Friday, November 1, 2019

3 Takeaways from October’s Girl Scout Cyber Challenge brought to you by Raytheon

It was a sunny October morning in Los Angeles, California. You could feel the excitement in the air. Girl Scouts, volunteers, and parents lined up in front of UCLA’s engineering building in anticipation of something BIG. The moment the door opened, Girl Scouts from the Greater Los Angeles council rushed through, including some who’d been on a waiting list for weeks.

It was clear: these young STEM leaders were 100% ready to take a “byte” out of cybercrime, show off their skills, and have fun with new friends at Girl Scouts’ inaugural Cyber Challenge.

The event was one of ten that took place across the country as part of Girl Scouts’ first-ever national cyber competition, made possible by our collaboration with Raytheon to close the STEM gender gap. Throughout the day, Girl Scouts participated in a series of action-packed cybersecurity-related tasks. The girls worked in teams and with Girl Scout and Raytheon volunteers to save a simulated moon colony that had been hacked, applying and honing skills in cryptography, forensics, and encryption. Like the pros they are, they used their know-how to make the world (or, more accurately, the moon!) a better and safer place.

In the end, Girl Scouts’ mission was accomplished. We rallied more middle and high school girls to learn about cybersecurity and pursue careers in STEM.

Check out our three standout takeaways from the Cyber Challenge and related research:

1. The fastest-growing industries worldwide require engineering and tech training.

Rosa Campos, STEM program manager at Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles, summed up why programs like the Cyber Challenge are essential: “We want this to become a program [that prepares] girls to make their way toward STEM careers. We know that only 26% of STEM-related jobs are held by women, and we’re out to change that!”

Well said, Rosa! Especially given that cybersecurity roles are on track to outpace candidates by 1.8 million by 2022. And even if your girl doesn’t choose a career in STEM, it’s highly likely that she’ll need to use technology to make a difference in today’s fast-paced economy.

2. Girls L-O-V-E making a difference in their communities and world through STEM.

Girl Scout Cadette Anna told us why she wanted to participate in the Cyber Challenge: “I signed up because I love to spend time on the internet, especially on YouTube, and playing video games. I want to learn how to keep myself safe—and how to keep others safe!”

According to the Girl Scout Research Institute report Generation STEM, girls want to learn about STEM because they want to help people and make a difference in the world—and 74% of high school girls across the country are interested in the fields and subjects of STEM. However, girls continue to perceive associated gender barriers, which may help explain why STEM fields aren’t their top career choices. Sylvia Acevedo (CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA) and Rebecca Rhoads (president of Global Business Services at Raytheon) in their recent op-ed for the Arizona Daily Star suggest that “research tells us that if girls had been given a better understanding of the impact that math and science can make and more exposure to relevant STEM learning while they were in middle and high school, they would have been more interested in pursuing STEM careers.”

3. The Girl Scout Cyber Challenge is just the beginning!

“I’ve been in this environment for 27 years. It’s so important that young women are fostered in this STEM environment because there aren’t enough women in our industry.” Tammy Redl, Raytheon Volunteer and Cyber Engineer.

The Cyber Challenge was a pilot event at 10 Girl Scout councils and the first-ever national event of its kind. It was a unique opportunity for girls to join together for an immersive, hands-on day of learning about cybersecurity. And to reiterate, one of our goals with events like this is to expose more girls in middle and high school to potential careers in computer science, including in cybersecurity, robotics, data science, and artificial intelligence.

Rest assured, this is not the last Cyber Challenge! We’re hoping to in time roll out the unique event to more and more Girl Scouts nationwide. And of course, at Girl Scouts, we’ll continue to bring you all sorts of state-of-the-art programs that put your girl squarely on a path to success.

The Cyber Challenge and the launch of the first national computer science program by Girl Scouts of the USA is made possible through a multiyear commitment from Raytheon. Together, Raytheon and Girl Scouts are reaching girls during their formative school years, when research shows peer pressure can sometimes deter girls from pursuing their interest in STEM.

