We Should All Be More Like Girl Scouts

We Should All Be More Like Girl Scouts

The following is a personal message from Nancy Wright, CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana…

As I watched the events unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend, I could hardly believe my eyes. Words are inadequate in describing the violence, racism and hatred that was broadcasted throughout the world. My condolences go out to those who were injured and the families of Heather Heyer, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates.

Throughout the weekend, I kept thinking to myself, how do I explain what happened to our girls, who are a shining example of kindness and compassion? How do we make sense of senseless tragedy?

And then it hit me—-it is during times like these that we must join together so that our actions and voices are louder than those who carry hate in their hearts. In fact, being a positive example of leadership is something Girl Scouts have been doing since our founding in 1912.

Take, for example, the interfaith event where Muslim and Christian Girl Scouts joined together for fun, fellowship and friendship. Gatherings like this truly embody the Girl Scout Law: “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”

Or more recently, there are the young girls who have been placing “kindness rocks” around our camps and communities. The rocks, which include brief motivational messages, are intended to inspire others to complete random acts of kindness.

As Chicago Tribune columnist Heidi Stevens once noted, “we should all be more like Girl Scouts.”

Our girls get it. Indeed, they are teaching the world to be kinder, more compassionate and more understanding through their words and actions.

Because as Nelson Mandela said: “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”

What is one action you’ll take to spread love and kindness this week? How will you take the lead like a Girl Scout? Let us know in the comments.

Girl Scout Who Petitioned Hasbro Speaks Out

Girl Scout Who Petitioned Hasbro Speaks Out

Hi, my name is Annie Rose. I’m writing this to tell a story. It’s true, and it happened to me. But it’s not really about me.

It’s actually about how little people can do big things, and about how everyone can have a voice, but only if they aren’t afraid to speak up. I’m going to tell this story to show that that’s all true, and that you can do anything if you believe in yourself. Never give up!

One normal day- or, at least it was- I learned that the main character, Rey, had been left out of the new Star Wars Monopoly. That made me so MAD! I am a firm believer in equal rights, and leaving Rey out of a known and popular game was literally screaming out “FEMALE CHARACTERS DO NOT MATTER!” Which is so not true!

And, even though most children don’t know it, the toys they play with influence their thoughts. So, we need kids to see a female character, not one that’s popular because of her looks, but because of who she is. Kids hear too often that women are objects, judged solely by their looks. They need to hear that women are just as important as men.

So I wanted to do something about it. I mean, there was no doubt about it! So I picked up my markers and paper, to write a passionate five-color letter about female rights. It was kind of scary, wondering what people would say or do, but I knew I was doing the right thing. That kind of took away my fear. Then my mom tweeted it so everyone could see it.

But things didn’t happen immediately. That’s just not how the world works. After a little while, Hasbro, the toy company that made the Star Wars Monopoly game, responded. It took 18 months to get Rey added. But now, we play the game with Rey (probably the most popular game piece).

I want other little girls- and boys- to see that even at 8 years old, like I was when I wrote the letter, you can make a difference. All you have to do is try. Try, even if it is scary.

And, all of you little kids who hear or read this, never give up. You can do anything. I believe in every single one of you. If you see something that you think is wrong, stand up. And every one else will stand behind you.

Lastly, I want to thank anyone and everyone who stood with me throughout this. Maybe just by acknowledging the tweet, maybe by writing back. Maybe I don’t know their names, maybe they are close friends I’ve known my whole life. But I just want to thank them all for standing with me through something meaningful to me.

Thank you.

Thank you all for reading this,

annierose

Annie Rose (age 10 now)

Girl Scouts Celebrate Friendship Center

Girl Scouts Celebrate Friendship Center

Make new friends and keep the old is not just a classic Girl Scout song, it’s also the idea behind Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana’s Friendship Center.

Located in Country Club Hills, Illinois, the Friendship Center opened in September 1991 much to the delight of the community, especially then Mayor Dwight D. Welch who thanked Girl Scouts for selecting the city as the site for the program center.

“Girl Scouts are the spirit of America,” he told the Southtown Economist at the groundbreaking in September 1990. “Someday these young ladies will be standing behind the podium.”

