Thursday, November 17, 2011

Girl Scouts of the USA; Houston was the Launchpad for the Next 100 Years

Imagine a place where everyone shares your values; where everyone lives by the Girl Scout Law. That is the world that a small group of Girl Scout adults and girls from Alaska lived in last week.

At the George Brown Convention Center in Houston, the Girl Scout flag flew, and the Girl Scout logo, colors, and imagery were everywhere. But, it was the feeling of being surrounded by 15,000 other Girl Scouts that made the experience magical.

As the closing ceremony keynote speaker, Robin Roberts said, “You might not remember who you saw or what they said, but you will remember how you felt.”
I felt serene, energized, safe, strong, and surrounded by loving care.
It was from this nest that we were inspired and empowered to embrace the second century of Girl Scouting. Within that environment of sisterhood we felt the courage and motivation to turn outward and share the power of Girl Scouts as wide and far as we can reach.

There is a saying, “If you teach a girl, you educate the world.” In Houston, we heard again and again how girls are an untapped resource, how their involvement in everything from science to politics is so valuable, and so needed. Yet, girls continue to be left out of, and opt out of, leadership opportunities.

That’s why there has never been a more exciting time to be a Girl Scout. Girl Scouts has the ability, and the opportunity, to inspire the gender balanced leadership that our country needs.

The world is in economic crisis, and we need leaders more than ever. If we continue on our current path, women won’t achieve parity in the U.S. Congress for another 400 years. We know that Girl Scouts provides girls with opportunities and experiences that inspire them to do great things. Girl Scouting gives girls the courage, confidence, and character to become leaders.

Indeed, more than 70% of the women leaders in our country are former Girl Scouts. But, two-thirds of too few is not enough. Every girl deserves the chance to discover the difference she can make. Imagine what the world would look like if every girl had the opportunities and experiences we provide in Girl Scouts?

Will you join me in realizing our biggest dreams for girls in the 21st century? Will you help me renew the promise of Girl Scouting for another 100 years?

In Houston, Kathy Cloninger, our outgoing CEO, asked us if we would do three things to ring in the second century of Girl Scouts. She asked us to:
1. Be informed about how girls define leadership and recognize how girls want to lead;

2. Take the message of the vast potential and importance of investing in leadership development for girls beyond the Girl Scout world; and

3. Encourage our fellow adults to lead; to find the leader in ourselves, and to help others to do the same.

Will you raise your voices and thereby inspire girls to also raise theirs? Will you join me and the Girl Scout Movement in renewing the promise to build another century of girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place?

The following inspirational words were shared in Houston by some of today’s women leaders. These are the kind of women we need more of, in order to provide role models for both girls and boys, and show them what gender balanced leadership looks like, and that it is possible.

“Courage + dreams = success” - Marlee Matlin
“Put yourself in a position for good things to happen.”
“Dream big, and focus small.” – Robin Roberts
“When you come to the end of the light of all you know, it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown. Faith will give you one of two things, something solid to stand on or wings to fly.” - Monique Coleman
Honorary Girl Scout Chair Michelle Obama shared by video address that she has three wishes for every girl: “That she lead a healthy lifestyle, pursue her dreams, and reach her goals.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

2012 is the Year of the Girl!

In this post, guest blogger Anne Gore continues her report on Girl Scouts 52nd annual Convention in Houston, Texas.

Yesterday afternoon and evening were full of celebration as we officially launched Girl Scouts 100th anniversary year, and the Year of the Girl. 

A sit-down ceremony in the afternoon included videotaped remarks from Maya Angelou

a keynote address by Kathy Cloninger, 

and a bridging ceremony to induct GSUSA's new CEO, Anna Maria Chavez.  

In her remarks, Kathy Cloninger cited many statistics about the value of women in leadership roles, and how few women we still have in these positions of influence.  She challenged Girl Scouts to be the catalyst "to achieve the gender balance this nation needs," and noted that Girl Scouts is "the bridge girls need to cross the [gender] divide and lead as women."  

Although already surrounded by inspirational role models, the girls got yet another treat when the ceremony was capped off by a performance from singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.  

Cake, and fireworks ended the evening and an incredible day full of motivational moments and excitement.

In the words of Connie Lindsey, Girl Scouts' National President, "Tonight we begin a year-long celebration of the Girl Scout movement.  [Already,] we have made the world a better place."  

But, that's not all.  We'll have even more to share with you from Convention, so keep checking back here and on our Facebook page for updates.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Inspiration all Around

Last night at the Young Women of Distinction ceremony, many of the award recipients mentioned in their acceptance speeches that they'd been inspired to go after their Gold Award after attending a Young Women of Distinction event at a previous Girl Scout Convention.

