Thursday, February 25, 2010

Time to Celebrate!

Girl Scout Week is right around the corner (March 7-13). That's the perfect week to shout it from the rooftops: "I'm a Girl Scout!" Celebrate being a Girl Scout and the 98 years of Girl Scouting history you are connected to. Now from the GSCTX staff, here are a few ways you can jump in and celebrate Girl Scout Week.
  • The Sunrise Service Unit often celebrates by working with local schools to have different Girl Scouts perform the school flag ceremony every day during Girl Scout Week. -Gayle, Membership
  • Adults can celebrate by attending the San Angelo area Women of Distinction Luncheon on March 11. -James, Resource Development
  • Register for summer camp! -Maranda, Camps
  • Learn to sign the Girl Scout Promise. -Cheryl, Communications
  • Wear your uniform to your religious services. I love seeing Girl Scouts in uniform at my church! -Juanita, Program Pathways
  • One cool idea is to visit the virtual Girl Scout Museum. -Heather, Volunteer Services
  • One year we decided that the best way to celebrate Girl Scout Week was to let other girls know how much fun we had in Girl Scouts so we had a cookout at the park and everyone invited friends that weren’t in Girl Scouts to join us. We played games and went on a hike and ate a great lunch. Several girls ended up joining that year because of that event. -Heather, Volunteer Services (Again! She's full of ideas!)
Happy Girl Scout Week and Girl Scout Birthday!

    Monday, February 22, 2010

    Get the Party Started

    I threw my first themed birthday party in seventh grade: a Spanish fiesta complete with a piñata, Gloria Estefan Spanish soundtrack, and a birthday cake with “Feliz Cumpleaños Panchita” (my Spanish class name). Since then, the parties have become more elaborate, more frequent and more fun!

    Event planning is exciting way to let your creative side loose. From invitation design to decorations, you can use your creative energy to plan a successful event. Now to be honest, it’s not all fun and cake; event planning requires lots of organization.

    I first experienced professional event planning during my graduate school internship. I was responsible for planning a 500 person event at the State House (the Massachusetts Capitol Building), which came with a huge planning notebook and long list of deadlines. As I began to plan the event, I enjoyed coordinating the event logistics and working with the selected venue staff and caterers. I always loved creating to-do lists in school and realized that event planning involved many of my interests and strengths.

    As I returned to Austin after graduate school, I met my future roommate, Ruthie Broughton, of Blue Box Events, a full service event coordinating and planning business. I was quickly recruited to assist with her larger events and we also became our social circle’s party-planning duo. Event planning quickly expanded from being my profession to a personal hobby as well!

    My favorite event to plan is the Women of Distinction luncheon. Not only do I get to work with a committee of fabulous women, but I have the distinct honor of interviewing the selected Women of Distinction honorees whose lives and experiences are beyond inspiring (be sure to check out this year's honorees!). The honorees’ accomplishments range from leading the civil rights and desegregation efforts in Austin to founding a successful woman-owned engineering firm in a historically male-dominated field. The women’s stories and advice are translated into personal vignettes of their lives, which are shown during the luncheon. Over 700 community and business leaders join us at the luncheon to celebrate the accomplishments of these women and support Girl Scouts of Central Texas. The attendees leave the event inspired by the women’s stories and committed to the mission and impact of Girl Scouts.

    It’s thrilling to see the event come together after months of hard work, including negotiations with facility and catering vendors, committee coordination, and fundraising. I am involved in every event detail from invitation design to centerpiece selection and audio visual coordination to raffle donation solicitation. With each event I plan, I feel like a proud parent at the end of the day when all activities are finished and everything ran smoothly.

    For someone interested in event planning, I would highly recommend researching internships with local event planning companies and within the hospitality industry. It is a highly competitive field, but as I discovered with Girl Scouts of Central Texas, one can have a career planning events with unexpected organizations and businesses. Beyond my love of event planning, I truly enjoy planning inspiring events that support girls as they become the next generation of women leaders.

    -Stephanie Flora

    Stephanie is the Development Executive for Corporate and Special Events. She is the primary event planner for the Austin Women of Distinction luncheon and S'more Soirée.

    Thursday, February 18, 2010

    The State of Texas Children

    The Annie E. Casey Foundation and Texas KIDS COUNT have released the 2009-2010 State of Texas Children Report. There are lots of interesting findings from birth weights to high school test scores. Here are some of the more interesting and/or shocking.
    • There are approximately 2.3 million children age 5 or under in Texas.
    • While 16.3% of the overall Texas population lives in poverty, the child poverty rate is a staggering 23.1%.
    • Nearly 54,000 births per year are to mothers ages 13-19.
    • It is projected that nearly a quarter of Texas children do not have health insurance.
    • In 2008 there were more than 70,000 confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect.
    • 26% of children ages 3-4 are in public Pre-K, up from 19.4%.
    • 92% of 11th graders pass the English reading section of the TAKS test.
    • Only 65% of 10th graders pass the Math section of the TAKS test.
    Which of these statistics make your jaw drop in disappointment? Which of these make your heart swell with pride or give you hope? What causes some of these findings? How can we reverse the ones we're upset by and further the positive trends? What can you do right now in your home or your community to better the state of children?

