Gold Award Girl Scout Chris Belin reflects on what Girl Scouts taught her and the importance of the program for girls

[Below is a guest post written by Gold Award Girl Scout Chris Belin]

My name is Chris Belin.  I am a 38 year-old self-employed Health and Business Coach living in East Amherst, NY.  Just over 20 years ago, I earned my Girl Scout Gold Award, and to this day, it is still one of my proudest moments!

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That’s me on the left!

I became a Girl Scout when I was 6 years old.  I still remember our meetings in a church basement!  Learning the Girl Scout Promise, selling cookies, and singing songs.  Within a few years, I went to Girl Scout Camp and volunteered in the community at soup kitchens and homeless shelters.  But, as I got older, it became more difficult to juggle my school work, sports, social life and Girl Scout activities.  I wanted to quit.  But, my Mom, not a Girl Scout herself, refused to let me.  She knew the impact it had on me and the community.  She said “this is your commitment and you are going to finish it!”

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Me with my mother at the Gold Award Ceremony

While in high school, I earned my Silver Award, and without much time in between, I began working on my Gold Award.  My first two ideas were rejected by Council.  I was so upset and shocked actually!  But looking back, I see why.  It would have been too easy!  I really needed to push myself and do more for others.  I began a project of Female Empowerment with young girls in my community.  It lasted three months and was an amazing experience for them and me. I learned just how powerful one person can be, no matter their age!  Nothing else could have better prepared me for college, and later….working full time, motherhood, and entrepreneurship!

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Me and other members of my troop at the Gold Awards

I am now a wife and mom of two kids, an 8-year-old daughter and a 5-year-old son.  Raising kids is a lot of work and it certainly “takes a village”.  For that reason, and many others, we are and will always be a Scouting family. Girl Scouts is a great resource in teaching so many important life skills to my daughter, such as leadership, contribution, healthy relationships, financial literacy, entrepreneurship, etc. I am not aware of any other organization that does all that!

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When I was a Girl Scout, I didn’t fully understand why we sold cookies. Through my daughter’s experience, I learned that the Girl Scout Cookie Sale is the largest entrepreneurial program for girls in the world!  As an entrepreneur myself, I love that! It has taught my daughter how to be confident, how to talk to people, how to shake hands, how to manage money and deadlines, etc.  She was her troop’s top seller this year!

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I am thrilled to be part of my daughter’s own Scout experience.  She is learning, growing, and having fun!  If you have a daughter, I urge you to check out a local meeting, and find a troop that is right for her.  You will be so glad you did!

Chris Belin

Mompreneur & Founder, Design Your Days Nutrition

716-207-0134

chris@chrisbelin.com

Cookies are HERE!

Cookie season is one of the most anticipated times of the year. The much beloved Girl Scout cookies are only available for a few months, causing the mania to set in when the sale finally begins. But what about the actual delivery?

In order to bring those delicious cookies to Western New York, a mega drop is held at several warehouses across the council. A truly incredible amount of cookies are dropped off, organized, and given to our Girl Scouts to deliver to their supporters.

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It’s a collaborative process between Council and the troops to ensure each drop is a success every year. This makes it a great time to interact with leaders and girls as well as bring the joy of cookies to Western New York.

This year, a nor’easter threatened part of the drop Friday, March 2. While winds and rain assaulted the East Coast, that precipitation turned to snow in Western New York bringing more than a foot overnight in some areas. Conditions were terrible, and Council actually closed all of their locations due to the weather.

But cookies couldn’t be stopped.

Despite the snow and closings, the drops continued as scheduled, and everyone received their cookies. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to enjoy some of your own!

Thank you everyone who supports our girls as they learn valuable leadership and business skills through cookie sales. You’re helping to raise the leaders of tomorrow, and that tastes as good as it feels.

Girl Scouts of WNY learn about car care and safety

1Caption: The girls broke into groups to discuss topics that affect driving such as bad weather, construction, personal distractions, and more. 

On Sat., April 2, the Girl Scouts of Western New York partnered with GEICO car insurance to deliver a car maintenance and safety program called Car Care with GEICO. The event was targeted at Girl Scouts that are about to become new drivers or have only been driving for a short period of time.

Melanie Bloodworth, Director of Program at GSWNY, commented, “All the girls are earning their Car Care badge. That’s including an opportunity to learn some basic car maintenance skills, how to jump a car, how to change a tire, how to check your oil. They’re also participating in activities around safe driving and how to drive for a greener Earth. At the very end, they’re coming up with safety jingles that they’re sharing with everybody.”

This is the second year that GSWNY has offered the program with GEICO. Last year, the program was only available in Buffalo, but because of its success, it was brought to the Rochester area. Approximately 40 girls along with parents and troop leaders attend the programs.

“These are some basic life skills that girls often don’t learn at school or maybe even at home if their parents aren’t comfortable with car maintenance,” said Bloodworth. “These are very important things for girls to learn as they become drivers, so that they can be safe and do some basic checks to make sure their cars are in good working condition. I think it’s something about Girl Scouts that’s unique. We provide girls these opportunities to learn these skills that they really don’t have another venue where they would be learning this in an organized program that’s also fun and interactive.”

A team from the Management Development Program in the GEICO Claims Department led the event at the Al Sigl Center in Brighton. At GEICO there is a committee for Girl Scouts that gets together to ensure that all the requirements for the Car Care badge are met. The team then takes that information and puts their own twist on it to make it even more fun.

2Caption: The GEICO staff explained what tools and safety equipment are great to have in your car. They explained that it is better to have it and not need it, rather than need it and not have it.

Erin Dorozynski from GEICO had her first experience working with Girl Scouts at the event.

“Their creativity is just amazing,” she said.” It’s nice to see them thinking outside the box and taking a different look at distractions or ways to be more safe as drivers.”

Katherine Warth, an Ambassador Scout from Monroe County troop 60420 commented, “I learned a lot about what kind of tools you need to keep in your car, how to change a tire, when your battery dies how to jump your car. My dad recently had to do and I was like ‘Oh my gosh! I never want to be stuck in that situation and not know what to do. So it’s good things to know as a new driver. I learned some things at home, but it was a little bit here and there. This put everything together in one cohesive place.”

The parents and troop leaders in attendance also had some questions and contributed to the discussion providing their insight from their own driving experience.

3Caption: The Girl Scouts came up with funny jingles to better remember how to be safe and aware on the road and protect the environment.

Dorozynski said, “It’s incredibly important to be prepared. I know that’s something the Girl Scouts live on, but especially as drivers, you can’t be unprepared, especially in the weather we have in Western New York. Being prepared and having everything you need is of the utmost importance.”

She added that awareness is a huge factor in safe driving. Not only awareness of your own actions, but being conscious of what other vehicles around you are doing as well. She also wants girls to feel like it’s okay to ask passengers for help. They can help give directions, respond to messages and calls so that the driver can stay focused.

Joelle Maurer from troop 60835 in Monroe County, said, “They’re just 16 and new drivers. I wanted them to become a little more aware of road safety, as well as awareness. Growing up I didn’t do this, and I still wouldn’t have a clue how to change a tire, so giving them an opportunity to learn this from someone besides mom and dad is a really good tool for them.”

To learn more about Girl Scouts of Western New York, visit gswny.org.

Girl Scouts check out med school in Buffalo

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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.

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

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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.”

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One girl shows off a real skull to another.

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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.

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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.”

Are you Ready to Ban Bossy?

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.”

Women in Leadership Speak Up

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

With Your Help I Can Do It

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