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Rochester, NY (Feb. 10, 2016) – On Sat., Feb. 6, the Girl Scout Tekakwitha Service Unit in Rochester held their 4th Annual International Festival at the Rochester School of Medicine to celebrate World Thinking Day. To earn the Girl Scout badge associated with the event the girls devoted time to learning about a country and its culture, then at the festival they shared their knowledge with other Girl Scouts.

Troop leader and event organizer Svanhildur Thorvaldsdottir stated, “It’s really nice for girls, especially in the world today, to learn a lot about things that are going on around them and learn about some countries that they maybe didn’t even know existed. They’ll hopefully gain some understanding of foreign cultures and practices.”

south korea
A troop performs a traditional fan dance from South Korea.

Eleven countries were featured at the event including Jamaica, the Czech Republic, South Korea, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Republic of Italy, Canada, Ethiopia, and China. The young Daisy Scouts learned about the United States.

Troop 60054 chose Canada for their World Thinking Day project. They learned about the general customs of the African diaspora, the Caribana celebrations in Toronto, language, and money.

“We picked Canada as a troop because our Junior troop leader is Canadian. Her daughter is a dual citizen in the United States and Canada,” said troop leader Aria Camaione-Lind. “We chose it because we had a resident expert and because the girls were really interested in learning more about one of their troop leaders and troop members.”

canada
Troop 60054 explains Canada’s love of hockey, their two official languages, and other interesting facts they learned about the country. The Girl Scout on the far left in the red hat and the woman in the moose hat are citizens of Canada.

Several troops took the project to a more interactive level. The Girl Scouts presenting South Korea and Ethiopia performed traditional dances, and the troop that presented Jamaica even sang a song that got the audience to join in and clap along. The Girl Scouts covering China, Italy, Canada, and Germany featured clothing from the countries. Many troops prepared a food from that country for attendees to taste, such as Irish soda bread.

Ambassador Scout Samantha Pollard recalled her trip to Europe for a Girl Scout travel program and how the experience was a great thing to think about for World Thinking Day.

“We first went to Edinburgh in Scotland and then we travelled to London,” she said. “We went to Pax Lodge, the International Girl Guide House. I’d love to do more of that in the future.”

Neely Kelly, a Peace Corps volunteer, spoke with the older girls about her experience traveling to a foreign country and offering assistance.

“The Peace Corps is a program that sends Americans all over the world to volunteer and ostensibly improve the lives of people in third-world countries. It’s like an ambassadorship program,” said Kelly. “It definitely changed me and helped me become a better citizen. I hope [the Girl Scouts] got an understanding about what Peace Corps is and what they do.”

italy
Troop 63064 explained the colors of the Italian flag mean hope, faith, and charity.

Avalian Rios, a Cadette from troop 63064, explained that her troop had chosen the Republic of Italy, which is the official name for what most people simply call Italy. Rios stated that World Thinking Day had been very eye opening and it was one of the many enjoyable parts of being a scout.

Rios added, “Being in Girl Scouts, you can meet other people, and you get to learn skills that help you move up in life and help you grow up.”

Over 146 countries worldwide participate through their own scouting programs such as the Girl Guides. The Girl Scouts of Western New York World Thinking Day is Sat., Feb. 27.

To learn more about Girl Scouts and the badges they earn, visit gswny.org.

skull
A Girl Scout studies the underside of a skull.

On Saturday, January 9, Girl Scouts of Western New York went to the University of Buffalo to learn about medical school. One hundred girls attended the program with 30 troop leaders and volunteer chaperones. The girls were all in the Cadette level, which includes students from 6th to 9th grade.

The Girl Scouts go to Med School program was run by volunteer medical students to get the Girl Scouts interested in pursuing a future in science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).

Kaci Schiavone, a lead volunteer and 2nd year medical student, added, “We’re trying to get them as involved as we can. As long as we get them interested in science in general, we’re excited.”

Sember and Schiavone are both co-presidents of American Medical Womens’ Association, which has been organizing the program with the Girl Scouts of Western New York for a few years.

heart
A Girl Scout gets a hands-on experience with a heart while med student Mary Kate Frauenheim explains the chambers.

cranial nerves
By moving a finger in the shape of an H, you can test certain cranial nerves for functionality. 

The girls worked their way through seven stations to learn about different parts and systems of the body and what career paths work with each. Girls learned about the brain and cranial nerves, the musculoskeletal system, the abdominal region and nutrition, the heart and lungs, and the nervous system.

Many stations included real organs that were donated for scientific purposes to the school. Donning gloves, the girls were welcomed to feel what the organs looked like and while learning about their functions.

Penpa Bhuti, a 1st year medical student was a volunteer at one of the stations where she taught about hearts. She taught the Girl Scouts about the heart and its valves, plus had them listen to each other’s heart sounds through stethoscopes. She said she volunteered because, “I like to teach. That’s one of my other passions. I think that’s really cool to be able to share your knowledge with other people. It’s really nice to volunteer. It’s fun.”

girls_skull
One girl shows off a real skull to another.

lungs
The Girl Scouts have fun getting a lesson in lungs.

