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On September 19, 2019, GSNorCal hosted a special reception in San Francisco called Celebrating G.I.R.L.s. to celebrate and recognize the very best of Girl Scouts. We had the privilege of honoring several notable alums: women leaders who have been recognized in tech, journalism, even the Olympics, who point to Girl Scouts as the turning point of their personal and professional successes. Even GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo gave a stirring keynote speech.

The reception was to raise funds for the construction of the Hub, a new and much-needed program and Girl Scout community center, which will open at Camp Bothin in the coming years. The Hub will not only support more programming in STEM and the outdoors but also create a space for all Girl Scouts to learn and grow. Each year, our council serves over 12,000 girl members who live in low-income communities or are experiencing hardship due to local disasters. GSNorCal is committed to making sure every girl has the opportunity to have the Essential Girl Scout Experience of sisterhood, supportive adults, and special experiences that help each girl feel valued—in their troops and at camp.  

Distilling an entire night of true G.I.R.L. spirit into a single article is a little daunting. But, as a former Girl Scout, I’ve never been one to turn down a worthy challenge. Here are just some of the many highlights from this special event: 

VIP Hour for Sponsors 

The night began with a special VIP hour for the events’ sponsors. Along with hors d’oeuvres and mingling, many of our council’s own stellar Cadette, Senior, and Ambassador Girl Scouts joined the mix. Guests had the unique opportunity to talk to the very girls their donations support. Our Girl Scouts shared their camp experiences, personal ambitions, and favorite part of Girl Scouts.

CEO Sylvia Acevedo with Girl Scouts
CEO Sylvia Acevedo (left) with GSNorCal Girl Scouts

Both guests and girls were treated to a special fireside chat with our CEO, Sylvia Acevedo, and our G.I.R.L. award honorees: Amy E. Weaver, the Executive Sponsor for the Salesforce Women’s Network; Bonny Simi, President of Jetblue Technology Ventures and three-time luge Olympian; Valerie Coleman Morris, former CNN Domestic and International Business Anchor and three-time Emmy award-winner (and our event’s Mistress of Ceremony!); and Sakshi Satpathy, National Gold Award Girl Scout and former GSNorCal Girl Board participant. Each honoree came forward to share their favorite Girl Scout experience. Amy recounted how her neighbor Ms. Christiansen had drilled her with questions about where the Girl Scout cookie funds would go. Eight-year-old Amy had been flummoxed and walked away with a valuable lesson: always enter a business negotiation prepared. Bonny participated as a sixteen-year-old in the historic vote to change the Girl Scout logo, causing her to realize that her voice mattered. Valerie recounted how Girl Scouts had been the consistent grounding throughout her family’s moves (not to mention the Girl Scout uniform formed a strong bond between her and her military father). Sakshi joined Girl Scouts after moving to the United States from India. Her troop’s support encouraged Sakshi to step out of her comfort zone, which she credits with giving her confidence today. All in all, each speaker gave a face to the impact that Girl Scouts has on young women everywhere. 

G.I.R.L. Award Honorees
GSNorCal G.I.R.L. Award Nominees (left to right): Bonny Simi, Valerie Coleman Morris, Sakshi Satpathy, Amy E. Weaver

Keynote: Sylvia Acevedo 

After the fireside chat and distribution of the G.I.R.L awards, the evening transitioned to dinner. During the main course, Sylvia Acevedo took the stage to give her keynote speech. Sylvia’s own Girl Scout experience proved pivotal for her eventual career in NASA when her troop leader, noticing young Sylvia looking at the stars, started exposing her to resources on astronomy. By the time she went to college, Sylvia knew that she could and would go into STEM. “How can more girls have the same experience I had?” Sylvia asked the audience. 

Sylvia Acevedo, GSUSA CEO
GSUSA CEO Sylvia Acevedo delivering her keynote speech

The answer, according to Sylvia, is by exposing girls to technology. And Girl Scouts has been making huge steps to do just that. Including the 42 badges just released this summer, over one hundred new STEM badges and awards have come out in the past three years. In the first year alone, over one hundred thousand girls earned cybersecurity badges. “You have girls in Northern California with the courage, confidence, and character to make an impact,” said Acevedo, “and who won’t be intimidated by technology.” Little wonder, then, that many of the women leaders in technology, civics, politics, and culture were former Girl Scouts. “We may be only 7% of the nation, but we’re 80% of the go-getters.” 

