Thursday, July 13, 2017

REBLOG: Tales From Girl Scout's Camp CEO: How One Woman's Pivot is Returning Magic to Being a GIRL

Please take time to read this incredible post by Cecilia Carter, owner of the Strategy Chick, who shared her experience as a CEO participant this year at one of our girl leadership programs, Camp CEO, at Camp Laurel in Lebanon:

Tales from Girl Scout's Camp CEO-How One Woman's Pivot is Returning Magic to Being a GIRL

The Pivot

Me Camping? No Way! Camping is anathema to me. This girl is not a camper! The thought of roughing it for two nights in the woods was comparable to a scene from Jordan Peele’s Get Out. But then along comes Mary. It was a rainy day in April when I received an email titled, “Change a Girl’s Life at Camp CEO.” The subject was intriguing but it did not matter because it was a request from Mary Barneby, CEO of Girls Scouts of Connecticut. Mary is an indomitable spirit, whose friendship and mentoring has opened countless doors for me. From board service to community activism, Mary not only leans in, she lifts up. I met Mary when we were colleagues at UBS and she was head of our Private Wealth Management Office in Stamford, CT. Mary possessed that ability to bring people of all backgrounds together and elevate opportunities for women. So it came as no surprise when she left a successful 38-year career in financial services and made the pivot to non-profit. Not just any non-profit, but the Girl Scouts. Mary understands that to have women leaders at the top, we have to start when they are young, building skills and championing their confidence. This is her sweet spot, the place where pivot and passion meet and magic happens.
The hook, “Come connect, inform and inspire future leaders at Girl Scouts of Connecticut’s Camp CEO program!” I had to do it. As the mother of two teenage girls, I jump at opportunities to help mentor young women. But camp?? Seriously?? However, this is my year of saying yes. So without hesitation I replied, “Count me in!” Because I also remembered being a Girl Scout in 1967, when it was my refuge from the bigotry, cliques and aloneness I experienced as the first and only black girl in my elementary school. My troop was a place where I was equal and the magic of being a girl was all that mattered.
The Passion

That magical feeling returned as I drove three hours to camp and arrived filled with anticipation. What would the girls want to know, do and share? Twenty-three high school girls and 13 executive women excited to make this a memorable experience. Facing each other, we asked intimate questions about our fears, successes and challenges. Following each story, we rubbed elbows. That’s right, eye-to-eye, we reached across and rubbed elbows as a way of sealing the conversation with trust. It made us feel equal in many ways. Maybe I will use that in my next meeting, it was better than a handshake.

The connections deepened when Mary introduced us to what it means to be a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader) ™ the new Girl Scout campaign is transformative. You could feel the pride as each girl described herself using these terms. The weekend program provided hands on leadership development and mentoring through a structured product development launch designing T-shirts. We taught business plans, marketing communications and design skills. But the girls showed us a few things too. Their passion, teamwork and camaraderie reminded us that being a girl is a wonder and wonderful. And it is hard. The girls shared their challenges with trust, family, academics and depression.
Our girls need affirmation now more than ever. The National Institute for Mental Health reports 1 in 4 girls suffers from a clinical diagnosis of depression, eating or other emotional health disorders. When you factor in race, the impact of adultification is even more damaging. Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty and Inequality study titled, Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, found adultification in black girls begins as early as 5 years of age. Those surveyed also believed black girls are less innocent, require less nurturing, protection and support than white girls. The implications of these stereotypes are far reaching. We must fight like hell to close this gap, erase the impact it has on their confidence and restore the magic of childhood. This is very necessary in order to see more black girls thriving in life, leaders in communities, CEOs sitting on boards and having impact. Whether you have girls of your own, or mother someone else’s, we can each play a part in reversing this trend. Mary has asked for my help to increase the number of black girls participating in this program and I am beginning with this blog to lift awareness.
When I turned 12, my mom gave me a little red book called, “The Magic of Growing Up”. The book was cute, but what I remember the most was her smile and pride in telling me about all the magical things I would experience in life. She was right. That evening when we all joined to make S’mores and huddle around the fire, we sang the Magic campfire song. I silently shed a tear at the end of the song as I recalled the magic of being a girl.
 “Now my childhood is far behind, I’ve learned to my surprise,That magic did not fade away it wears a new disguise.A child, a friend, a smile, a song, the courage to stand tallAnd love’s the greatest magic of them all.I do believe in magic…I believe”
 The Magic

CEO Camp is over, but the magic continues. The campers designed inspiring T-shirts and shared their hopes and dreams of who they would become. I have 12 new incredible women to call upon and share my passions and dreams. I went home, made popcorn the old fashioned way, pulled my girls close and watched old movies and created magic. Yes camp was magical, but don’t think it turned me into the REI Queen. No, this Wonder Woman still prefers my Duxiana™ inspired bed! Thank you Mary for dragging me out of my comfort zone. The girl whose life you changed was mine. Your pivot helped remind me about the magic of being a girl. And I will pay it forward.