    Change can be a slow process but by each of us committing ourselves to our youth and the future of Texas, we can make a difference.

    -Cheryl Black

    Monday, February 15, 2010

    Volunteer Essentials

    Rolling out the new Volunteer Essentials document has been an interesting process with so many people collaborating to make it something that is useful and accessible for every member! Volunteer Services, Membership, Programs, Product Sales and Registration have all had a hand in the content of this unique resource. The Communications Department has been instrumental in getting it posted to the Web site as a PDF, then as searchable text on the Web site itself. But most importantly the feedback from the volunteers that have seen it and will be using it has been invaluable. They gave us editing tips. They gave us content feedback; they have tweaked a good document and made it better.
    “Volunteer Essentials is a resource for volunteers serving in any pathway, and can also be used for volunteers who do not work directly with girls. It offers information about Girl Scouts as a movement and a tradition, asks volunteers to assess their skills and competencies, discusses the GSLE and journeys, highlights other program offerings, shares information about healthy development in girls, instructs volunteers in how to keep girls safe, gives information on taking trips and hosting events, and tells volunteers how to help girls manage group finances, including details on Girl Scout Cookie sales.” -Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA)

    In an effort to make Girl Scouting consistent across the country and serve all the girls and volunteers, GSUSA created Volunteer Essentials. They noticed that many councils had created their own "operating manuals" (ours was called Directions). They varied from council to council and covered many different topics so that if you moved form Texas to Washington or even just New York to New Jersey, you weren’t necessarily getting the same information or training. GSUSA decided that in order to be consistent they needed a nationally consistent module that would address the main points and still be somewhat customizable. There are, after all, differences geographically and culturally that may have to be addressed.

    The finished product accomplishes just that! It is succinct without being to brief it is thorough without belaboring the point! I am pleased with it and I hope to see it serve as a resource that every volunteer will refer to often and use as needed!

    Check out Volunteer Essentials now.

    -Heather Givens

    Wednesday, February 10, 2010

    A Promise & A Sign

    I've been a Girl Scout for a long time and in a variety of capacities. No matter my age or type of involvement though, camp has always been my favorite part of Girl Scouting. And one of my favorite camp activities is not one you necessarily expect to find at camp. It's not horseback riding, not swimming and not eating s'mores.

    It's sign language.

    I first discovered American Sign Language at Girl Scout camp and the first thing I could sign beyond the alphabet was the Girl Scout Promise. Since learning the Promise brought so much joy, interest and pride to my childhood camp experience, I want to share it with all Girl Scouts.

    Now in no particular order, here are some reasons I think its cool to sign the Girl Scout Promise.
    • It allows Girl Scouts to share the backbone of Girl Scouting with more of their Girl Scout sisters.
    • It can be a great addition to any of your Girl Scout ceremonies or activities.
    • It is a relatively quick introduction to American Sign Language.
    • A slightly longer reason - American Sign Language can be a good second language option for students who struggle with foreign language or reading. My family discovered this firsthand when a very bright high school counselor suggested it for my brother. Once in the class, he excelled.
    Learning this fun and useful language can build girls' confidence and empower them to try even more new things. I hope you find signing the Girl Scout Promise to be as exciting as I found it to be.

    -Cheryl Black

    P.S. Mastered the alphabet and the Promise and ready to move on? Try teaching yourself the signs to a favorite song! I once learned "Yellow Submarine" and when The Lion King was all the rage, I learned "Can you feel the love tonight."

    Monday, February 8, 2010

    Girls Conflicted About Body Image, Role of Fashion Industry

    New research from the Girl Scout Research Institute (GSRI) supports what many parents, educators and youth advocates have believed for years:
    The increased scrutiny of the fashion industry and its use of ultrathin models isn’t without validation, as nearly 9 in 10 American teenage girls say that the fashion industry is at least partially responsible for "girls' obsession with being skinny," according to a national survey released today by the Girl Scouts of the USA.
    The research also indicates that girls would prefer to see more natural beauty in the media. In fact, 81% of girls would rather see natural photos of models as opposed to the adjusted and airbrushed versions and 75% say they are more likely to purchase clothes shown on real-size models as opposed to stick thin models.

    Yet despite these findings, it's clear that girls have a love-hate relationship with fashion and body image. Contradicting the aforementioned findings, 48% of girls wish they were as thin as the models in fashion magazines and 41% prefer to see the latest fashions modeled on thin women than fuller-figured women.

