Friday, April 26, 2013

Serving as a Role Model to Girl Scouts

On April 13, University of Texas student, Harry S. Truman scholar and Girl Scout volunteer Jordan Metoyer addressed the audience at the Honors Day ceremony on campus. She spoke of her volunteer experience mentoring a group of girls whom she grew to befriend and someone they soon saw a role model. And that's exactly what Jordan and countless other volunteers are to our girls - role models. You show girls what they can aspire to be - a strong and successful woman built of courage, confidence and character. Read Jordan's speech below.

Jordan_Metoyer-Photo (1)

"I am honored to be before you today and give the warmest congratulations to every Distinguished College Scholar and College Scholar in this room. You have worked diligently, made difficult sacrifices, and juggled rigorous academics with jobs, research, extra-curricular activities, or a daunting combination of all three. I applaud each and every one of you for your dedication towards academic excellence.

Today, I would like to offer my personal experience with a dedication of another kind; dedication to community service and benefiting others.

Before my first day as a Girl Scouts troop volunteer in East Austin's Booker T. Washington public housing project, my supervisor gave me cautionary tales of the girls’ violence and misbehavior. Part of me began to worry, but then I remembered that my friends in my hometown of Inglewood and I were often given the same "at-risk" label growing up. On my first day, I met Shaye, the oldest of five siblings and aspiring pediatrician. When I told Shaye where I was from and where I attended school, she looked bewildered, not believing that anyone who shared her background could be successful in college. Shaye and the other Girl Scouts looked at the University of Texas's tower as a symbol of the unobtainable, and viewed many of its students as privileged, particularly those who volunteered once and never returned. The thought that my troop did not believe in their potential disappointed me, and filled me with purpose. In hearing their self-doubt, I committed not only to volunteering, but also to building personal relationships with the girls. Every time I returned, the girls’ trust grew, and soon I was no longer an outsider, but someone whom Shaye called a friend and role model.

We know, all too intimately, that what starts here changes the world. In addition to this powerful phrase, I am captured and by the words that rest near the university tower steps – the core purpose of the university. It reads, “To transform lives for the betterment of society.”

In order to complete this task, we must have dedication to our dreams, no matter how unachievable or temporal they may seem. I challenge you all today to find and dedicate yourself to a cause that not only leaves you richer for the experience but the world better for your efforts.

I have complete assurance that this group before me has transformed and will continue to transform lives for the betterment of the world."

Thank you,
Jordan Metoyer

Thursday, April 25, 2013

West, TX Update

Fellow Girl Scouts, At this time, we know that leaders in West are safe and that, to our knowledge, so are our girl members. We have been in touch with the Service Unit Director and right now they are holding tight until they can assess what is needed.

We have been getting a lot of questions about how we can help the community of West as they deal with the fallout from last week’s tragedy. The outpouring of support has been incredible but right now we are getting the message that the community is overwhelmed with donations. Presently they are still grieving, planning funerals and trying to get into their homes. We know that many funds have been set up to collect cash and gift card donations but until we vet the organizations collecting the donations we will not put out this information. Unfortunately, scams abound in these situations. After talking with the area SUDs and the Mayor’s office, we are going to wait and see what the community needs in the coming weeks and then plan our response. We are looking at some type of project around gift cards and if we finalize that we will let everyone know.

If you are in the Waco area, there is a need for volunteers to sift through donations at the Disaster Warehouse. If someone is interested in helping they can call Captain Debbie Alderson on her cell at 254-733-2680. The warehouse is located at 101 Apron Dr., Waco 76705, which is on the TSTC Campus.

I will keep everyone appraised of any new developments. In the meantime, prayers are very welcome and needed.

Feel free to share this information with your volunteers as we know they are concerned and anxious to help, like the true Girl Scouts they are.

