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My Girl Scout Story – Debra Nakatomi
Girl Scouts helped me to find my path in the world and the meaning of being a 'sister' to other girls. It was a place for me -- a seven-year-old Japanese American girl -- my sisters, and my mother to truly belong and be welcomed with other girls and their mothers from different ethnic (African-American, Caucasian, Japanese, Pakistani) and religious (Buddhist, Catholic, Jewish) backgrounds. It was also my first experience believing and living the American dream.
My Girl Scout story is a multigenerational story beginning in Sacramento, Calif., in the early 1960s. I often draw on my vivid memories as a Brownie at the Sutterville Elementary School to remind me of this special time in my life. Girl Scouts was a place where we could be ourselves and try new things.
I looked forward each week to "Brownie Day," where I could put on my uniform and funny beanie hat and spend time in the "Scout House." Since our troop had girls from diverse backgrounds, we learned about different cultures, family traditions, and, of course, we sampled various foods. As a first generation immigrant and Girl Scout, I can relate to the Girl Scout experience for today's girls hailing from Asia, Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.
As I reflect on my Girl Scout experience, I can truly say it was important for my mother as well. By U.S. Executive Order, she was forced to leave her home with her family along with 110,000 Japanese Americans and live in remote regions of U.S. internment camps in 1945. Her senior year of high school and her dreams of attending college were disrupted by this move. Three and half years later, my mother returned to an unfriendly California to rebuild her life, marry, and have children who would one day realize her dreams for a better life.
My mother, like other mothers, dreamed of a better life for her children, which had eluded her as a girl and young woman. I was so proud she was our troop leader, nurturing me and my two sisters and helping us to overcome our fears, find our passion, stretch beyond what was familiar, and truly believe that girls could do anything.
At the age of 77, my mother delivered a graduation address, about a 17-year-old facing discrimination and war-time hysteria in 1942, to the class of 2002 at Mark Keppel High School in Alhambra, Calif.. She finally received her high school diploma on this day, a dream that had evaded her so many years prior.
And so, 50 years later, as a member of the GSUSA National Board and International Commissioner, I cherish the opportunity to contribute to the hopes and dreams of girls everywhere in the world.
GSUSA National Board Secretary and International Commissioner
A Conversation with John Hom, Chair, Executive Compensation Committee, GSUSA National Board
John Hom first became acquainted with the Girl Scouts when he worked as a consultant with the Hay Group –a global management consulting firm that "works with leaders to transform strategy into reality"— back in 1998.
And it didn't take long before John's work evolved into, as he puts it, love for his client. "I developed a deep respect for everything the Girl Scouts stood for, particularly its emphasis on guiding girls to find the inner leaders in themselves. Given my career in leadership development and helping others to be the best they can be, the match was perfect and our work together became a truly rich and meaningful experience, both personally and professionally," John says.
But the love affair wasn't solidified overnight. John lost touch with the Girl Scouts for a few years but he would later receive a call to join its National Board of Directors in 2008. The call ended with John literally shouting, "Yes!" and the rest became history.
"There is an incredible range of knowledge on our board," John said. He continued, "We have experts in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as well as within the community—all which lend to robust discussions on how we can maximize organizational effectiveness to make the best strategic decisions for our movement. We talk about things that will really make a difference, such as growing membership, improving fundraising, and ensuring that our programs truly reflect what girls need to be leaders. The common ground for all of us is our love for Girl Scouting."
John's passion for the work of our National Board centers on the principles of diversity and inclusion: "We're offered an abundance of Board opportunities that are available to anyone—regardless of who they are or what they look like; those factors are irrelevant. What really matters here is respecting the individual for what he/she can bring to the discussion. This type of thinking strips away things like color, faith, income, status, and title—and focuses on the work."
However, the most rewarding part of John's role stems from his role as Chair of the National Board's Executive Compensation Committee. "We're here as a board to guide and inspire the movement in a rich and transparent way. In my first year as Chair of the Executive Compensation Committee, I instituted a new feedback process that allowed the CEO and the organization as a whole to learn from the successes as well as own up to the 'misses.' It's so liberating to be able to work with a Board that can debate, listen to one another, and provide feedback in a way that strives for and inspires meaningful change for the Girl Scout movement."