Friday, October 25, 2019

Countdown to G.I.R.L. 2020!

Guest post by Sylvia Acevedo, CEO Girl Scouts of the USA

Hello Girl Scouts! I hope you are having a great Back to Troop season and planning lots of adventures for the coming year.

The next year is going to be a truly amazing one for Girl Scouts, and one of the highlights of the year will be G.I.R.L. 2020—our national convention, 55th National Council Session, and the largest girl-led event in the world—in Orlando next October 20–25. Girls, women, families, and supporters from across the globe will come to Orlando to celebrate the infinite power of girls and their limitless potential to change the world. 

Orlando is an amazing platform to showcase the power of Girl Scouts. A hub of innovation in tech, aviation, aerospace, and digital technology, it’s a city that will spark girls’ imagination and offer a host of exciting experiences. And as a rocket scientist, I have to say I’m very excited that it’s right down the road from Kennedy Space Center! 

Planned by a team of 25 Girl Scouts from across the Movement—our incredible G-TEAM—G.I.R.L. 2020 is all about offering girls opportunities to lead the conversation around key issues, network, share unforgettable experiences, get inspired by some of the most influential women in the world, and tap into their G.I.R.L. spirit—their inner go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader. 

During our week together in Orlando, delegates who have been elected by their councils will work together to chart the course for our Movement’s next three years. They’ll participate in a democratic and engaging governance practice that will lay the foundation for an even brighter future for Girl Scouts, while immersing themselves in a 21st-century leadership development experience designed by girls, for girls, and with girls at the center. 

I am so excited today to officially kick off our “Countdown to G.I.R.L. 2020.” This special event will be a galvanizing moment for the Girl Scout Movement—and we need YOU to join us to make it all happen. Registration for G.I.R.L. 2020 opens in January 2020 with discounts and special incentives for those of you who act quickly, so be on the lookout for more information coming soon. 

I’ll see you in Orlando! 

Yours in Girl Scouting, 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Unleashing Your True G.I.R.L. and Being the Best You!

Guest Blog Post by Girl Scout alum, Meredith Garofalo

“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 are words that decades after I learned them I still can recite and that I make a part of my life each and every day as a Girl Scout alum. Let me introduce myself—I’m a meteorologist on a national weather network, WeatherNation. It was a dream I had as a little girl and that I’m proud to say is now my career! I forecast the weather from coast to coast to millions of people every single day across numerous platforms. I love my job, but the coolest part of all? I’m a GIRL SCOUT and proud of it!

I started off as a Daisy and continued through Senior. My mother thought becoming part of a Girl Scout troop would be a good idea for me because in elementary school I was bullied and a victim of both verbal and emotional abuse. My self-esteem was very low because other kids would make fun of the way I looked and dressed. I’ll never forget how I was referred to as “four eyes” because I wore glasses or as “the scum between my toes” by one girl. It was depressing, and I spent many nights crying myself to sleep, wondering what was wrong with me because of what others thought. My mother decided to be a troop leader with a couple of other moms and that’s when Troop 456 started. I began to look forward more and more every week to our Girl Scout meetings and experiences, and I found myself developing friendships that helped build back up some of my confidence. I loved playing basketball, and some of the girls in my troop invited me to play on a recreation team with them, which continued to keep me motivated and developed my leadership skills (and passion for sports!). As the years passed, I felt much stronger about standing up to bullies and knew I always had my fellow Girl Scouts on my side. If I needed to cry, other Girl Scouts were there for me. They continued to remind me to keep my focus on being the best me I could and to shine at the things I did best, instead of focusing on the negative. Although my troop members went their separate ways in middle school and high school and belonged to other groups and “cliques,” we always connected and provided a circle of support for each other. If it wasn’t for all those years in Girl Scouts, I do not think I would have found my true G.I.R.L., focusing each day on being a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader! 