-Carol Keierleber, GSCTX Interim CEO

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Austin Workplace for Women Spotlight - Amelia Bullock Realtors

Amelia bullock realtors
Amelia Bullock Realtors
For more than 40 years, Amelia Bullock Realtors has been a leader in the Austin residential market, building a reputation as a respected company with stellar agents, expertise in corporate relocation, and a strong commitment to the Central Texas community. Based on the premise that purchasing a home should be a win/win for everyone, the company owes its success to two extraordinary women—co-owners Amanda Bullock and Barbara Wallace, who support a nurturing culture that values family, cooperation rather than competition, and empowers an overwhelmingly female staff with the training and resources to be the best in the business. Both genteel southern women with an abundance of charm and determination, they have complimentary skill sets: Amanda has a background in fashion design and is adept at advertising and promotion, while Barbara holds in a degree in business education and excels in the financial areas and heads up the firm’s thriving relocation services. Amelia Bullock Realtors currently has over 90 agents who work from two locations; one in Northwest Hills and another in West Lake. The company is dedicated to providing service with quality, value and integrity and to maintaining an environment where courtesy, civility and service are paramount to all else.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, please visit our website. 

Austin Women of Distinction Spotlight - Melinda Garvey

Melinda Garvey
Melinda Garvey
As publisher of Austin Woman Magazine (AWM), Melinda Garvey has revolutionized the way women communicate in Austin. Seeing a need for a woman’s magazine she and lifelong friend Samantha Stevens took a chance. A decade later with distribution at over 1500 locations, AWM has become the go-to magazine for women in Central Texas. In 2011 she and her husband and co-publisher Christopher Garvey launched ATX Man, also a major success. The Garveys not only support hundreds of organizations through the magazines and associated events, but has chaired the first Go Red Campaign, co-chaired a campaign to help families of premature babies, and is a past president of Wonders & Worries. Reared in Indianapolis, she is a graduate of DePauw University and worked in DC for over ten years—first in advertising and then for a community newspaper. She was inspired to start AWM because she realized that “people love to read about people.” A modest woman ever ready to credit her staff, she is a self-confessed TV junkie and is passionate about good food and wine. She and Christopher, who has overseen the marketing and events for the magazines since 2010, have a five year old son, Beckum, and enjoy spending time with on the water with Melinda’s parents in Horseshoe Bay.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, please visit our website. 

Austin Women of Distinction Spotlight - Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr

Chief Kerr Jacket
Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr
Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr is a fourth-generation firefighter and the first woman to serve as Chief of the Austin Fire Department. An active young girl and sports enthusiast, she received a degree in physical education and was teaching high school in Fort Lauderdale when a friend suggested that she apply for cadet training at the local fire department. It was a turning point in her life, and the start of a stellar career. She earned an associate’s degree in Fire Science Technology and two certifications from Harvard, rising through the ranks to become an officer and then second in command at the Fort Lauderdale Fire Department. In 2004, she became the first female Fire Chief in Little Rock, winning accolades for her innovation leadership. Five years later, she would beat out a group of national candidates to head the Austin Fire Department, where she has won high marks for her innovation, ability to build consensus and community outreach. Chief Kerr is the past chair of the Human Relations Committee of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Director of the National Society of Executive Fire Officers, and actively involved in community organizations including the local chapter of the American Red Cross and the Austin Area Urban League.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, please visit our website. 

Austin Women of Distinction Spotlight - MP Mueller

MP  Mueller
MP Mueller
Mary Pat “MP” Mueller is an astute business woman and entrepreneur well known in the Central Texas community for her colorful and occasionally outrageous sense of style and her willingness to share her talents and expertise with a broad range of community non-profits including the Austin Breast Cancer Research Center, I Live Here I Give Here, New Milestones Foundation, People’s Community Clinic, the Humane Society and the Alamo. Starting out as a one-person operation working from her bedroom, she went on to found Door Number #3, an award winning marketing and public relations agency with a staff of 12 and annual billings of $5,000,000. Additionally, MP authors a highly entertaining blog on marketing for the New York Times, is a nationally known guest speaker on marketing topics, and is particularly proud of her membership on the Board of Foster Angels, which helps Texas children in the foster care system. MP has two young adult children, Lawrence and Helen, and is busy planning an October wedding with George Gau, a business professor at UT Austin. She credits Girl Scouts with teaching her girls can do anything; how to set goals and reach them, and how to create the perfect sit upon.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, please visit our website. 