A Chat with Former GSUSA National Board Chair Patricia Diaz Dennis
What makes you proud of your association with Girl Scouting?
It warms my heart every time I hear a young girl say, "My life was changed because of Girl Scouting." The world of opportunities it provides girls is tremendous.
Girl Scouting opened my eyes to a realm of possibilities I did not know existed. Sometimes people will say, "Follow your dream," but you don't always know what to dream—you don't always know what's out there. Every so often, you need a guide. There are people who are fortunate enough to be exposed to a host of things growing up, so they know what is possible. But for many others, their destiny is circumscribed by their parents' education, income, etc. Girl Scouts helps remove those boundaries and barriers, and shows girls a plethora of possibilities.
Why is Girl Scouts' commitment to diversity important to you?
Girl Scouts is a microcosm of the macrocosm of our diverse country. As a result, our girls are better able to understand the world around them. I will never forget a conversation I had with Texan Senator Leticia Van de Putte (who represents a large section of San Antonio and Bexar County). She told me "Girl Scouts was the only place where a little brown girl like me could play with other little white girls and black girls in San Antonio."
Our country's history is not as heartwarming as we would like it to be. It has taken us a while to get to a place where our wonderful ideals are practiced. And yet, Girl Scouts has always practiced these ideals. We had diverse troops from the onset—Girl Scout founder Juliette Low made sure of it and now, some 100 years later, diversity remains a fundamental component of Girl Scouts' DNA.
How is the Girl Scout Movement enhanced by its commitment to diversity?
Companies that value diversity make better products that are more appealing to their consumers. Girl Scouts is in the business of leadership development and understands that one becomes a better leader by being exposed to all kinds of perspectives. While many organizations present themselves as diverse organizations, Girl Scouts continues to thrive because it truly lives, breathes, and values diversity.
We Champion Diversity and Inclusion
Juliette Gordon Low, our Founder, declared that Girl Scouts would be 'Something for all the girls of the world.' For nearly a century, keeping her promise has been our sacred mission. Since 2003, the number of Latina Girl Scouts has increased twenty percent and right now, more than 2.4 million girls of inspiring courage, confidence, and character participate in the programs available within the Girl Scout Movement.
Girl Scouts champion diversity because it is right, and we are committed to spending another century being a powerful, positive presence in the lives of girls. Our determination to creating a Movement where people of diverse cultures are empowered, rewarded, and respected is evident in everything we do:
Girl Scouts have always believed, as Juliette Low said, 'Right is Right, Even if No One Else Does It.' Girl Scouts established its first troop for African American girls in 1917. Troops for all girls, including those who were physically challenged, Mexican-American, or Native American were established in the 1920s.
Connie L. Lindsey, our National President, said: "Our greatest responsibility is to serve our girls, by giving them access to opportunities that build their leadership skills and instill in them the knowledge that no dream is beyond their grasp."
We champion diversity and inclusion because we must accomplish a great mission: we must bring the benefits of Girl Scouts—our ability to help girls transform themselves, their communities, and our world—to every girl, no matter who they are or where they live.
Former GSUSA National Secretary
Diversity Cannot be a Buzz Word
It is a strategic imperative for successful families and communities in the United States and around the world. As a leadership organization, GSUSA is committed to helping girls develop into women who will be fully engaged as equal participants on the world stage. On the other hand, no strategy is ever deployed without taking small tactical steps. WE are the pipeline for diversity. By ensuring that GSUSA represents every strata of American society through adult volunteerism, Girl Scouting, and girl leadership, there is a strong investment in and commitment to the pipeline. Diversity requires action and demands putting your efforts behind your vision. GSUSA has begun a process of transformation that reaches across every ethnic, economic, and social demographic. This process is deeply tied to self-actualization of each individual girl. It's not about percentages; it's ensuring that not a single girl slips through the cracks.
By reaching back and touching one girl, who in turn touches someone else, we create a world that is effortlessly inclusive and delightful to inhabit. If we can do this, and we must, we will reach ALL children, families, communities, women, and men. This transformation will extend far beyond the confines of GSUSA, our councils, and our troops. This is about all of US.
Diversity is an imperative, one girl at a time.
Vikki L. Pryor
Former GSUSA National Board Member