Thank you so much, Cecilia, for joining us at Camp CEO this year!

Yours in Girl Scouting, 

Thursday, June 29, 2017

G.I.R.L Power Meets the Great Outdoors!!!

Wow! That’s my first reaction to my amazing experience this past week at Camp CEO! From June 21-24, myself and 12 other amazing female leaders across the state (and the country!) gathered at Camp Laurel in Lebanon with a group of incredible Girl Scouts from across the state for a relaxing and rewarding camp experience.

At Camp CEO, girls are able to have fun with traditional camp activities (CEOs, too), but they also take away business lessons, skills, and connections that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. At summer camp, girls have the opportunity to try new things, like stand up paddle boarding, archery, or horseback riding, but they also find their confidence or learn more about a passion or strength particular to themselves. They find out that these passions can be transferable in their future careers and, by the end of the weekend, break out of their shells having connected with wonderful and accomplished women leaders who help them realize their full potential.

Because it’s true—our Girl Scouts are G.I.R.L.s (Go-getters, Innovators, Risk-takers, and Leaders). At Girl Scouts, we are all about practicing everyday leadership, preparing girls to empower themselves, and promoting these G.I.R.L. experiences. At Camp CEO, girls and the CEOs learned about what it means to be a G.I.R.L. and how girls take the lead in everything that they do. They practice leadership with grit like a Go-getter, problem-solve and are creative like an Innovator, try new things and embrace new ideas like a Risk-taker, and show empathy like a Leader. 

After learning the true essence of G.I.R.L., our Camp CEO girls also learned the ins and outs of a business from the importance of building and maintaining your brand to finance and production and marketing for your startup business. Girls and CEOs were then separated into teams, and came up with their own unique business plans and strategies. Groups were tasked with creating their own T-shirt designs inspired by the G.I.R.L brand. Each team, in turn, created a comprehensive business plan for how they might market their “G.I.R.L-inspired” T-shirts. It was such an incredible experience to witness and see what all of the teams came up with. And each camper and CEO will receive their own team-inspired T-shirt, while versions of each girl-designed T-shirts will be available in our shops and camp trading posts this summer!

I’ve said it before, but every time I leave Camp CEO I find myself continuously amazed at how remarkable our girls are. They are so full of promise and hope for our futures, and I take more back than I can possibly give.

I hope everyone has a fun, safe, and relaxing summer. See you next year at Camp CEO!

Yours in Girl Scouting,

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Camp CEO is tomorrow!

Is it really that time of year again?! It’s summertime, and that means that one of my favorite girl programs is back—Camp CEO! I am so excited to head back to Camp Laurel in Lebanon and meet with our fabulous group of CEOs and our incredible young women for a few days of outdoor adventure and skill-building.

At Camp CEO, girls ages 14-17 from across Connecticut come to Camp Laurel and team up with prominent business women and leaders across the state. This year, with  their “CEO Buddies,” girls will learn more about how Girl Scouts take the lead like a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader), and how these attributes are a part of our DNA! Will girls be go-getters and lead the discussion around the campfire about their passion and goals, or will they be a risk-taker and try something new, like kayaking or archery? The opportunities are endless!

Last year's group at Camp CEO!
Camp CEO is an incredible experience. I discover every year that not only do the girls learn about themselves and find their voice, but I learn more about myself as well. It’s such an amazing opportunity to unplug and embrace the beauty of Mother Nature (although I will miss my hair dryer!) and make memories that will last a lifetime. 

Stay tuned next week for a more detailed account of our experiences at Camp CEO.

Yours in Girl Scouting,

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Celebrating Amazing Women!

It’s June—and that means it’s a busy and exciting time at Girl Scouts of Connecticut! We recently just held two exceptional events where we recognized amazing women in our state—our 24th Annual Woman of Merit event and our 2017 Gold Award Luncheon.
On June 1, we held our 24th Annual Woman of Merit event at the Hyatt Regency in Greenwich where we honored Nancy Di Dia, Executive Director and Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer Americas of Boehringer Ingelheim, and Juanita T. James, President and CEO of Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, with the Woman of Merit Award. These two women were honored specifically for their efforts in diversity and inclusion and for making our world a better place. At Girl Scouts, we have always stood for inclusion, and it was an amazing opportunity to celebrate that and what Girl Scouting does for girls in our state.