Austin Women of Distinction Spotlight - Meredith Cooper

Meredith Cooper
Meredith Cooper
Meredith Cooper was one of the first professionals in Austin to become certified in the emerging field of Child Life Support, a rigorous process with interdisciplinary training to develop a friendly and family-centered approach to serving children hospitalized with chronic or long-term illnesses. She began working with Children’s Hospital, first as a Junior League volunteer, and then as the first pediatric oncology child life specialist at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders. But recognizing another need, she shifted her focus to children with a family member experiencing a catastrophic illness. In 2001 she joined with Missy Hicks to co-founded Wonders & Worries, an Austin-based non-profit to offer services to children of cancer patients. Since then Wonders & Worries has helped over 1,000 children in families affected by illnesses ranging from diabetes to Alzheimer’s. As Executive Director for the past two decades, Meredith is widely admired not only for her compassion and abilities as a healer but her administrative savvy and fundraising talents. Meredith is married to Duane Cooper, a financial adviser at Wells Fargo Advisors, and has three grown children, Ross, Kristen and Caroline. She is proud of her family’s tradition in Girl Scouting—her mother Caryl was her troop leader and both daughters were Girl Scouts.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, please visit our website.

Austin Women of Distinction Spotlight - Sylvia Acevedo

Sylvia Acevedo
Sylvia Acevedo
As a young girl growing up in Las Cruses, New Mexico, Sylvia Acevedo saw first-hand how Girl Scouting can empower women and change lives for the better. With the support and encouragement of their local troop, her mother Ofelia learned to speak English, enabling her to file for US citizenship. Sylvia holds engineering degrees from both New Mexico State University and Stanford, and held prestigious positions with Fortune 500 companies including IBM, Dell and Apple. But deeply motivated by social equity issues, in 2007 she marshaled her professional expertise and formidable networking abilities to develop scalable solutions in education, workforce and health. Within six years, Sylvia created national mobilization campaigns that drew over 225,000 attendees and created systems to give books, toothbrushes, playground balls and eyeglasses to children in need. Named one of the top 100 American Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math by US News & World Report, she was appointed to the White House Commission for Educational Excellence for Hispanics in 2011 and presented with the Ohtli Award, Mexico’s most prestigious civil rights recognition for non-Mexican nationals. Sylvia and her partner, Dr. Janet Osimo enjoy sports and travel and are devoted to their rescue dogs, Cali and Nisso.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, please visit our website.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Killeen Workplace for Women Spotlight - HEB

HEB logo(new)

H-E-B Grocery Company (Central Texas Region) is known for honouring the accomplishments of their women in the workplace. H-E-B supports and encourages their female employees to work their way up through the company and honors their accomplishments along the way through their own “Women of Distinction”. The company also encourages them to go out into the community and represent the culture that they have found within the H-E-B Grocery Company (Central Texas Region). Many women excel in this workplace environment as evidenced by all the women to be found in leadership roles within the company. However, few realize that many of these women started out their careers as cashiers or baggers. H-E-B Grocery Company (Central Texas Region) provides the perfect culture and opportunities for women to succeed in business.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, visit our website. 

Killeen Women of Distinction Spotlight - Betty Thrasher

Betty Thrasher
Betty Thrasher
Betty Thrasher was born in Waco and grew up in Rosebud, Texas. She graduated from Rosebud High School and went on to attend the University of Texas at Austin. She is married to her husband, Robert, and has two sons, two grandsons, and two great-grandsons.

Betty grew up in a working class family to which she credits her success. Betty began working with Dart Industry’s skin care and make up business for years before opening up her own store, The Rosebud in 1979. From the time she was young, Betty always knew that she was interested in fabric, quality and design which helped her run this successful woman’s boutique for over 30 years. The primary goal she had for her business was to offer personal service to each and every customer. Betty took pride in her boutique and news of its service and selection spread quickly. Women looked to Betty and her staff for advice and fashion guidance, so much so that she became the go to person for women who were visiting the White House. 

Along with her love of fashion, Betty has always had a great love for helping others, especially children. After her retirement, she combined these two loves by devoting her time and energy to organizing fashion shows for the benefit of area service groups and non profits. The success of The Rosebud gave her the opportunity to put on countless fashion shows on behalf of various organizations such as Contemporaries, Altrusa, Federation of Womens Clubs, Children’s Miracle Network and Hadassah just to name a few. Betty’s fashion shows were very successful and raised many thousands of dollars. On top of all of her fashion show efforts, she gave countless hours to the McLane Children’s Hospital and is a member of the Visionares for the Scott & White Healthcare Foundation. Betty loves to help others look good so that they can feel good.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, visit our website. 