Being a broadcast meteorologist was my dream since I was three years old, but it was a path with as many challenges and failures as successes and accomplishments. First off, getting a degree in meteorology is not easy. My college curriculum heavily emphasized math and science, which I found out were not my strongest assets. It was easier for me to get up in front of a camera and ad-lib than it was for me to remember formulas and calculate the answers to word problems. One freshman-year professor even told me to reconsider my career because she didn’t think I could make it through the program. That was a heavy blow, but because being a meteorologist was my lifelong dream and because of all the support I had received over the years, I decided I would push myself harder than ever to continue to prove all the doubters wrong. There were nights in the library I wanted to give up and tests that I failed, but by staying focused and believing in myself, I was able to graduate and within just weeks get my first on-air meteorologist job. 

Even though I’m now doing what I set out to do and I’ve been in my television career for more than a decade, I’ve had to get over many hurdles in order to succeed. At times, I’ve had to deal with bullies and harassment in the newsroom, which hit all too close to home, considering my childhood experiences. I’ve been fired and had to rebuild my confidence to move forward and start over again somewhere new. Countless viewers write in to make fun of my clothes or the way I look or to say that they “hate” the way I present the weather. Deep down I know these are just other people’s opinions, but they still stung and made me second-guess myself. And yes, I considered giving up, but at the end of the day it was never, ever going to be MY option. All those years in Girl Scouts helped build me up and continue to be a reminder to love who I am every single day, be proud of it, and NEVER choose to give up on what I’m passionate about most. I have failed, but every single one of those moments has only led me up higher and higher on the ladder to my goals. 

Girl Scouts was a lifesaver for me and, even as an adult, I still live by the Girl Scout mission to help make this world a better place. If you’re a parent reading this, especially one who might see your daughter being bullied, know that Girl Scouts at ANY age can and will make a difference. A troop is a safe place to learn more about who you are and who you want to be. The girls in a troop help bring out the best in each other by encouraging each girl to be herself. No one judges her and everyone celebrates the things that make her shine! Girl Scouts builds confidence in even the shyest and most introverted girls, and they will develop a bond with others in the troop that will last a lifetime. I STILL am friends on social media with some of the women who were in my troop decades ago and we still share positivity and inspiration with each other! 

Although the online world is a great way to connect, it also can be poisonous. I continually see stories in the news of girls who are victimized and bullied through the internet and it breaks my heart. I think a program like Girl Scouts is so much more important now than ever before to help combat this problem and teach girls to stay strong together and always lift each other up. It helps young girls focus on things beyond social media and gets them out in the community to do positive things like volunteering, spending time outdoors, attending events, and being part of experiences that motivate, inspire, and create lifetime memories! Some of the most important things I learned as a Girl Scout—acquiring survival skills for rising above bullying, handling tough situations and taking on leadership roles, doing badges that kept me excited about my future career—are topics I continue to talk to troops about. Girl Scouts is forever—it becomes a part of you. It motivates you and reminds you of the power of being a girl in a constantly changing world. 

My final words of advice to ANY girl reading this are: Embrace being unique and different. People who are mean to you and make fun of you because you think outside the box only do it because they are weak and are trying to steal the wind from your sails. Do not be afraid to stand up to bullies—for yourself or for a friend. Hold your ground, but also spread positivity and never hate. If you want something bad enough, the ONLY person who can tell you it cannot be done is YOU. Sing the song in your heart every day, and remember that it takes just one girl, with a big dream, with the support of peers, and a passion to reach the stars, to make a difference forever. Be that girl, and live the life of a Girl Scout. Shine and lead the way, because no one can ever take away your light and legacy. You go, G.I.R.L.! 

Friday, October 11, 2019

11 Mic Drop Moments from the 2019 Girls Speak Out Event at the United Nations

Today did not disappoint in real life or on Twitter! We celebrated the 2019 International Day of the Girl by taking over the Today Show plaza and the United Nations to elevate the voices of girls all over the world. Together, we can ensure that the fight for girls’ rights is #WithGirlsForGirls! Ten of our country’s most outstanding young female activists—the 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scouts—were in attendance along with delegates representing girls from around the world, delivering some “mic drop moments.” The Twittersphere also blessed us with an abundance of phenomenal tweets from the event.