According to the same article, the center was designed to “give area Girl Scouts a place to pursue activities and hold programs on topics such as drug prevention, literacy, family crisis matters and disability awareness.”

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Mary Rose Main, National Executive Director of Girl Scouts of the USA, visits the Friendship Center on April 14, 1992

“In retrospect, we were way ahead of our time,” said Karen Schillings, a GSGCNWI council historian and former board member. “It was the first facility of its kind in the country. I remember the CEO from Girl Scouts of the USA came to visit within six months after it opened because she wanted to see what we had built. It was an awesome time.”

Today, the 32-acre facility boasts walking trails, as well as four individual suites containing kitchenettes, sleeping areas and restroom facilities, in addition to a large assembly hall and attached kitchen for day events.

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Girl Scouts dance on stage at the first GirlSpace holiday party in 2016

But after more than 25 years of serving thousands of Girl Scouts and the community, the beloved Friendship Center is in need of some upgrades, including a new security system, roof and windows.

“It really has been the heart of the South Suburbs,” said Schillings. “I know some troops meet there and we host different events for a large number of girls and the staff has meetings there as well. It’s really an important facility not just for Girl Scouts, but for the community around it.”

To learn more and donate to the Friendship Center, click here.

Girl Scout Team Places at World LEGO Robotics Championship

Girl Scout Team Places at World LEGO Robotics Championship

Girl Scouts are pioneers when it comes to innovation, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Newton Busters, a team from Wilmette, Illinois, earned 10th place at the FIRST LEGO League World Championships earlier this year in St. Louis.

“Getting to the world championships was really cool,” said Yara Goldina, a 16-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador. “There were a lot of teams and they were all pretty advanced, so it was really interesting to see all of the different robots and strategies. It was also our first time getting to far in FTC and because we’re only a second-year team, I thought it was really cool that we go through to the last level and performed pretty well.”

Teammate Simone Wall, a 17-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador, agreed.

“I really enjoyed my experience. The days were long and tiring, but in a good way,” she shared. “It was interesting to see all of the creative solutions people came up with and to talk to them about their design and how they came up with it. It was also fun to meet teams from others countries – some of them spent almost 24 hours traveling just to make it to St. Louis.”

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The four-day event featured more than 15,000 students from 33 countries. In preparation for the competition, the Newtown Busters team performed driving tests for their robot and held meetings to practice their presentation.

“We focused a lot on testing robot components this year to improve them,” said Athena Zheng. “We mainly tested our robot for any imperfections in our programs, as well as revised some mechanisms of our robot to make it more efficient.”

Simone was also happy to see her design come to life.

“With Newton Busters, I was able to learn a lot more about programming, hardware design and fabrication,” she said. “It was exciting to see a design I drew out on paper become a real thing that actually worked.”

Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) has sponsored more than 500 girls on teams in LEGO Robotics programming throughout the last seven years. This year, Girl Scouts LEGO Robotics program sponsored 27 teams at various levels of FIRST Robotics for a total of 140 girls.

“We’re committed to encouraging girls to embrace their imaginations and develop the creative problem-solving skills that will empower them to tackle 21st-century challenges in their communities, classrooms, careers and beyond,” said Candice Schaefer, director of program for GSGCNWI.

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The Girl Scouts LEGO Robotics program is made possible through generous funding from Exelon and additional funding from Motorola Solutions Foundation.

“What we love about the LEGO Robotics program is that it helps gets young girls interested in STEM in a really fun and creative way,” said Steve Solomon, vice president, Exelon Corporation in Chicago. “We fund programs like this one to get more young women interested STEM and thinking about careers in the energy industry. Not only does it teach them skills to build the robots, but this program teaches problem-solving, critical-thinking and team-building skills which they can use throughout their lives.”

Gloria Fountain, a Girl Scout troop leader and Newton Busters coach, couldn’t agree more.

“Girl Scouts helps our girls recognize their potential so that when they go into a male-dominated industry, they feel empowered,” she said. “At the end of the day, I’m so amazed by their journey,” said Gloria Fountain. “They start with nothing and create innovative solutions. People marvel at their presentations and it’s so amazing.”

In addition to the LEGO Robotics program, ComEd, an Exelon company, also hosts an annual Icebox Derby competition for young women.