Our six girls from Alaska are surrounded by inspiration this week.  They are meeting other girls, listening and talking to accomplished adults, attending Conversations of Consequence about topics of importance and concern to them, and learning skills from marketing to technology and science to  leadership.  And, of course, they are also having lots of fun!  

Here's what a few of them had to say:

"This is amazing.  The girls here are so inspirational. It is something I'll remember for years to come."
- Kharissa

"This is really special, and I have never done anything like this before in my life."
- Mykaela 

This is what Girl Scouting's all about!  Opportunities, new experiences, adventure, inspiration, and of course, discovering, connecting and taking action!  

We are so proud of these girls, and all our Alaska Girl Scouts.  We can't wait to see what amazing things you do in your lives, and how you will continue to be inspired, and inspire others through your actions.  

- Anne Gore, reporting from Convention

Friday, November 11, 2011

Out of Their Comfort Zone and into the Spotlight

This afternoon in Houston we honored the ten national Girl Scout Young Women of Distinction and had the chance to hear each of them give courageous, confident, and inspiring speeches.

Some of the girl's speeches were so moving, they had me in tears.

A common thread among almost all the girls' speeches was the fact that they had stepped out of their comfort zone and done things they'd never done before in order to achieve their Gold Awards.

First on the stage was Darragh Friedman, who made a film documenting the testimonies of five Holocaust survivors.  In her acceptance speech, she noted that making the film gave her an appreciation for the gift of life.

Megan Johnson was born with a facial disfiguration and felt compassion for others in her community who were looked down upon for being different.  Her Gold Award project involved working with prisoners to make blankets, socks, and hats for Seattle's homeless community.

Megan's advice to girls was simple yet powerful:  "Be kind, be persistent."

Brianna Hutchinson noticed that local community events existed to raise awareness about cancer and other health conditions, but there were no events focused on child abuse awareness.  Her Gold Award project involved organizing a "Walk for Hope," which has since become an annual event.

Brianna credited her success to the help and involvement of many others in her community.  She noted that "leadership works best when it is a shared, cooperative experience."

To read more about these and the rest of the accomplished Young Women of Distinction, click here

Here's the whole group on stage receiving their awards and hugs.

I can't wait for Alaska's own Young Women of Distinction recognition event -- a luncheon on March 29, 2012 where we'll honor Gold Award recipients in our own Council, and celebrate the accomplishments of Alaska's amazing girls.  Save the date! 

- Your guest blogger for the week, Anne Gore

Thursday, November 10, 2011

All I Ever Need to Know Is in the Girl Scout Law

Anne Gore continues her report of Opening Ceremonies with this post.

In my last post, I reported on the first half of the convention Opening Ceremonies and mentioned that Kathy Cloninger had just stepped on stage.  Cloninger's remarks were followed by a formal welcome from the San Jacinto Council CEO and Board Chair, and the Mayor of Houston, Annise D. Parker.  Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States, and Mayor Parker (a former Girl Scout, of course), noted that in our nation's history there have only been 10 women who have headed a major American city! 

Next up was none other than Katie Couric, the keynote speaker for the evening.

Katie delighted the crowd by walking on stage in a Girl Scout uniform!

Her speech covered a full range of topics, from her professional career and background, to her work with cancer research and education.  But, the theme centered on her statement that "All I ever need to know I learned in the Girl Scout Law."  

Here are some highlights from the speech.

In speaking about honesty, Katie said "It's far more important to do the right thing than to know the right answer." 

In speaking about courage, she said
"Courage has been the most powerful weapon in my arsenal."  She also mentioned that an NBC colleague once told her, "a boat is always safe in the harbor, but a boat was not built to stay in the harbor."

In closing, Katie quoted someone else who said "You will find your purpose and passion, but make sure it serves the greater good."  She added her own words with this final remark:
"Do your best and that way every year will be the Year of the Girl." 

As Connie Lindsey, President of GSUSA's National Board of Directors so eloquently concluded, "Katie, by taking action to make your dreams a reality you are an inspiration!"  

The evening ended with a final dance performed by the Glow Girls, and the audience joined in the fun by waving our flashlights in the dark to create this beautiful light show.

For more details of this amazing evening, check out the GSUSA blog here and this fantastic video featuring Alaska's own Girl Scouts! 

Opening Ceremonies begin

Hello again from the Convention in Houston!  This is Anne Gore reporting live from Convention Opening Ceremony.

Today was so busy, I’ve hardly had time to stop long enough to post an update. 
But, I wanted to be sure to share with you what we're experiencing right now.   
We’re in a huge auditorium enjoying the beginning of the opening ceremony!

