It’s no surprise that Bay Area Girl Scout alum Michele Gee has pursued a career making our world a better place. After reading about her in a recent profile by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, we were eager to reach out and ask her to reflect on her years as a Girl Scout. We also wanted to hear more about her experience leading people and programs for the most visited unit of the National Park Service in the country, and the largest urban park in the world.
Can you describe your role at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area?
As the Chief of Interpretation and Education at the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes sites like Alcatraz, Muir Woods, and Fort Point, I oversee our visitor centers, public programs, and interpretive media for the 15 million visitors each year. Although that is a lot of people, there are many more that are not visiting, as they have historically been excluded from national parks and public spaces. To address this challenge, I work to engage schools, community groups, and college students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to visit or work at their national park.
My goal is to increase access to parks and create transformative experiences that help people examine the values and principles of our society as well as their own values and beliefs. Hopefully, this will inspire visitors to be better stewards of the environment and their own communities.
Tell us about being a Girl Scout growing up.
I was actively involved as a Girl Scout in the East Bay for nine years starting as a Brownie. Our troop was fun and adventurous. I remember we did a lot of activities to earn patches and went hiking and camping. As we got older we still had fun, but our focus shifted to honing our leadership skills. Our troop leader had us facilitating meetings, taking notes, and organizing a lot of projects. We also spent many early Saturday mornings washing mail trucks at the local post office to earn money to go places like National Center West in Tensleep, Wyoming. I still remember that road trip, where we camped in a lightning storm and grew closer over our many shared meals.
During my senior year, I received my Gold Award along with other troop members for setting up an emergency communication station at our high school. We all learned Morse Code and got our Ham Radio licenses, and raised money to put radio equipment in the school. We then created a club to recruit others to help run the station.
As a Girl Scout, we were always pushing boundaries in terms of what we could do and what others expected us to do. These experiences bonded many of us for life. Because of Girl Scouts, I still have lasting friendships with the amazing women from my troop.
How did Girl Scouts prepare you for your career?
Growing up, I knew how special it was to be part of Girl Scout Troop 576, but I don’t think that I really understood at the time how much I was gaining in terms of confidence and skills, which has certainly helped me advance my career. Many girls dropped out before they finished elementary school. I also stopped for a few years but rejoined later and I really thank my troop leader who recognized the potential in us to grow and learn together. She helped us to run cookie sales for our region and had us aiming higher every year. After many years of selling calendars in the fall, we made a successful pitch to be featured in the calendar our last year.
By the time I started my first job, leading meetings, creating timelines, and delegating roles came naturally. I also knew what it felt like to help others and our environment and wanted to continue that in my career. I thought I wanted to go into social work but in college realized how much we needed to better protect our environment. I loved working with kids so environmental education was a natural next step. This all led to a career in the parks working toward environmental and social justice.
What advice do you have for the next generation?
Today I lead a team of about 60 people who help others understand environmental stewardship principles while connecting them to history and stories that changed our nation. Many on staff are young people just starting their careers, so I always encourage each of them to be agents of change. They have the power to transform our society into one that is more environmentally sustainable, just, and fair. Girl Scouts helped me understand my power at a young age and I want to help others harness their own power, especially young women.
Meet Michele and hear her talk about her passion in her own words:
- Girl Scout Alumni are everywhere, doing amazing things! Meet your fellow trailblazers by signing up for a gsCommunity account!
- Do you or does someone you know have a story to share about the impact of Girl Scouts? Please let us know by sharing your story here!
- Looking for more inspiring Girl Scout alums? Read about some of our amazing Girl Scout volunteers on the Trailhead.
Tiffany Eng—Tiffany Eng lives in Oakland California and leads two Cadette troops for her two daughters. As a lifetime Girl Scout member and past Gold Award recipient, she has always made time to pursue her own take action projects in her community. Most recently, she is a co-founder of the Friends of Lincoln Square Park and is working with the City of Oakland and the Oakland Chinatown Community to build a new expanded recreation center.