“Girl Scouts has provided me multiple opportunities to learn about STEM,” said Athena, who has also participated in ComEd’s Icebox Derby. “In FTC, I have learned how to innovate new solutions to problems; write programs for testing; analyze date results from our test programs; create complex algorithms to complete tasks and much more.”

Newton Buster teammate and fellow Icebox Derby competitor Jasmine Wu has also enjoyed learning more about STEM through Girl Scouts.

“Girl Scouts helped me develop my love for STEM by creating and sponsoring so many programs,” Jasmine, a 16-year-old Girl Scout Ambassador, said. “In the summer of 2014, I took part in the Icebox Derby. We built a car from a fridge and raced it. My interest in STEM was furthered when we won and traveled to the national flight academy the next year.”

“Girl Scouts helped our team stay together so that we could afford to participate in FTC and les us continue to build robots and compete,” said Yara, who plans to pursue a career in mechanical engineering. “They encourage us to keep going and work hard to learn more.”

And the encouragement doesn’t stop there. Several of the girls have mentored younger Girl Scouts who’ve expressed an interest in STEM.

“I have been mentoring Girl Scout [First LEGO League] teams since fifth grade and find it so rewarding since all the girls gain so much from the experience,” said Samantha Fountain, a 15-year-old Girl Scout Senior. “Girl Scouts is the perfect place to find STEM activities to try and see if you have a passion for it.”

To learn more about the Girl Scout LEGO Robotics program, click here.

Local Girl Scouts Launch Successful Music Career

Local Girl Scouts Launch Successful Music Career

Talk about turning lemons into lemonade.

After being bullied at school two years ago, then 13-year-old twins Carly and Martina launched a music career with the goal of empowering and inspiring young women like them.

“I came home one day after being bullied and decided I could continue to feel this way and be upset, or I could do something to make myself feel better,” said Carly. “We loved writing songs and decided to write ‘Make Me Happy’ because you’re ultimately the gatekeeper of what makes you happy.”

The song, which landed the Chicagoland singer-songwriters a record deal, was also the basis of break-out sessions about anti-bullying and self-esteem Carly and Martina, who are now 15, hosted at a middle school in late 2015.

In addition to music, the sisters’ Girl Scout troop served as a safe space for them to be themselves.

“It was a place where we knew we didn’t have to worry,” said Martina. “We knew our friends would be there and we wouldn’t be judged. Girl Scouts was a nice mental break.”

Their mom, Rose Marie Spiro, agreed.

“Girl Scouts provides a place where girls don’t have to worry about all the other stuff that’s going on in the world,” she said. “For their Silver Award project, they created exercise videos for senior citizens. It’s all about giving back to the community and a place where they could learn to be together, where they can be supportive and do things not only for themselves, but for others as well.”

Carly and Martina, who have been taking piano lessons since they were 4, are also passionate about using social media platforms to engage with their fans and followers in a positive way.

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“We’re very active on social media because we want to show that we’re real people, not just music artists,” said Carly. “We reply to every single comment on every single photo. For example, we’re talking to this one girl on Snapchat who gets bullied because she doesn’t wear makeup. We want to create a space to uplift others.”

Earlier this year, Carly and Martina spoke at the TEDxIIT2017 event in Chicago about how their debut single, “Make Me Happy,” inspired them to launch a music career built on positivity.

As for aspiring artists, Carly and Martina’s advice is to start now doing what you love.

“Find whatever industry makes you happy and pursue that nonstop,” they said. “And take lessons, don’t ever stop learning. On days when you ask yourself ‘why am I doing this?’ just keep at it. Don’t quit.”

And most importantly, believe in yourself.

“You have to love yourself enough not to let others control your happiness,” they said. “Living your dream is really important.”

Catch Carly and Martina live in concert May 31 at the John and Nancy Hughes Theater in the Gordon Community Center in Lake Forest, IL. To learn more about Carly and Martina, visit their website.

Join Girl Scouts at the Mighty Girls Expo

Join Girl Scouts at the Mighty Girls Expo

Looking for some summertime fun for the whole family? Don’t miss out on Mighty Girls, a healthy living expo at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, on June 24!

The family-friend event features healthy and delicious treats; a meet-and-greet with some of your favorite hometown teams; giveaways from health living organizations and a huge game of Quidditch! Plus, you’ll also get to make your own custom pasta snack at Barilla’s famous Lucky Penne mobile kitchen with professional chefs.