“We may be only 7% of the nation, but we’re 80% of the go-getters.”

Sylvia Acevedo

Girl Scouts is an organization that brings out the best in girls. The opportunities provided through resources like the Hub tap into that, and the funding through the event creates access for lower-income girls to those opportunities. “Don’t just see them [the girls] as being in need,” Acevedo exhorted the audience, “see them as the great potential that they are.” 

Girl Scout Speaker: Mira Karthik 

Mira Karthik shared her testimonial of Girl Scout’s impact on her life. The Ambassador has accomplished much in her years as a Girl Scout: setting up programs to help young Girl Scout complete multiple journeys in a couple days, traveling to Cambodia to teach ukulele to students. She accredits Girl Scouts for teaching her the value of perseverance and goal-setting, which made these projects possible. It’s easy, Mira admitted, to get discouraged. “But perseverance will lead to the satisfying outcome of helping others,” she affirmed.  

At the beginning of her speech, Mira joked that what she had to say about Girl Scouts would seem like a cliché, that “Girl Scout caters to the passion of individual girls while creating a community.” For Mira, that came through becoming “the best version of myself” through Girl Scouting. 

Girl Speaker: Mira Karthik
Valerie Coleman Morris hugging GSNorCal speaker, Mira Karthik

The Hub Experience 

Camping is a core memory for any Girl Scout. When completed, The Hub will be more than a building, it will be an accessible and affordable resource for all our members—a place where girls and adult volunteers can find sisterhood, supportive adults, and special programs.  

Throughout the night, GSNorCal staff showcased booths of what will be at the Hub when it opens. Guests and girls could look through a 3D microscope at different outdoor samples, or drop a (toy) monkey down the miniature zip-line replica. I lingered at the space and astronomy booth where GSNorCal staff member and Trailhead writer Jessica Henricks showed off constellation cups that showed Cygnus, the Big Dipper, and others when I shined a light through the bottom. Fun aside, all the Hub activities go towards the goal of building confident girls who can take on high adventures.  

GSNorCal staff at space Hub booth
GSNorCal staff Jessica Henricks displaying her telescope at the Hub space and astronomy booth

The Celebrating G.I.R.L.s event did just that: celebrated the Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader spirit that embodies Girl Scouts. But as much as the reception recognized truly exceptional accomplishments of Girl Scouts alums, the event also cast vision for the future of Girl Scouts. Through everyone’s overflowing support, we will be able to plants seeds for girls in our local community to explore new interests, pursue their passions, and build competence in STEM, the outdoors, life skills, and entrepreneurship through the Hub and many badge programs. As Sylvia Acevedo put it in the closing remarks of her speech, “You have no better organization [than Girl Scouts] to reach the potential of every girl.” 

What to do next: 

  • Want to learn more about our stellar CEO? The world certainly seems to. Sylvia Acevedo has been featured on NPR and Freakonomics to share about her experience as a Girl Scout and as one of the first Latina women to be in NASA. Your daughter can also learn more about Acevedo’s life through her middle-grade memoir, Path to the Star: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist
  • Calling all G.I.R.L.s! Check out the 42 new badges released this past summer for girls of all levels, with topics ranging from cybersecurity to robotics. 
  • Who else has come to our events? In 2017, Dr. Christine Darden, one of the “Hidden Figures” behind NASA’s moon launch, shared tips for career success at our Celebrating Entrepreneurship event. Our Trailhead writer was there and gave us the scoop.  

Amanda Gee—Amanda is the Communications Specialist for Girl Scouts of Northern California, where she keeps the website, social media, and email up-to-date with the latest and greatest Girl Scout news. Amanda joined the Girl Scouts in first grade; her fondest Girl Scout memories include building a butterfly garden for her Bronze Award project and eating way too many s’mores around the campfire. When she’s not typing away at her computer over a cup of Earl Grey, you can find Amanda hanging out with friends, biking along the beautiful Alameda Bay Trail, or trying to pick up some new skill or tidbit of knowledge.