Thursday, September 14, 2023

Meet Noorain Khan, the new National President of Girl Scouts of the USA!

Image description: Woman smiling on blue background

Guest Author: Noorain Khan

I’m truly humbled by the faith and trust placed in me by Girl Scouts across our Movement to lead one of the most powerful forces for girls in this country and the world, and I’m so excited for all the important work we will all accomplish together.

I know firsthand the lifechanging impact that our organization has on Girl Scouts’ lives because I am a product of this very community and its commitment to building the leaders of today and tomorrow.

In the early 1990s, I joined troop 369 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, as a Brownie. Girl Scouts built my confidence, connected me to my community, and gave me opportunity after opportunity to develop my leadership skills.

Image description: Girl Scout membership card, white with green text, circa 2001
My membership card from Troop 369.
It was Girl Scouts where I first learned to write a grant, tried camping, organized my faith community, and developed a passion for justice.

My Girl Scout experience overflowed with strong and lasting friendships, roaring campfires, countless caring adults, and taking those big, sometimes scary leaps. It was about endlessly exploring, discovering new interests, and seeing those interests blossom into passions and, ultimately, career pursuits.

As much as those experiences meant to me then, I would never have imagined they were starting me on a path that would lead to my election this summer as Girl Scouts’ 27th National President.

A younger Noorain Khan and friend smile while washing dishes at Girl Scout camp
Dishwashing fun with a Girl Scout bestie at Camp Anna Behrens

My Girl Scout story started with my mom responding to a flyer that came home in my backpack one day in second grade. She remembered her days as a Girl Guide in Pakistan and knew this was one experience we could share across borders. 

As I continued on my Girl Scout journey, every year provided new opportunities.

In high school, I wrote a grant proposal to fund my mosque’s youth group as part of my Gold Award project. This gave me an early taste of philanthropy and started me on the path to my current role as a senior leader at the Ford Foundation. I now have the privilege of funding some of our world’s most iconic and impactful nonprofits in the fight to end global inequality.

One of the most profound experiences I had as a Girl Scout was when I participated in a girl leadership and social justice program at my council called Face It. It was the single most diverse gathering of young women I’d ever encountered, and it blew my world and mind wide open.

Photograph of fourteen teenage girls sitting on steps in front of a building, labeled with first names
Being a part of Face It with these young women changed my life. 

I met girls of different races, queer girls, girls who’d experienced economic hardship, girls who lived far out from the city, girls who went to private school, girls who expressed no faith, and those for whom, like me, faith was everything.

It was radically inclusive and for me, transformative, as a hijab-wearing Muslim girl. At my monolithic school, I was the different one. In the Face It program, I was part of an amazing group of diverse individuals being different together.

And we learned how to build a culture and space where Girl Scouts could safely be their fullest selves. Our work together, designing and delivering dynamic workshops to troops of all ages, was so clearly better for it.

This remains the example to me of a true Girl Scout experience of belonging. Of being different, together. How I felt in Face It boosted my confidence, self-perception, and character—and it showed me what can be accomplished with a diverse group of people working together for a common purpose.

My Face It experience is on my mind a lot whenever I think about the community of support and inspiration we build and foster at Girl Scouts. As your National President, one of my areas of focus will be ensuring ALL girls feel they belong at Girl Scouts and that we are a place where they know they can thrive.

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and a younger Noorain Khan and her mother greet one another with smiles and a ha
Me and my mom meeting the honorable Sandra Day O'Connor—the first woman justice of the Supreme Court of the United States—at a National Gold Award luncheon in 2002. 

Part of this work is to acknowledge that we can and should do more to reach and engage Black communities and communities of color, girls with disabilities, LGBTQ+ girls, and those for whom Girl Scouting is not financially accessible. They should feel safe, welcomed, and supported and be able to achieve program outcomes on par with all their Girl Scout peers.

Girl Scouts blessed me with a network of caring adults, some of whom shared some aspects of my identity and some of whom didn’t. I didn’t have a hijab-wearing Pakistani Muslim troop leader. My Girl Scout leaders were mostly white and of different faith traditions than mine. But they understood me and supported me. They activated and empowered me. And they worked to make Girl Scouts a place where I felt like I belonged.

Noorain Khan poses with seated and standing Girl Scouts of all ages at the Coronado Springs convention center
At convention with 30 of my new BFFs!

That is work I am committed to doing for this generation of Girl Scouts and beyond.

Because the world needs more Girl Scouts.

In a world of “me,” Girl Scouts are the vital “we,” a unique force for good in the country and the world. Working together during this triennium, we will continue to earn our status as the premier girl leadership program in the world, delivering best-in-class program outcomes, creating generations more of leaders with courage, confidence, and character who will make the world a better place.

Why? Because we are One Movement, being different and moving forward together.

The Girl Scouts changed the trajectory of my life, and my unwavering commitment will be to ensure that it continues to be the best place for all girls to feel that they belong and to learn how they will thrive and lead.

Noorain Khan and Bonnie Barczykowski smile outdoors
Bonnie and I enjoy a moment of downtime at the 2023 Girl Scout Convention.

I am honored to lead the incredible board elected alongside me and also to partner with our fearless CEO Bonnie Barczykowski. As a former council CEO, she knows what it means to deliver for our girls day in and day out and I am excited to build together in partnership with her. 

I am so proud of the Board members elected to the Girl Scouts of the USA National Board and independent members elected to the National Board Development Committee for the 2023-2026 triennium. 

Some are longtime members and volunteers in our Movement, with years (sometimes generations!) of connections. For others, this is their first formal connection to Girl Scouting. We are brought together by our passionate belief in building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. I have had the privilege of spending time with each of these incredible individuals and I am truly energized to partner with them for our important work ahead.

Girl Scout National Board Officers Mary Ann Altergott, Trooper Sanders, Noorain Khan, Jeanne Kwong Bickford, and Diane Tipton applaud and smile on stage
Mary Ann Altergott, Trooper Sanders, me, Jeanne Kwong Bickford, and Diane Tipton—your 2023–2026 National Board Officers!

I want to say a big thank you to our passionate and dedicated volunteers, our amazing Girl Scout families, our committed community supporters, and of course, our extraordinary Girl Scouts. I am deeply honored to take on this role and to engage with all of you in this new era of Girl Scouting.

An arched patch with a green border showing a small pink tree on the left and a larger pink tree with a trefoil in the center. The trees have branching brown roots, reaching into golden soil. A white girl with green hair is seated under the tree on the left. A brown girl with a white hijab is placing soil under the tree on her knees on the right side. To her right is Black girl with white hair and a green prosthetic leg who is watering the soil. The top has the words "Noorain Fatima Khan" and the bottom has "Girl Scout National President."
My Girl Scout National President Patch

P.S. I am so proud to share my Girl Scouts of the USA National President Patch! This patch is about us and what we are going to do together as a Movement to live out our highest aspirations. It depicts girls 'being different together' and 'making the world a better place.' The tree with the trefoil in the center also represents our Movement. It has deep, powerful and grounding roots and bright, new branches-and the girls are caring for it together. Finally, the gold soil represents how much our highest award, the Gold Award, means to me as our first Gold Award Girl Scout President.