Each state is assigned to a different section of the room, and Alaska lucked out with a spot in the very front row!  Here are our girl delegates with their troop leaders, and our CEO Marge Stoneking.

The show got off to a great start with this shadow dance performed by some very talented girls.

The photo is a bit blurry, but they created a tree with their arms and bodies! 

Next was a spectacular flag ceremony featuring every flag of every state in the U.S., plus the 145 World Association of Girl Guides countries.  One really wonderful moment was when a Girl Scout from the San Jacinto Council led the pledge of allegiance and started to say, "On my honor..." instead of "I pledge allegiance...."  It was an unintentional, yet remarkably appropriate mistake that everyone appreciated!  

We've just enjoyed a great dance routine by girls of all ages from the San Jacinto Council. 

Now, Kathy Cloninger has stepped on stage, so that means we're getting close to the keynote address by Katie Couric!  Stay tuned for more details.....

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Reporting from Houston

Greetings from Houston, where a few of our Alaska staff, board, and Girl Scouts are attending the 52nd National Girl Scout Convention! We'll be posting on this blog at least once a day to report on the happenings here -- what we're discovering, who we're connecting with, and what "take action" ideas we can bring home to Alaska.  

The following report is from Anne Gore, our council Communications Manager.

I arrived in Houston last night, along with board member Anna Bryant and our Director of Membership and Programs, Tasha Nichols. This morning we headed over to the convention center to pick up our registration packets and check things out.

 Lots of people were picking up registration materials for their whole Council, and carrying them back to their hotels.

Girl Scout signs with the 100th anniversary trefoil and historic black and white photos are everywhere outside the convention center, inside the convention center, at the hotels...

Girl Scouts are definitely making an impression in Houston!  I even witnessed the raising of this Girl Scout flag outside the convention center, right under the Texas state flag!  

And, how cute are these restroom signs in the convention center?  Somebody took the time to paste

little green sashes on every one of these signs throughout the convention hall!

I am not registered for any sessions today, but I did have the chance to peek in on the "How to Plan a Dance Flash Mob" workshop.  The group was learning the choreographed dance moves and having a lot of fun!

I am getting excited for tomorrow when the rest of our group will be here, and the Girl Scout Leadership Institute begins.  

We'll have much more to share with you, so check back again soon.


Tuesday, November 1, 2011

We Asked, You Answered, and We Heard You

Here are the adult member survey results from 2011, and the corresponding 2010 data for comparison. What will we do with it you ask? We use your input to shape the way we support volunteers and do business.

Takeaways from this year's survey and other feedback have sharpened this year's cookie program processes. Last year we implemented auto-pay between troop bank accounts and GSAK cookie account. You said the first withdrawal date put a hardship on the troop trying to get funds deposited in time. This year's first withdrawal date was pushed back due to that feedback.

In response to outlying volunteers, last years cookie materials were shipped directly to service unit cookie managers, and some of you were overwhelmed. This year we will assemble troop packets at Council Headquarters for Anchorage service units and direct ship only the outlying communities' paperwork.

You asked for credit card acceptance at booth sales! Last year we piloted mobile credit card acceptance with a couple locations. This year credit card systems will be available to any troop that wants to use them at booth sales.

For the past couple of years (thank you for your patience!) volunteers have been telling us that magazine sales aren't the right fit for Alaska. Some asked for the nut sale that other councils do. This year we offered our inaugural Nut & Candy Fall Product Sale.

The Adult Survey as well as a volunteer focus group held at Encampment told us you wanted more input and communication with council leadership. This year we're launching the Adult Membership Connection Committee (Adult MCC). Girls told us they wanted input too but preferred their own committee, so we are also launching a Girl MCC. The MCC's will serve as advisory bodies to the board of directors and council leadership. Geographically and ethnically diverse representation is desirable. Apply today to have your voice heard by clicking the links in this paragraph. (Deadline is November 14th)
You asked for better customer service in the GSAK Store and for an online store. We now have a full-time store manager, Amber Adams, whose top priority is customer service. We also implemented a point of sale system that will help manage our inventory to minimize out-of-stocks. January 2012 we will launch the GSAK online store! Again thank you for your patience.
You said "too much paperwork." This fall we implemented an online volunteer application process, minimizing paperwork, and speeding up the new volunteer intake and volunteer renewal processes.

You asked for troop bank account debit cards and online account access. We are in the process of moving troop accounts onto FNBA's online access system so troops can manage their funds online. The next step after that is debit cards. Thank you for your encouragement.

These are just some of the ways Girl Scouts of Alaska is evolving to better meet the needs of volunteers. Thank you for sharing your input and being part of the evolution. We hear you and we are grateful for your leadership.