Killeen Women of Distinction Spotlight - JoAnn Purser

JoAnn Purser
JoAnn Purser
JoAnn Purser was born in Hampton, Virginia and raised in San Antonio before moving to Killeen, Texas at the age of 11. She graduated from Killeen High School and went on to earn a Real Estate license. She is married to her husband, Gary, has two children and one grandson.

JoAnn began her working career as a roller skating car hop at Sonic. She has come a long way from that first job, working as a fitness consultant at Fitness World and even owning a ladies clothing store called Style Shop. JoAnn’s current professional work is on a completely different level. JoAnn owns a home building company, Purser Homes, and a rental property within the company called Bentina Rentals. She is now focused on creating an age restricted neighborhood in Killeen. This neighborhood is called The Villas at Lion’s Park and is meant to target residents ages 55 and older.

JoAnn’s business success is evident, but she takes it one step further and always gives back to her community. She was extremely active in her children’s school PTA as she served as PTA President for Reeces Creek Elementary and Nolan Middle School. On top of all of this, she has served as Junior Service League President, Vice President of Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce, and Metroplex Hospital Foundation Board Member and Gala Chairman where she organized the first four years of The Gold Star Hospital Gala. She currently serves as the School Board Trustee for Killeen ISD and she and her husband take great pride in doing what they can for their community. This has included donating land for the Purser Family Park in Harker Heights where they have sponsored an annual Easter Egg Hunt for the First United Methodist Church for 20 years and sponsoring the Gary Purser Jr. Family Fitness Room at The Lions Club Senior Center. JoAnn has had incredible success both in her professional and philanthropic careers, bringing to the table her vision, experience and leadership.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, visit our website. 

Killeen Women of Distinction Spotlight - Linda Pelton

Linda Pelton
Linda Pelton
Linda Grace Smith Pelton was born outside of Caldwell, Texas. She traveled and grew up around the world in Virginia, Germany, and France before her family settled in Killeen, Texas. She graduated from Killeen High School before going on to Prairie View A&M University. Soon after, she earned her Master’s from the University of Mary Hardin Baylor. She has been married to her husband, Johnny, for over forty years and has four children and three grandchildren.

Since the time Linda was 13, she knew that she wanted to be a teacher and it was the perfect career for the life she led. Once her husband retired, she was able to combine her love for teaching and volunteering into one through her job as the First Parent/Community Facilitator. After completing her Master’s degree, she was Principal of Haynes Elementary School for nine years. She has made a commitment to being an educator and has continued to do so throughout her life. Currently, she serves as a student teaching supervisor, mentor, and temporary administrator.

Linda has always put volunteering at the center of her life, even as a child. When she was eight-years-old she became a Girl Scout and eventually worked her way to the rank of First Class which was the highest honor at the time. She began teaching Bible School from the time she was 13 and still continues to do so to this day. She spends her free time directing Vacation Bible Schools, assisting new converts in her church, and volunteering for Officer’s Wives Club and Meals on Wheels. On top of all of this, Linda has been an adult member of the Girl Scouts for the past 30 years and has held almost every volunteer position imaginable, last serving as the Board Chair for the Girl Scouts of Central Texas. Linda has been actively involved for 25 years with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority which eventually led to her co-chairing a regional conference, bringing together women from Texas, Louisiana, and Arkansas. In 2004, Linda was the founding president of the Killeen Area Alliance of Black School Educators. Linda truly believes that being given the opportunity to be an educator has been the greatest gift of her life.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, visit our website.

Killeen Women of Distinction Spotlight - Kris Kaiser Olson

Kris Kaiser Olson
Kris Kaiser Olson
Kris Kaiser Olson was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Waco, Texas. She graduated from Waco Public Schools before going on to earn her Bachelor of Science in Education with a focus on Speech Pathology and Audiology from Baylor University. She married her husband after graduating from college and has two daughters and one granddaughter.

After graduating from college, Kris worked at the Texas State Capitol for the House of Representatives where she found her calling: advocating for others. Her love of this began in her first job and transferred to her school PTA when her daughters began going through public school. She realized that parents needed to have more of a say in their school improvement and she set out to start a chapter of Parents for Public Schools in Waco. She even spent a few years as the Director of Communications for the national chapter and she became the director for the local chapter later on. Once her daughter’s graduated, she knew that it was time to pass on the position to someone else. Kris truly believes that children do better in school when they have good home lives and have access to correct, age appropriate information.

