Girl Scouts is known for providing girls with an abundance of opportunities to help them become confident women and courageous leaders. Delegate governance is just one of the many ways girls can step up and take the lead like a Girl Scout.

Every three years GSUSA hosts the Girl Scout National Convention where National Delegates (adults and girls 14-18 years old who are self-nominated, selected by the board, and elected by Regional Delegates and Board members at the GSNorCal Annual Meeting) represent our Council and provide input to GSUSA on proposals and elect the National Board.

Did you know? In addition to National Delegates, GSNorCal also has a team of Regional Delegates (adults and girls 14-18 years old self-nominated and then elected by members of their region) who are the primary communication link between Girl Scout members, community networks, and Northern California’s Board of Directors. Regional Delegates provide input to the GSNorCal Board on the Council’s strategy and also elect the Council Board of Directors.

Having attended the Girl Scout National Convention for the first time in 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah as a “visitor” and being SO INSPIRED by the whole event—discussion sessions on various topics, fabulous guest speakers, networking with other troop leaders and volunteers from across the country, the Hall of Experiences—I knew right away that I HAD to attend the next one in 2017!

Girl Scout National Convention in Ohio

So, three years later, I made the trek to Columbus, Ohio to attend the 54th National Council Session… But this time, I attended as a National Delegate, a vital decision-making member to the GSNorCal and GSUSA governance team. Not only was I again inspired by the gathering of almost 10,000 girls and adults from around the country (and even the world), but also the fact that so many passionate people gathered to celebrate and advance the Girl Scout movement, ready to share their insight.

So, you ask, what happens during the National Council Session and the Convention?

The Business Side

Well, there is the “business side” where National Delegates discuss, debate, and vote on proposals as well as vote for members of the Girl Scout National Board of Directors. Even though there were only three proposals (with several parts each), this whole process took about a day and a half to accomplish—amendments, voting to vote, actual voting, moves, etc.

The discussions and debates follow Parliamentary Procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order (which is a whole topic in itself). This is the “formal” part of the convention where voting takes place and results are shared. The National Board is also elected during this time. You can find a list of our newly elected National Board of Directors here.

Delegate Badge and Voting Process

As a first-time National Delegate, I must say that although I was quite interested in Parliamentary Procedure and Robert’s Rules of Order, I was also quite intimidated by it. Had I been moved to approach the microphone to offer input or state my case, I probably would have been shaking in my boots! But, as I sat there amongst my fellow delegates (1,058 of us—287 of them girls between 14-17 years old), I was AMAZED by the young women, the go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders, who made their way to the microphones with courage, confidence, and character—more than ready to bravely express their viewpoints, opinions, and ideas! It inspired me, that should I be fortunate enough to be chosen as a National Delegate again in 2020, I will break out of my comfort zone and stand confidently alongside these young ladies, willing to put a voice to my own opinions and ideas. These girls have made an impact on me, an adult volunteer, to be a G.I.R.L. myself!

Some more business…

This year, during the business part of the Convention there was also time to discuss the topic, Engaging More Girls: What does Girl Scouts need to do to reach more girls and increase impact?… The goal was for delegates to “come ready to discuss how, for the benefit of girls today and into the future, our organization can take the lead to overcome societal challenges and equitably engage more girls in Girl Scouting”. A lot of statistics and positive examples of success were shared from GSUSA (of which I took 2 pages of notes!) But again, I need to mention that this is when the girls in the room stood up and really shined! The lines at the microphones were filled with young women who provided to us “more seasoned” Girl Scout folk input from their point of view, along with ideas that are working to engage more girls in the councils they represent across the United States.

Throughout this discussion, there was definitely a huge focus on keeping older girls interested in Girl Scouts, along with much discussion about diversity of girls based on age, socio-economic status, abilities, and race/ethnicity, as well as common issues girls are facing today and will possibly face in the future.

Interspersed with the discussion time, there were short videos describing the Young Women of Distinction—an honor given to “10 Girl Scout Seniors and Ambassadors whose Gold Award projects demonstrated extraordinary leadership, had a measurable and sustainable impact, and addressed a local challenge related to a national and/or global issue.”

2017 National Young Women of Distinction

These Gold Award Girl Scouts and Young Women of Distinction were highly honored and recognized throughout the Convention. They were called out on stage to receive their pins and scholarships, and had special sessions devoted to discussions of their projects. There was rarely a dry eye in the room as the stories of each of them were told. Knowing that these young women are about to venture out into their communities to “make the world a better place” is humbling.

