she love fashion? She can use code to create her very own LED dress—it's out-of-this-world cool. Let's do it. 

With code, she can do all of this and so much more. Plus, she can be inspired to pursue a passion and turn it into an amazing and fulfilling career. Code can help make a lot of great things happen; it can even make the world a better place—for her and for all of us!

Love these projects? There are tons more you can check out and share with your girl on the Made with Code projects page.
Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Let’s build a better world! Girl Scouts to participate in 90th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade!

Girl Scouts of the USA is excited to announce that this year’s 90th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade will include something new—and it’s Girl Scout themed. For the first time ever, Girl Scouts will appear in the historic parade, on a float that will feature girls climbing and belaying  giant, globe- forming  puzzle pieces,  connecting them to “build a better world.”

Not only does this theme acknowledge all of the amazing and inspiring projects Girl Scouts past and present have done and continue to do as they take action around the globe, it highlights what today’s Girl Scouts embrace: discovering new things, participating in outdoor adventures, exploring STEM; taking the lead every day—and changing the world.

Picture it: on Thanksgiving Day, an audience of more than 50 million people all-out wowed by a float that shouts “GIRL SCOUTS!” Onlookers  will see badges representing everything from STEM to the outdoors to financial literacy, a Girl Scout Gold Award symbol commemorating this year’s centennial, and more. The Girl Scout-themed float will proclaim far and wide that girls are critical to society’s success and capable of making great changes—and that Girl Scouts is committed to preparing girls to take the lead in their own lives and in the world.

We can’t wait for the iconic float to make its way down the streets of Manhattan in this historic parade seen by millions. The 90th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade airs nationwide on NBC, Thursday, November 24, 2016, from 9:00 a.m. to noon across time zones.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Girl Scouts and Patriotism: 10 Fun Facts to Celebrate July 4

Girl Scouts has a long history of showing support for their country, and it all started at the source with our beloved Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low. Our amazing founder was a lot of things; she was brave, inventive, giving, loving, passionate, outdoorsy, and self-reliant, just to name a few. She was also a patriot through and through with her always-on focus on duty, selflessness, and service.

Today, Girl Scouts continue to uphold Daisy’s tradition of patriotism by making cards and sending care packages (including yummy Girl Scout Cookies, of course!) to U.S. servicemen and women, participating in Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day parades and activities across the country, taking part in flag retirement ceremonies, placing flags at local cemeteries, and so much more. All of this helps to build a sense of pride in our country and its rich history, while also nurturing important skills for many of the great leaders who stand to mold its future—Girl Scouts!

So, we thought, what better way to celebrate our great nation’s birthday than to take a look back at all the inspiring ways Girl Scouts have celebrated and exhibited patriotism throughout history? Here are nine fun facts to share with your Girl Scout buddies around that barbecue, at the beach, or around a cozy campfire as you celebrate this Fourth of July, and remember why it’s such an important, memorable day.

  1. Girl Scouts offers a Citizen badge at every grade level that helps girls learn to celebrate their communities—from their towns and states to their country. The badges include Celebrating Community for Brownies, Inside Government for Juniors, Finding Common Ground for Cadettes, Behind the Ballot for Seniors, and Public Policy for Ambassadors. 
  2. Patriotism, citizenship, and community service are core elements of the Girl Scout experience. 
  3. Currently, Girl Scouts serves thousands of military families across 72 different councils. USA Girl Scouts Overseas alone serves more than 6,000 girl and volunteer members who are a part military families stationed abroad.
  4. Girl Scouting has a positive impact on civic engagement. A 2012 study found that Girl Scout alumnae are more likely to vote than non-alumnae. 
  5. Every female secretary of state in U.S. history is a former Girl Scout.*
  6. Fifty-eight percent of women in the 114th Congress are Girl Scout alumnae.*
  7. During World War I, as a new organization eager to jump in and help in meaningful ways, Girl Scouts helped roll bandages and make dressings for wounds for soldiers. 
  8. In the 1930s, with the United States consumed by the Great Depression, Girl Scouts participated in relief efforts by collecting clothing and food for those in need.
  9. During World War II, Girl Scouts knit socks for soldiers, planted victory gardens, and even sold war bonds. They also sponsored defense institutes that taught women survival skills and techniques for comforting children during air raids. 
  10. Though it was never implemented, Juliette Gordon Low once developed a stars-and-stripes design for Girl Scout uniforms. 
Moscow: A few of the girls at Spaso House - the Residence of the US Ambassador. The Girl Scouts led 500 American citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance.

That’s a whole lot to be proud of! And it’s just the tip of the iceberg. What a wonderful tradition to uphold. We can’t wait to continue to serve this great country by always finding new ways to help others (no deed is too small!), and working to change the world, together.

Happy Independence Day everyone!

* Girl Scouts of the USA Public Policy & Advocacy Office, Washington, DC (2015)