Kris has been a member on over 50 boards for advocacy throughout her lifetime. She has been blessed with a wonderful family and she has made it her goal in life to offer that kind of support to others. Kris helps others find their voice and to speak up for themselves, or if they are unable to, to be the voice for them. Kris has devoted her life to serving others and to making sure that every child has the opportunity to succeed in life.

For more information on this year's Women of Distinction events, visit our website. 

Killeen Women of Distinction Spotlight - Diane Moore Connell

Diane Connell
Diane Moore Connell
Diane Moore Connell was born in White Plains, New York and grew up around the world moving with her family as her father was a pilot in the U.S. Air force. She graduated from Burgess High School before going on to graduate from The University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies. She is married to her husband, Ted, and has two stepchildren, four grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

Diane’s working career began when she was in college as she worked her way through UT’s Budget Office. Upon graduation, she made a big decision to move to Washington D.C. to begin her career. She started out working at the Veterans Administration before going on to become the legislative assistant to Texas Congressman Olin E. Teague. Diane then decided it was time to return to Texas and worked for House Speaker Gus Mutscher in Austin. She then made a slight change in her career path and worked in real estate until her marriage.

One of her biggest accomplishments was her work with Connell Chevrolet. She relocated the dealership from its former downtown location to Central Texas Expressway and continued operating it for 11 years. Her work didn’t stop there; she still was extremely active throughout her community. Not only was Diane the founding Chairman of Vive Les Arts Societe of Killeen-Harker Heights, but also the founding treasurer of Metroplex Hospital Gift Shop. On top of all of this she was the Director of Texas Automobile Dealers Association from 2005-2010 as well as Vice Chairman for the Killeen Centennial. Through her example, Diane truly inspires young girls to believe in themselves.

For more information about this year's Women of Distinction events, visit our website.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Updates on Property & the Long Range Property Process

Memo: Updates on Property and the Long Range Property Process

From:  Kirsten Billhardt, Board Chair, Girl Scouts of Central Texas

Date:  April 17, 2013

At our annual meeting in late January, I shared some of the key goals we have at the Board level.  First, we need to find and onboard a new CEO who will guide us to become a stronger and more united organization, better able to fulfill our mission to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place.  Second, we are focusing on our property portfolio.  We own or lease quite a bit of camp property, Scout Houses, and Program Centers  in our 46 counties and it does require a good share of our financial resources to just keep up with simple maintenance and upkeep.    

In regard to our second goal of assessing GSCTX properties, we have made a few decisions that we would like to share with the community. 

  1. Moving the Brownwood Program Center – Our facilities staff has found a new space in Brownwood for our four staff members and computer lab.  This location will be shared with other community organizations, including the Red Cross and Boy Scouts, which opens up opportunities to collaborate in the community.   We are able to end the lease of our existing building, which had an unusable third floor and was not a desirable facility.
  2. Place Camp Wood Lake on rest – Camp Wood Lake served less than 200 girls last year (as compared to over 4000 at Texlake and 1500 at Kachina) and cost the Council over $50k in maintenance.   We have placed this property on “rest” – which means we have closed the property for reservations.  This allows us to make immediate and necessary cuts in spending, while we as a community study the value this property adds for the girls. There will be opportunities for the local community to give input around this process before any final decisions are made.
  3. Temple Area Service Center - We have asked the Facilities Director to research a more cost effective way to continue our Girl Scout presence in the Temple area, and bring recommendations back to the Board.
  4. Renaming of Program Centers – To reduce confusion, the names of the Program Centers need to be consistent with names that are commonly used by most volunteers and staff.  This is also a unification activity to move past previous council names.
·         Bluebonnet becomes Waco Area Service Center
·         El Camino becomes San Angelo Area Service Center
·         Heart of Texas becomes Brownwood Area Service Center
·         Lone Star becomes Kodosky Service Center, Austin area.

As many of you are aware, we kicked off a Long Range Property Planning process to engage our volunteers in helping shape the role that property has in our Council, and to make further recommendations to the Board as to future changes in the property portfolio.   A cross-council volunteer task force was put together, and a series of Program Visioning workshops were held across our community.