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Mighty Girls is $10 for kids and $5 for adults. Registered Girl Scouts will also receive a Mighty Girls fun patch and apparel item. Discount tickets to Chicago Fire’s evening match also available.

Register now at girlscoutsgcnwi.org/mightygirls

Girl Scouts and Randstad Partner to Empower Leaders of Tomorrow

Girl Scouts and Randstad Partner to Empower Leaders of Tomorrow

Want to learn tips and tricks to landing a summer internship or how to obtain your dream job? Join the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana (GSGCNWI) for “She Succeeds: Empowering the Leaders of Tomorrow,” a special event hosted by one of the largest staffing firms in the U.S., Randstad.

The event, which takes place on Saturday, June 10, 2017 at our Vernon Hills Gathering Place, is designed to teach young women how to prepare for a career of their dreams and will feature opening remarks by Traci Fiatte, CEO, Professional and Commercial Staffing, at Randstad US and GSGCNWI board member, and a keynote address by Kelley O. Williams, CEO and co-founder of Paige & Paxton Elementary STEM Curriculum.

Williams has led nationally recognized STEM pipeline initiatives designed to introduce girls to the field of technology. She also achieved notable recognition for her contributions and success including awards such as “Crain’s Chicago Business 20 in their 20s” and the Porsche “Power 30 under 30”.

To further discuss the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), we chatted with Fiatte and Williams to learn more about their careers and how girls can start planning for success today.

How are you making STEM more accessible for girls and children of color?

Kelley O. Williams: In addition to actively recruiting families with girls and diverse children for our programming and online community, one of the ways that we attract and make STEM education more accessible and inclusive to girls is through storytelling.

Storytelling was the medium that my mom leveraged to make science and math real and relevant to my sister and me. It is still the hallmark of our methodology. Paige & Paxton content, curricula and events are all based on the characters and storylines from the Paige & Paxton book series. The puzzle piece characters are doing the same things as children, having the same experiences, asking the same questions and finding the answers in STEM, which they discover is an integral part of the world in which they live. Storytelling is a powerful way to introduce STEM concepts and careers through a gender inclusive childhood lens while cultivating early STEM interest and awareness that will follow girls throughout their educational career.

Why do you think it’s important for every child, especially girls, to learn about STEM?

Traci Fiatte: The older we get, the less opportunity there is to try new things. And by high school, many kids feel established and may be intimidated to jump into something different. Imagine high school soccer tryouts. Most of the kids vying for a spot on the team have been playing since they were young. Someone just learning how to play will likely feel overwhelmed and may not bother trying out. The same can be true for extracurricular clubs, activities and curriculum. Having early exposure creates confidence, and that confidence can translate into career paths, hobbies and higher engagement in class.

STEM subjects, in particular, are important to introduce early. The most difficult occupations to fill today are in STEM fields because there is a shortage of qualified people to fill the open jobs. As every industry becomes increasingly reliant on technology, STEM specialists will be in even higher demand in the future. Today, STEM fields are traditionally male dominated. That’s changing, but we still have a long way to go. The earlier young women recognize their affinity to STEM subjects, and the fewer obstacles they encounter, the better the environment will be for them when they enter college and beyond.

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What are some of the challenges women face in STEM careers and how can we prepare girls for success?

Kelley O. Williams: One of the biggest challenges that women face in getting interested and remaining in STEM careers is unconscious bias. It begins in early childhood when parents and teachers assume that girls are “naturally” better at reading and boys “naturally” better at math. It occurs when we compliment young girls for being pretty and young boys for being smart. It occurs in the toy aisle when toys that are “designed” for boys tend to encourage more spatial intelligence development, while toys for girls encourage developing social intelligence.

The best that we can do for our girls to prepare them for success is to check our biases. We need to encourage girls to take active roles in STEM education experiences, even when they may be hesitant to try. We need to be mindful of how and what we praise girls for and how we provide them with feedback. Most importantly, we need our girls to see diverse examples of mathematicians, scientists, and engineers so that they know that being a girl in STEM is not an exception to the rule.

To learn more, or to register for the event, please visit girlscoutsgcnwi.org.