Eighth-grader Hope Marshall and ninth-grader Courtney Jung from the Chatauqua Service Unit signed up for the program together. Both Girl Scouts want to work in or alongside the medical field one day.

“We signed up for this because we wanted to learn more,” said Marshall, “and we wanted to come and see how it was in the medical field.”

Jung added, “Most of this is interconnected to what we already know, so it’s helpful and informative and helps expand our knowledge about what we’ve already learned so far. I’ve wanted to be a pathologist for as long as I can remember.”

Marshall said, “I was thinking about being an engineer and I was going to maybe help out in the medical field by building machines to help with people’s problems.” She said a good example is that when a person gets a broken bone, they may need pins in their arm. She wants to find an alternate system that could help that person heal correctly.

Jung said that this program is great because she can narrow down her focus, but can get a glimpse into other possibilities. “Girl Scouts adds discipline and appreciation,” she said.

stethoscope
Using a stethoscope, they checked each other for healthy hearts.

At the end of the program, the Girl Scouts participated in a question-and-answer session with six medical students. Five of the six were Girls Scouts as children throughout the United States from California to Pennsylvania. They encouraged the girls in the audience to try out as many things as possible to know what they do and don’t want to do later in life. Many of the medical students had wanted to be veterinarians, but doing volunteer work in their teens changed their minds to caring for human patients.

Quinne Sember, a lead volunteer and a 2nd year medical student, said, “We just want to spark an interest in them and let them know that girls can be interested in science and medicine. This is the path to get to where we are.”

The more news I hear about the nearly 300 girls who were abducted from a secondary boarding school in Nigeria, the more troubled I become. Recent developments have revealed that the captors have threatened to sell the girls into marriage in the marketplace for $12 and to use also them as slaves.

Although this tragedy has occurred outside of the United States, my heart goes out to all the families of the young women. My prayer is that as many girls as possible are brought to safety and that punishment is swiftly and justly brought to the captors. Those girls could be our daughters.

Imagine making the decision to send your daughter to a boarding school to get an excellent education in a city where education is the “key” to improving not only their lifestyle, but the lifestyle of their families. You drive away from campus with a lump in your throat and a firm resolve, confident that you are making the best decision for your child. Now, put yourselves into the place of those girls’ parents and imagine getting a call from school officials telling you that your child has been abducted. I cannot imagine! Those beautiful young women’s lives are worth more than $12.

In the United States, we take freedom for granted. I read a quote by former President Ronald Reagan that said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

On the eve of Mother’s Day celebrations across the nation, there are mothers who won’t be celebrating until their daughters return safely home. Individually, there is not much we can do to directly help the parents or the girls. Collectively, we can spread the word to our friends, colleagues, and family about this horrific tragedy. If any child is in danger, our future is in danger.

I’m spreading the word. How about you? #bringbackourgirls

There has been quite a bit of buzz around LeanIn.org and the Girl Scouts of the USA’s public service campaign Ban Bossy. In full disclosure, I am a CEO of one of the Girl Scout councils.

As you can imagine, the opinions range from supporting a ban on the word “bossy” while others think being “bossy” is synonymous with confidence.

I am fascinated by this discussion because I think everyone can relate on some level. I am sure we’ve called someone bossy, we were called bossy, or we overheard someone being called bossy. In every instance, the word was not meant as a compliment.

Why would anyone think being called bossy is a compliment? Could it be that the definition of the word has been expanded to include positive attributes and less of the “sting” that used to accompany the word?

Through time, the word “bossy” has become more ambiguous to me. I started to feel one would need to be bossy if they were to reach their goals. Perhaps “bossy” meant you were not a pushover and you were capable of standing up for yourself in any situation. Even though I found a way to accept a negatively-charged word, being called “bossy” still did not feel good.

Now that I have a greater understanding of this campaign and have re-evaluated the meaning of the word, I’ve had a change of heart. The campaign encourages us to ban the general and broad use of the word and describe the actual behavior. For instance, if someone is acting aggressive, we should describe the behavior as aggressive instead of “bossy.” “Bossy” is being used to describe both aggressive and assertive behavior. This is why the authors of the articles I read embraced the word “bossy. They thought the word meant assertive.

As a female in an executive leadership position who has the responsibility of hiring, I look for staff, especially women, who are assertive. The assertive women that I know are successful because they work hard to reach their goals. They do not allow anything to get in the way of them succeeding. They stand up for what is important to them even if it is an unpopular opinion.

The Ban Bossy campaign is also addressing how the use of this word is causing girls and young women to shy-away from leadership positions because they do not want to be considered “bossy.” There is a glass ceiling in corporate America. Women are underrepresented in many areas, and the only way that this will change is if girls and young women are not afraid to take leadership roles. If banning this word will encourage girls to lead, count me in! I do not want to see anyone, girl or boy, not succeed because of the use of a word. I remember as a child the saying, “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” As an adult, I know that this childhood saying has some flaws, but we cannot let the word “bossy” prevent anyone –especially girls –from being leaders.