We also honored an incredible individual with our first-ever Courage, Confidence, and Character Award: Alison Smith, Global Messenger and Ambassador for Special Olympics Connecticut. This award is presented to a young woman who has overcome unique challenges in her life to make outstanding contributions to her community or achieve extraordinary success. It was great to meet all of our honorees and their families and friends. Congratulations to all, and thank you to those who joined us. Because of you, Girl Scouts in Connecticut will continue to thrive and succeed. Take a look at our photos on Facebook.

Speaking of thriving, this past Sunday on June 4, we honored and recognized the 71 Girl Scouts in Connecticut who earned their Gold Award this year at our Gold Award Luncheon at the Best Western in North Haven. The Gold Award is the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, and it is truly remarkable reflecting on all that they have accomplished. From teaching science to younger girls to spark their interest in STEM careers and promoting healthy eating to putting on a fashion show for children of all abilities and teaching younger children empathy and compassion, our Girl Scouts are true go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders. I am beyond proud of all of our Gold Award Recipients and look forward to seeing all of the amazing things that they will accomplish in the future. See our photos of the Gold Award Luncheon on Facebook.

Yours in Girl Scouting, 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Conversation between a Girl Scout and her troop leader

National Volunteer Week is from April 23-29! On Sunday, we had a chance to say "thank you" to some of our amazing GSOFCT volunteers at our Annual Meeting

I wanted to share this heartwarming Q&A session between a Girl Scouts of Connecticut Troop Leader, Maria, and her daughter, Girl Scout Cadette Angelina, who is a true innovator and leader. This conversation is just one of thousands of examples as to why volunteers are truly the lifeblood of our organization, and without them, Girl Scouting, and our future women leaders, wouldn’t exist. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Angelina, Girl Scout Cadette

How has your troop leader helped you in Girl Scouts?
My mom is a great troop leader. It is very inspiring for the girls in my troop to have such an amazing leader to look up to and relate to. I have a troop leader who is loving, caring, generous, creative, and a role-model for every girl. My mom's advice will help me become the best person I can be in the future. As a troop leader, she also rubs off on the other girls as well. My mom shows girls that they are capable off almost anything. When I feel insecure about myself, I always turn to my troop leader for advice.

What is your favorite program/activity in Girl Scouts?
My favorite Girl Scout programs are the camping programs and the STEM program. I love science so much. However, sometimes girls in the STEM field don't get taken seriously. I like the STEM programs because I get to see girls who like science like me. It is so inspiring because you see young women that do what they love, even if it may get difficult sometimes. I also enjoy Girl Scout resident camp at Camp Laurel! Resident Camp is a great opportunity for girls. I made so many memories and had a great time. I love camp so much that I want to train to be a counselor. The best part of camp is survival and boating. The counselors are also very nice. This is an experience many girls miss out on, so I am glad Girl Scouts offers this to me.

What would you tell a younger girl who is interested in joining Girl Scouts?
I would tell her to go for it. Girl Scouts is a great opportunity for all girls, no matter your race or your background. Girl Scouts has changed me a lot. I have more friends and much more confidence. Girl Scouts taught me what true feminism means and that girls can do anything. I know now how to help my community. I also know great skills that will help me later on in life. I now have confidence and courage, knowledge and advice, and a lot of memories from Girl Scouts. With Girl Scouts, I can help all girls around the world.

Maria, Girl Scout Volunteer

Why do you like volunteering for Girl Scouts?

I love to be a volunteer for Girl Scouts because I see the impact of the program on my troop girls every year. We accomplished so much together. The girls learn to set goals, and to work as a team. They support each other, and we truly feel like a big family. I love that Girl Scouts allows girls to be girls; there is no judgment and no pressure to be anyone but yourself. It is a safe and supportive environment for girls to grow. As a volunteer, I feel supported by a network of leaders and Girl Scouts staff who always teach me how to be a better volunteer. I made so many amazing friends in this program. I also learn so much about myself from being involved with the organization. I can honestly say I am a better person because of volunteering with Girl Scouts.

Why should adults volunteer for Girl Scouts?
Adults should volunteer for Girl Scouts because this organization has been improving the lives of girls for over 105 years. As a volunteer, you are fully supported to do the best work you can in order to help girls. You feel the impact of working with your troop girls with every stage of the program, from the earliest years when the girls are soaking all the information you can give them, to the later years when you actually see your girls deciding on projects and helping the community by taking leadership roles, and making a difference. It is a humbling and amazing experience to have such a positive impact on the future generation of girls. You also become part of the big Girl Scouts family!