Fun Fact: GSNorCal has been honored to have one of our member selected as a NYWOD every year since 2013!

This year, our very own Rajvi was selected as a National Young Woman of Distinction! For her Gold Award project, Rajvi developed soil moisture sensors and readers to help farmers conserve water and use less groundwater. The sensors are planted into the soil; they allow farmers to read and determine the moisture level in the soil. Based on Rajvi’s technology, farmers on average saved 25 percent of their monthly water use and were able to better sustain their businesses during the California drought. You can learn more about Rajvi’s amazing project in this video:

The Fun, Celebratory Part

After all the work is done, it’s time to have some fun—guest speakers, attending discussion sessions, visiting the Hall of Experiences, and exploring the town were all on the agenda. During “off hours” of the business part of the National Council Session, delegates can meet up and have dinner together, check out the town, and more. Not only did I enjoy networking with other Girl Scout folk during this time, I also explored some “touristy” parts of Columbus, Ohio and was quite impressed!

First off, I have to mention that this part of the Convention was TOTALLY girl-led! There was a team of 21 Girl Scouts (the G-Team: Girls Together Empowering And Motivating) selected from across the country who spent many hours over the past 18 months working to make sure this event was exactly how THEY wanted it to be. They envisioned something grand and wonderful… the results were spectacular! From the entertainment to the food, from exhibitors to guest speakers, these girls had it under control!

I could go on and on about the lineup of speakers but I doubt you would want to spend your day reading. So, click this link to see all the FABULOUS guest speakers that were at the National Convention! Personally, I found PhD psychologist & author, JoAnn Deak, and American engineer, physician, and NASA astronaut, Dr. Mae C. Jemison to be particularly inspirational, informative, and interesting.

Convention Hall of Experiences

The other main event of the Convention is the Hall of Experiences. This is a showcase of exhibitors that either have a relationship with Girl Scouts or have a business/organization/idea that is in line with the Girl Scout movement. Girl Scout Cookies (both ABC Bakers and Little Brownie Bakers), STEM, outdoors, travel, college, community service… all were represented! There were also guest speakers throughout the hall, scheduled throughout the day on various topics. I was able to attend 3 or 4 different speakers—there were so many topics it was hard to choose!

Within the Hall of Experiences, I collected a HUGE amount of print collateral and materials that required me to check my bag at the airport to accommodate a second carry-on bag! I took the time to talk with vendors who I felt would benefit my troop, my service unit, or my council and either gave them my contact information or acquired information from them. These contacts covered topics from software for health history forms at camp to water quality testing for the community to where to buy fun patches for events and SO MUCH MORE! I wish I could give you a description of them all along with my impression of them, but I think the easiest way to share it with you is for you to check out the Floor Plan for the Hall of Experiences—this is an interactive map which gives you information about each vendor so you can discover and connect for yourselves.

One more thing to mention… SWAPS!!!

It’s a “thing” at the Convention! When I attended in 2014, I didn’t bring any, but for 2017 in Columbus, I was prepared! I exchanged over 200 SWAPS with so many different girls and adults from all over the US and world! Here are just a few photos of the SWAPS at Convention.

Girl Scout Convention SWAPS

To tell you the truth, I could go on for pages and pages but I think it is best to simply reiterate how WONDERFUL and INSPIRING the Girl Scout National Convention is, that it only comes around every three years, and to encourage you to look in to becoming a Regional or National Delegate to represent your local area/council and GSUSA Governance. And, even if you don’t attend as a delegate in 2020 (it’s in Orlando, Florida by the way… Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, etc.) you should try to attend as a guest—I truly feel it will renew your dedication to the Girl Scout movement as well as inspire you to return home, share the experience with your fellow Girl Scout volunteers, and inspire your girls to become the next generation of go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders.

What to do next:

Shannon McMathShannon McMath—Shannon McMath is the Leader of Troop 10280 in Santa Rosa – a WONDERFUL group of Cadettes who have been together since kindergarten! In addition to volunteering at the troop level she has worn many Girl Scout hats … Leader Support Manager, Program Support Manager, Program Team, Learning Facilitator, Regional Delegate, National Delegate, and more. Her passion is traveling to new and interesting places and she is sharing that passion with Girl Scouts by hosting a trip to Costa Rica in 2017 and Ecuador/Galapagos Islands in 2018.

The Trailhead