    Other findings from GSRI's research include
    • 47% say fashion magazines give them a body image to strive for yet,
    • 65% say the body image represented by the fashion industry is too skinny and 28% say the fashion industry body image looks sick.
    • 31% of girls admit to starving themselves or refusing to eat as a weight loss strategy and
    • 20% of girls consider plastic surgery and/or weight-loss surgery acceptable.
    • However 79% of Hispanic girls, 76% of African-American girls and 72% of Caucasian report being satisfied with their bodies.
    The tangled web of girl body image can be seen in nearly every one of these findings.

    Body image, the fashion industry's role and these survey results, will be addressed at New York City's Fashion Week by Girl Scouts of the USA. The conversation can be viewed live via online streaming video at on Wednesday, February 10, 5 p.m. CST.

    What's Happening Locally

    Girl Scouts of Central Texas (GSCTX) recognizes that adolescence is an especially challenging time for girls and their self-esteem. With programs, volunteer trainings and merchandise, GSCTX continually strives to help girls develop into confident young women. Through its "grow strong" initiative, Girl Scouts of Central Texas hopes to help girls untangle their body image and develop a strong, healthy sense of self. Programs such as the Girls' Respect Conference encourage open, healthy conversations about relevant issues like body image and self-esteem, and ultimately assist in the development of confident young women.

    Additionally, GSCTX offers merchandise through the shops that girls can feel confident and stylish in no matter what their size or shape. With 75% of girls citing fashion as very important; stylish, affordable and age-appopriate merchandise is essential to meeting the needs and interests of all girls.

    For More Information

    -Cheryl Black

    Thursday, February 4, 2010

    4 Cool Countries for World Thinking Day

    The theme for World Thinking Day 2010 is girls worldwide say "together we can end extreme poverty and hunger." (See more information from Girl Scouts of the USA.) Girls voted and selected Germany, Kuwait, Peru, the Philippines, and South Africa to represent the five regions of World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS).

    In addition to the countries selected through WAGGGS, here are 4 really cool, Thinking Day-worthy countries you might want to consider exploring this year.
    • Haiti: Learning about Haiti can help girls better understand the recent earthquake and it's effects. You can start with this story about a Haitian Girl Scout who is helping her country recover. Activity idea - build and start a philanthropy campaign to help Haiti relief efforts.
    • Canada: In just a few days Canada will be hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics and will be the center of the sports world. That makes Canada extra cool this year. Activity idea - learn, watch or play the national sport of ice hockey!
    • Mexico: As our southern neighbor, Mexico's culture greatly influences Texas and the whole US. Mexico is also home to one of the WAGGGS World Centers: Our Cabana providing with even more significance for Girl Scouts. Activity idea - enjoy delicous tamales as part of your learning experience!
    • Denmark: This European country was recently deemed the happiest place on Earth and Copenhagen was named one of the most liveable cities. Activity idea - take part in the Danish tradition of bicycle riding.
    Every country has its own fascinating culture. These are just a few ideas to get your global-creative juices flowing. Now we want to know, which country or countries are you investigating during World Thinking Day and what are you doing as part of your exploring?

    -Cheryl Black

    P.S. Be sure to get your World Thinking Day patch at the council shops.

    Monday, February 1, 2010

    Future Biomedical Engineer

    Devynn is a member of the Robotics Rulers team from Waco. Learn about her experience by reading the Q&A below!

    Why did you first get involved in the Girl Scout robotics team?
    I wanted to be on a team where there would be other girls that had the same interests as me. I also thought the idea of building a robot was pretty cool.

    What have you learned from your FIRST Lego League experience?
    I learned many things over the last few months. I learned many things about structural engineering, engineering design, computer programming, working together as a team, and that your ideas won't always be perfect the first time. But the most important thing i have learned while being on this team that what you learn is more important than what you win. For many people they seem to think what you win is more important because it is tangible, even though you can show off a trophy, that trophy wont get you a career, learning will.

    What was the most challenging project your team had and how did you overcome it?
    Working together is always hard because everyone has there own ideas, and it can be hard to listen to other people when you have tons of ideas that you want to try out to see if they work.

    What advice can you give a girl who is intimidated or scared by science?
    There is no reason to be scared or intimidated because its actually pretty easy after you start working with science ideas. You don't have to be the smartest person in your class to be interested in science. Anyone is smart enough to do it as long as they have the will to learn about it. So if you are interested in a science group, try it. If you find out that you don't like it you don't have to continue for the rest of your life with it.Also if you are in a science group, you will learn things that the rest of your friends don't know.

    What do you want to be when you grow up?
    I want to be a Biomedical Engineer.

    -Devynn R., Girl Scout Cadette

    To learn more about Girl Scout robotics teams or other technology programs, visit the EDGE.