If you’ve ever felt like you’re looking through a window to the future, it would have been during the Girl Scouts Women of Distinction luncheon this month. The luncheon is earmarked as a fundraiser for the Northeast Texas Girl Scout region and there are great things on the horizon for our area scouts.
“Investing in our girls speaks volumes to our community and our girls see that… Girls can’t be what they can’t see,” said Jennifer Bartkowski CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas. “They need leadership, mentoring, skill and experiences. “
If the room full of women dignitaries from all over the state (including the Former First Lady Laura Bush and daughter Jenna) was any indication, the sentiment was shared universally and their generous contributions were earmarked for the STEM Center of Excellence opening Spring of 2016. This unique outdoor learning facility will feature a 3-story observation tower and living laboratory where girls in K-12th grades can explore science, technology, engineering and math programs, activities and careers. Phase one includes the Rees-Jones Welcome Center and the The Holland Foundation Girl Program Center.
“Girls are opting out of STEM programs because they are unsure and feel peer pressure. This center is designed to combat that,” said Bartkowski. The $13 million project will require an army of support from this luncheon an beyond.
Several women were honored during the luncheon, all of whom embody the Girl Scout spirit of courage, confidence and character. They have each made significant impacts on their respective communities. Some of my favorite quotes from their presentations appear below:
High School senior, Devin Bray has been a girl scout since kindergarten and was recognized for her commitment to raising money for animal oxygen masks for fire department to use on pets in distress. “Girl Scouts has taught me that I can do anything. My troop leader put a lot of confidence in us for the past 12 years.” In addition to scouting, Devin spent 12 years as a competitive gymnast and regularly competed in livestock shows.
Sruthi Tummala, has been a Juliette Girl Scout member (not affiliated with a troop) since 2012 and earned a Girl Scout gold award for developing a program designed to inspire 4th graders to be excited about math and science. “Girl Scouts shows you how to create something positive and opened up a whole new world for me,” she told the attentive audience. Sruthi is also the president and founder of the Nation Science Honor Society and Entrepreneurship Club at Ursuline Academy, been published in several anthologies and online magazine for her poetry and short story works. She is also a recognized equestrian among other distinctions.
Also honored were several (grown) Women of Distinction recognized as well:
Lifetime achievement recipient Jan Rees-Jones, with her husband Trevor, created the Rees-Jones Foundation, a private foundation established primarily to support and funding for programs that help improve the quality of life for the people of North Texas. “We need to remember that young girls are always watching and that’s the best way we are able to lead them,” she said. “Don’t ever discount the importance of kindness to one another.
2015 recipient Anna Bobadilla is a native Dallasite, educator, mentor and advocate with more than 38 years of active involvement in education initiatives, civic boards and volunteer organizations. “Lots of things are a mystery to you as a child, but as an adult, you can reflect back and realize how Girl Scouts brought that out in you., say’s Anna. “It goes back to opportunities and who is able to mentor you. It’s important that we open other opportunities to women and girls.
2015 recipient Geraldine Tincy Miller served on the State Board of Education (SBOE), District 12, for 26 years, including Chair of the Board from 2003-2007. Tincy distinguished herself by promoting better curricula and programs for children with dyslexia, phonics-based reading curriculum standards, ensuring school textbooks are factual and historically correct, and protecting the original intent of the Permanent School Fund. “Open yourself up to learning every day.”
As if those presentations weren’t impressive enough, the Keynote speaker had everyone’s attention. Founder of the Girls Who Code organization, Reshma Saujani, has been named Forbes’ Most Powerful Women Changing the World, Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People and most recently WSJ Magazine Innovator of the Year. Reshma told the story of her lightning rod moment which led to the creation of her national organization. It all began during her run for congress. She lost, but don’t feel sorry for her. “I’m a massive fan of failure. I fail all the time. Failing has helped me build a sense of resilience. We need to teach girls about failure and rejection,” she told the audience.
It was during that failed run for office, that Reshma visited local schools and when she stopped into their computer science labs, she was struck wondering, “Where are all the girls?”
Fast forward to today and Reshma leads this amazing organization that has taught nearly 10,000 young women (so far) software coding skills. It also facilitates Girls Who Code Clubs for grades 6 – 12 in 40 states (there are 6 in our area) , and also created Summer Immersion Programs to get girls excited about technology.
She attributes her success to four 4 pillars: sisterhood, exposure, role models and failure. (Between you and me, I would suspect she would be a big fan of the theory, “failing forward.”)
As a girl scout leader, staunch STEM proponent, and daughter of scientists, I left this event really inspired about the future of our area girl scouts. I am proud that our regional council is leading the way in becoming the most relevant and modern organization in our country.
You can learn more about these initiatives and contribute to the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas by visiting their webite here. #likeagirl
I was provided a media pass to attend this event. All opinions are my own.