A special 'thank you' goes to Microsoft for collaborating with us to inspire more girls to pursue their passions and to our National Gold Award Girl Scout scholarship funders, Kappa Delta Foundation, Arconic Foundation, and Susan Bulkeley Butler, for investing in girl leaders.

Microsoft is a premier sponsor of the 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout celebration, a night dedicated to honoring the accomplishments of ten Girl Scouts who created innovative and sustainable solutions for today’s most pressing issues. On October 11, at 7:15 pm EST, Microsoft will host the event at its flagship store in New York City and livestream it to its other stores across the country. Join the conversation on social media using #gsGoldAward and #MicrosoftStore
Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Explore the world through Girl Scout Destinations

Every summer, Girl Scouts from across the USA travel to Costa Rica and Panama to participate in Girl Scout-exclusive programs with Outward Bound Costa Rica. One of these is titled Scuba & Sea Turtle Adventure—an unforgettable experience featuring wildlife conservation learning, exciting outdoor activities, and even scuba diving certification! Part of Girl Scouts' Destinations program and the ultimate experience for Cadette, Senior, and Ambassador Girl Scouts, Scuba & Sea Turtle Adventure is perfect for bold and courageous lovers of animals and the outdoors.

This life-changing experience is supported in part by the Elliott Wildlife Values Project, which helps girls grow as leaders in wildlife conservation and environmental stewardship—efforts that positively affect their communities and the world.

Hear from three girls about the fantastic adventures they had as island inhabitants who learned to scuba dive and worked with tropical wildlife!

“Throughout the course of my Destination, our group spotted sea turtles, sloths, bats, dolphins, stingrays, snakes, and a variety of marine life. On our scuba trips alone, we encountered many strange and beautiful creatures. Seeing life in all these different forms gave me a better understanding of just how diverse our planet is and how many species it holds… Viewing a place with so much life inspired me to be more mindful of how I treat our planet. Handling and helping the baby sea turtles reminded me how fragile some of our planet’s inhabitants can be. I realized that we need to make a drastic change in the way we approach our planet’s health. We cannot assume that creatures will adapt to worsening conditions, and we have to help prevent more species from disappearing.” 
—Marley, 17, Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania

“I was inspired the most by the sunburnt anemones. My group learned about them at one of our night meetings, and the next day when we went out to dive, I saw one and was thrilled! I understood what it was and easily identified it. I thought to myself how beautiful nature is. I think the best course of action is to raise awareness and to inspire and teach people to protect wildlife. Ignorance and a lack of empathy is what drives humans to take the wild around them for granted and to ultimately destroy it.” 
—Kennedy, 18, Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan 

“I was scared to scuba dive. The thought of descending several feet below the surface with an air tank strapped to your back was daunting. But one of the reasons I was able to descend was because the wildlife motivated me. The bioluminescent dive was the best one. Seeing all of the creatures light up as we moved our hands around them was breathtaking, and being able to observe animals in their natural habitats was eye opening. It made me more aware of the environment and how we need to be environmentally conscious and protect this planet.” 
—Emma, 16, Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York 

Girls who’ve experienced Scuba & Sea Turtle Adventure have also shared that learning about wildlife on their Destinations trip inspired them to help others protect and conserve wildlife back home. And as noted in the Girl Scout Research Institute resource Four Ways Girl Scouts Builds Girl Leaders in the Outdoors (2019), having outdoor recreational experiences in early childhood strongly and positively influences people’s environmental attitudes, values, and behaviors, with activities like hiking and camping cultivating a sense of responsibility for nature.

Going on a Girl Scout Destinations trip is an incredible way girls can develop love and respect for the environment—as they discover new places, jump into challenges, learn a ton, and make awesome lifelong friends. Learn more about Scuba & Sea Turtle Adventure and many other Destinations, including how you can apply to go on the trip of a lifetime!

New Destinations are announced every fall. Apply now for summer 2020!