What is your favorite Girl Scout memory as a troop leader?
My favorite Girl Scouts memory is from a Science Camporee I attended with my troop of nine girls. It happened to be a really hot weekend for a Camporee, and I was concerned about dealing with the elements with a group of young girls. My troop was so amazing! We came up with a plan to try to beat the heat by taking lots of water breaks throughout the day, and checking on each other to make sure we were all enjoying the activities. Not only did we survive the hottest Camporee ever, but my girls were always getting feedback from the volunteers working there that they were polite and respectful. I felt the impact of our teamwork that day.

What an incredible conversation!

What are your special moments as a Girl Scout or a Girl Scout volunteer?  I know, like Angelina and Maria, you will cherish them forever.  As a volunteer, you are a gift to all girls! A very Happy National Volunteer Week to our wonderful volunteers.

Yours in Girl Scouting,

Friday, April 21, 2017

Saturday is Leader’s Day! Thank you, Girl Scout Volunteers!

Thank you, Girl Scouts of Connecticut Volunteers!

Did you know that April is National Volunteer Month, and that this Saturday, April 22, is Leader’s Day? On behalf of Girl Scouts of Connecticut, I want to send a very large message of love and gratitude to the thousands of adults in every zip code of the state who make
Girl Scouting possible for nearly 32,000 Girl Scouts throughout Connecticut! 

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

In Connecticut, many of our 15,000 plus adult members serve as co-leaders, cookie managers, registrars, trainers, service unit managers, and put on many other hats to ensure that every girl in Connecticut can be go-getters and thrive in every aspect of their lives. Our volunteers are true role models and help girls empower themselves to be leaders and succeed in new experiences like outdoor adventure, community engagement, STEM exploration, and countless other areas.

At Girl Scouts of Connecticut, we continue to work towards providing volunteers the tools and services they need to feel supported and help girls build courage, confidence, and character, and make our world a better place. Our volunteers are true models of leadership and civic responsibility; it is not unusual for a Girl Scout volunteer to dedicate in excess of 200 hours a year to contribute to the Girl Scout Mission. We can’t thank you enough!
We are also excited to say “thank you” to a number of our volunteers this Sunday, April 23, at our Annual Meeting. At our recognitions ceremony, we will acknowledge our members who have served in Girl Scouting for a number of years and who have provided exemplary service to girls across the state. 

So, the next time you see a group of Girl Scouts, make a point to introduce yourself to their leader and all the other volunteers who are guiding and supporting them.  And be sure to say “thanks” for their dedication and commitment to their work.

Thank you, Girl Scout volunteers, for recognizing that girls matter.

Yours in Girl Scouting,

Monday, April 10, 2017

Happy spring!

With all of the rain we have received in the last few weeks, I hope it is safe to say that the cold, snowy weather is behind us and spring is finally here! As we say goodbye to winter, we also say farewell to our Girl Scout cookie season—despite the snowstorms and bitter cold, our intrepid Girl Scouts bundled up and were out at their booth sales selling cookies to fund all of the incredible projects and activities that they will do this year!

Because of our dedicated volunteers and, of course, our cookie bosses—the girls, this was a very strong year for cookie sale results. Your hard work enabled us to surpass our goal! Even more importantly, the girls built their confidence and learned five important skills: goal setting, business ethics, money management, decision making, and people skills, and for those girls who sold online- the power of e-commerce. 

Our girls will use their cookie sale proceeds for service projects in their communities, to fund fun, learning activities, and more. With support from their customers, our girls were also able to donate nearly 100,000 boxes of cookies to our service women and men at home and overseas through our Cookies for Heroes Program! A big thank you to our volunteers and staff that helped make this year’s cookie program such a success.

Last week, we hosted “A Conversation with Amy Bloom”, where we were joined by WNPR’s Faith Middleton who interviewed our honored guest, critically- acclaimed Branford author Amy Bloom. We also had a chance to hear from Girl Scout Rhea from Milford, who shared her successes in Girl Scouting. 

During the conversation, Amy and Faith talked about the importance of sisterhood and Girl Scouting. At Girl Scouts, we work together to help build girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Amy said it best: “You don’t rise up without also putting a hand behind you to bring somebody else up, and that’s what Girl Scouts is all about.” Take a look at our Facebook for pictures of the wonderful event.

And of course, everything that we do at Girl Scouts of Connecticut would not be possible without our own incredible force of volunteers! April is very special because it is Volunteer Appreciation Month!  I cannot thank our volunteers enough for all of their hard work and commitment; because of you, our girls can experience the magic of Girl Scouting every day. Thank you, volunteers, from the bottom of our hearts!

Let’s hope for warm weather on the horizon and the beauty of the blooming trees and flowers!

Yours in Girl Scouting,