A number of significant concerns came up over the past few months.  Most importantly – volunteers did not feel they had adequate and timely knowledge of the Program Visioning workshops, so they missed their opportunity to have their voices heard.   There was also demand for more information about our properties, which is under development by facilities staff and will be posted on our website within the next few weeks.  Also, many of the task force members were not able to attend key meetings, leaving decisions in the hands of just a few.  And finally – there were concerns that not every task force member was able to be objective in their participation.

Due to all these concerns, we have decided that given the importance of this initiative, we need to start over with the Long Range Property Planning process.   We disbanded the existing task force, with the exception of the Chair, and will be forming a new task force.   Here is the process moving forward:

  1. Recruit new task force members made up of Council volunteers and Board Members and community members with strong property backgrounds who do not have a volunteer history with Council.   Applications are available here and will be accepted until May 20.  
  2. Schedule a new series of Program Visioning workshops with a minimum of 60 days notice.  We expect these workshops to kick off in August.
  3. Gather the recommended data for all Council properties and programs for use by task force members.
  4. Publish a draft of the task force’s recommendations for review by all volunteers prior to presentation to the Board for its final decision.  We will be asking for your comments and concerns.

We are looking forward to working through key property decisions with a team that is cognizant of the history of the Council, but able to think of the needs of our girls moving forward.   While I am quite sure that we will have to make some tough decisions that some will be unhappy with, I know that the end result will be the ability to invest more dollars in assets and programs that will directly benefit our girls.  

Yours in Girl Scouting –

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Cookie Isn't Just a Cookie!

We have a brand new PSA thanks to our friends at Moth to Flame (MTF)! The amazing MTF team donated their time, talent and services to help us produce 'A Cookie Isn't Just a Cookie,' which is set to officially premiere at the Austin Women of Distinction luncheon on Wednesday, April 24, 2012.  

Enjoy a special preview here exclusively for our social media community! Tell us what you think! Do you see future actresses in the making? We do!

About Moth to Flame: Christine Chen, MTF Founder and Creative Director and Michelle Casanova, MTF Business Developement and Accounts Manager teamed up to write, produce and direct the GSCTX promotional spot 'A Cookie Just Isn't a Cookie' for this year's Women of Distinction. This spot for Girl Scouts is one of many productions the team has worked on. In addition to working in corporate, creative and special events film production, Christine and Michelle are University of Texas at Austin alumnae. Christine founded MTF while attending the Texas MBA program at the McCombs School of Business with Michelle. Both women graduated in 2012 and have since worked on several initiatives that promote women's strength and leadership around the world. For more information, visit their website. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Why I Continue to Give Back

Belize Blog Post Photo 4

Belize Blog Post Photo 3From the time I was young, my parents always encouraged me to help others. I believe that is a big part of the reason why I fell in love with Girl Scouts. I started as a Daisy with my troop in San Antonio and worked my way up through Cadettes earning my Bronze Award in my final year. Unfortunately, high school band took over much of my life and I had to leave Girl Scouts. However, I never lost the love of helping others that I got from my time in Girl Scouting. It stayed with me and I always made an effort to volunteer or do whatever I could to help. When the opportunity came for me to join my church family on a mission trip in Belize, I jumped on it.

Having an experience such as this one had always been a dream of mine and I was finally ready to make it happen. The invitation to participate was one of the greatest moments of my life, but little did I know that this week-long trip would have such an impact on my life. Before this trip, I didn't know where Belize was on a map and I had never done anywhere near the type of construction work that was going to be asked of me. From my years as a Girl Scout, I knew I could learn a lot from this experience and that I would be successful in my journey.

Belize Blog Post Photo 2I learned so much about Belize and saw both the beauty of the area and the poverty of the people. Being able to work with ‘Hand in Hand Ministries’, an amazing organization, allowed us to learn and be successful in our mission. The trip also had a great effect on me as an individual. I learned so much about myself and it changed my outlook on life. There is no greater feeling than immersing yourself in a foreign country and helping someone you have never met before. My team built a home for a woman named Margaret and her family and my heart filled with pride and joy on that last day when we handed her over the keys. We had created a home for someone from nothing. Our team rose to the challenge and within three days, we made it happen.

With the utmost confidence, I can say that I am ready to take on the world after this experience. I would encourage all fellow Girl Scouts to volunteer – whether it be for your local community or one abroad. There is no time like the present so be sure to always be looking for ways to help others! Experiences like this one will forever hold a place in your heart.

-Ileana Isabel Barrientez, Spring Public Relations Intern