Join me and others as we take the pledge to ban “bossy.”

Four business executives having meeting in boardroomForbes magazine published an article that talked about how women receive conflicting messages in the workplace.  The article gives examples of conflicting messages like, “speak up but don’t be pushy” or “lead with confidence but don’t contradict your boss.”

With all these unspoken codes, it’s any wonder that women speak up at all. As we strive to break the glass ceiling and earn the same rate of pay as men, it comes with an inherent set of ground rules that we have to redefine.

There are times in an office setting when your opinion is the unpopular one, but you have to develop the fortitude to share it.  I agree with the author of this article when she said, that women who do not speak up in the workplace contribute to stalled progress in their professional careers.  A leader learns to trust his/her instincts and is willing to accept the consequences of those decisions.

Sometimes as women move up the corporate ladder, many are not interested in mentoring or offering career advice to young women within the organization who are striving to follow in their footsteps. The mindset of “I’ve got mine, now get yours” is unproductive and can set back the progress so many women in our past have fought for.  I’m reminded of the saying that is still relevant today – each one, reach one.  Let’s not allow the unspoken rules in the office silence our creativity, passion, or experience. Let’s avoid living up to the stereotypes of women being jealous and “catty” toward one another and choose to embrace the teamwork and solidarity needed to not only celebrate women’s successes, but to collectively strive to redefine the messages that are being sent in the workplace.

According to the article, our courage to share our thoughts and opinions begins in the classroom. We must teach our children-especially young girls, that it is ok for them to have an opinion and to not be afraid to share it.

As these young girls grow up and join the workplace, they will begin to trust their instincts and ultimately will exhibit the confidence that is respected in the boardroom by their colleagues.

A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” – John C. Maxwell

What About the Children

I recently completed an alarming but beneficial training on how to identify child sexual abuse.  The organization is D2L and their mission is to “To Empower People to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.”

I walked away from that training with these words ringing in my ear. Who is listening to the voice of our children? Who will speak up for our children? If adults won’t or can’t do it, who will?

Then I was reminded of the chorus of Yolanda Adams’s song “What About the Children” that says,

What about the children
To ignore is so easy
So many innocent children will choose the wrong way
So what about the children
Remember when we were children
And if not for those who loved us and who cared enough to show us
Where would we be today

As the lyrics say, “and if not for those who loved us and who cared enough to show us, where would be today.”  Let’s give our children the chance to experience a childhood filled with laughter, lots of fun, and an environment that allows them to dream!

No matter our role (parent, educator, nurse, coach, etc.), we have an obligation to protect our children from those whose agenda is to take advantage of our youth.

Let’s use our intuition and if something doesn’t appear as it seems, or policies are being compromised, let’s make the conscious choice to speak on behalf of children.

They are counting on us to be their voice.

In the business world, it is not uncommon to hear employees who work in a leadership capacity discuss mentors who were significant in helping them build their careers.

They identified their career goals and were coached on not only what job opportunities to consider, but how to navigate within an organization.

I have had numerous mentors throughout my life. One of them is the reason that I returned to college to earn my Masters of Science in Management and currently serve as a CEO. His insight was invaluable to me. He identified untapped strengths in me and complimented my natural business acumen.

There are several benefits to having a mentor. One in particular is that when you’re charting unfamiliar territory in your personal and/or professional life, someone who has been down that path can point out challenges and “wins” on your journey. They also provide an unbiased perspective to situations and circumstances based on their own professional experiences.

In addition to the guidance that a mentor provides a mentee, there can also be a great sense of accomplishment by helping someone reach their goals.

I recently read an article by Sara Afzal who shared a Boston Globe story written by Billy Baker. In the article, Baker shared how he met and subsequently mentored two underprivileged brothers who attended Boston’s Latin School. In spite of the challenges of their upbringing, one of the brothers was accepted to Yale. This is a great example of what can be achieved when you have a mentor guiding and empowering you to reach your potential.

If you are asking yourself what it takes to be a mentor, I think it takes an interest in helping others and a willingness to be open and honest about your journey. When mentoring children, confidentiality and being able to see the less-than-obvious abilities in a child is “key.” Identifying an untapped skill or helping the child understand that making a bad decision doesn’t define who they are is important.

I know many well-established successful people, who did not have mentors. They set their sights on their goal, met challenges head-on, and didn’t stop until their goal was realized. The irony is while they did not have mentors; they saw the benefits of mentoring and chose to mentor others.

In observance of National Mentoring Month, take a moment and consider what skills, abilities or life’s lessons have you learned that you can share with someone charting a similar path.

“When a young person, even a gifted one, grows up without proximate living examples of what she may aspire to become–whether lawyer, scientist, artist, or leader in any realm–her goal remains abstract. Such models as appear in books or on the news, however inspiring or revered, are ultimately too remote to be real, let alone influential. But a role model in the flesh provides more than inspiration; his or her very existence is confirmation of possibilities one may have every reason to doubt, saying, ‘Yes, someone like me can do this.”  ~Sonia Sotomayor

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