Girl Scouts is helping young girls across the country by providing them the tools they need to reach their fullest potential, helping them build leadership skills and giving them a safe environment to explore issues facd by young people around the world.
On September 19, 2015, seven teenage Girl Scouts co-planned and co-hosted Leap into Leadership, a first-of-its-kind conference for girls who want to change the world. The conference took place at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry and gave 100 girls from the Hudson Valley in 9th – 12th grade the opportunity to explore issues that affect the world we live in. Sessions on issues such as violence, education, peer pressure, self-confidence, bullying, and gender equality were co-run by our team of Girl Scout ambassadors and local community professionals.
- Self-Image / Body Confidence: Jennie Runk; American plus-sized model most notably appearing in H&M's swimwear campaign
- Education: Carolina Hernandez; Step up to STEM Grant Coordinator at Mercy College; Served as Peace Corp Volunteer in Benin, West Africa.
- Gender Equality: Margaret Inge; Workforce Training Director at the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Peer Pressure / Teen Violence: Shannon Wong; Orange County Legislator; previous Legislative Director at YWCA with a focus on community safety, domestic violence, child abuse, and harassment
The day was highlighted by a keynote speech from Urjasi Rudra, an Advocacy and Programme Specialist with UN Women, the United Nations entity for gender equality and women’s empowerment. She encouraged the girls in attendance to do their part in making a difference saying, “You are not a statistic. You, as young women and girls, in partnership with young men and boys, are the most powerful agents of change. You are part of a youth population of 1.8 billion today. That’s 1.8 billion dreams, talent, and potential. If you demand a gender equal world and a healthier planet, and work towards that, who can stop you?”
Urjasi’s words, coupled with the learning experiences and discussions the girls had throughout the day, served as a tipping point for this young generation of leaders, highlighting for them the importance of both formal education as well as their own role in continuing their expansion of knowledge and understanding of the world round them. As the 100 participants reflected on their experiences that day, they were asked to share both what they had learned and how they intended to continue both their own education and the education of others. Feedback included:
- “Today I learned that confidence and communication are important factors when it comes to learning and becoming successful”
- “Today I learned that the best defense against discrimination is education”
- “My next step towards leadership is educating others about topics that are not discussed enough”
- “After leaving here I plan to research ways to combat bigotry, especially in people who don’t see the ignorance of their own bigotry”
Each of the seven Girl Scouts who was on the planning team is also continuing to push for better education, an end to violence against women, better self-esteem in young people, and overall gender equality. Last October they travelled to Salt Lake City, Utah to attend National Girl Scout Convention and the Girl Scout Leadership Institute where they met other young people from around the world to discuss these crucial issues, the effects they had on society, and how to impact change both locally and globally. It was an incredible learning experience.
After returning to the Hudson Valley, these seven incredible young women each embarked on personal leadership journeys to educate and inspire those around them on issues most important to them. The Leap into Leadership event was one aspect of their much larger vision of creating an appreciation for education, and well-informed knowledge, and we look forward to seeing the impact of their continued work.