Friday, June 19, 2009

Gold Awards by Guest Blogger, Donna Rivera-Downey

Sunday, I attended the Girl Scouts of Nassau County Gold Award Ceremony. As the Director of Marketing, this event is full of anxiety for me. I worry that everything is going to go right. Are the Gold Award Recipients and their families going to think the day was special? Will all the media presentations run without a hitch? Will enough Chorus members show up so we can do the planned repertoire? These are just details.
This anxiety is always overshadowed by the other emotions I feel on this day. I am filled with pride for all the accomplishments of the girls we honor at this event. Yesterday it was 74 young women. I am filled with wonder at how many people they have helped through their projects. They are the cream of the crop in the Girl Scout world but they represent all the 22,000 girls in Nassau County on this day. I am curious about where these girls will be in five years. At the ceremony Danielle D’Ambrioso answered that question as the keynote speaker and a 2004 Gold Award Recipient. She is now an alumna of Babson College and has a career in Commercial Real Estate.
A tradition at our ceremony is to acknowledge past recipients in the audience, as I watched these women rise I thought “What are they doing now?” Some of them have keep in contact with us and so I know that Malorie Mendoza is attending SUNY Stony Brook as a pre-med student. Or Erin Stark is studying to be a massage therapist. Or Catherine Azzara, who is the director of our Chorus, is now a Speech Pathologist. But what about the other women who have earned this award, where are they now?  What are they doing?
If you know a young woman who has earned her Gold Award in Nassau County, we want to hear from her. If you know a woman who has earned her First Class or Curved Bar we want to reconnect with her. If you know a woman who earned her Golden Eaglet we really want to get her Girl Scout story before it is lost forever. (The First Class, Curved Bar and Golden Eaglet were the highest award a Girl Scout could earn prior to the Gold Award.)
YOU can re-connect with Girl Scouts of Nassau County by visiting our website at and tell us your story.


Donna Rivera-Downey is the Director, Marketing for Girl Scouts of Nassau County. She became a professional Girl Scout in 2001 after 22 years in retail banking. A life-long Girl Scout who volunteered her time as a Girl Scout Leader for her daughter. Donna is active in the Hicksville-Jericho Rotary and serve as a trustee on the board of the Hicksville Public Library and Public Relation Professional of Long Island. 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Discover, Connect and Take Action III

Take Action is where the rubber meets the road. A goal without a plan is just an unfulfilled wish. As girls “Discover” and “Connect” they will see areas in our world that need their attention, problems that need to be solved and wrongs that need to be righted.  If we only bring girls to awareness, then we have not done our job. Girls must be empowered to Take Action to make the world a better place. 
Because all of the programs and activities in Girl Scouting are age-appropriate, the action steps are geared to a girl’s capacity.  As an example, let’s take the issue of bullying – something that receives a lot of press these days, and is one of Girl Scouts of Nassau’s County’s priorities in our Critical Issues Initiative
Action for a girl in kindergarten might be to recognize that someone is being bullied or picked-on, and then just going to an adult to get help.  For girls in elementary school, action might include befriending someone who is the target of aggression or even speaking out. By middle-school and high school, girls have more skills and confidence, they will be better able to identify problems and speak up. Their actions could go even further and involve designing and delivering programs to other girls on bullying or working with the leadership of their schools to make sure that policies are in place and implemented to protect all students.
Another example of age-appropriate action might be around water conservation and pollution. 
Younger girls can do something as simple as learning to turn off the water while they brush their teeth. Elementary girls can understand the importance of using refillable bottles for water.  Older girls might work with their schools and neighborhoods to reduce the use and availability of disposable water bottles through regulations and enforcement. And others might look at the plight of those areas of the world that do not have adequate drinking water and work to bring water to the people there.  A girl’s actions might be to raise money for equipment, or she might become an engineer and install the equipment and then teach the local people how to use it …
There is no end to the ways that all of us can and should Take Action.  Through Girl Scouting girls develop fundamental values that help them to understand their place in the world and the importance of God, country, truth, justice, and responsibilty . Girls gain skills that enable them to analyze problems and devise solutions.  

Discover, Connect and Take Action – These are qualities that will enrich a girl’s life, and an adult’s world too. Come join the fun of Girl Scouts … no matter your age!  

Friday, June 12, 2009

Discover, Connect and Take Action II

Connect  - In Girl Scouting girls learn to connect with other girls, adults and even with ideas … Girls who are part of a Girl Scout Troop are often lucky enough to have a built-in set of friends, along with a caring group of adults to support them.  These friendships can go with a girl throughout her life.  -- I’m still friends with Sandy Chojnowski, who was in my Brownie Troop in 1958!  
 Girl Scouting also takes girls outside their comfortzone and helps them to connect with other girls, and with a wide range of people in their community and beyond. Camping and Girl Scout destinations! offer great opportunities for expanded connections within the Girl Scout family.  Participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program® can connect girls with the public, and with the world of commerce and business.
Providing quality customer service is a prime connection that even a child will understand and value.  Everyone appreciates being treated with a smile and a few kinds words during any business transaction, and Girl Scouts gives each girl the opportunity to experience that kind of successful connection.
Community service projects can give girls the opportunity to meet new people, explore careers, and connect with community leaders.  This year our 74 girls who received the Girl Scout Gold Award made connections as varied as working directly with younger children, approaching their school administrators on a new recycling project and providing supplies for needy children in the rural south.  They did intergenerational projects with their elders and they produced entertainment and athletic events that brought their communities together.
Through Girl Scouting I’ve had the privilege to connect with our elected officials and with Girl Scouts and Girl Scout Leaders from across our Council and around the world. While waiting for the evening show at Walt Disney World’s MGM Park, I met a Troop of girls and their Leaders from Kansas.  In Honolulu I was wearing my Girl Scout hat while standing in line at a concession stand.  A gentleman tapped me on the shoulder  and asked if I was part of Girl Scouts in Nassau County, New York.  I said yes, and introduced myself.  When he introduced himself, I recognized his name as a donor who had just given our Council $2000 to support our work in the Hispanic community – Small world!
In 2002 I hosted a group of Girl Guides from El Salvador, and I still hear from one of them regularly on Facebook. While traveling in London last year, it was easy to identify Girl Scouts and Girl Guides who were traveling in uniform and I got to feel that same sense of connection that I have here at home when I'm visiting an Association event, or encountering a Booth Sale at my local super market.  
I’m looking forward to using this blog as another way to connect with my Girl Scout sisters … Next we’ll tackle the Girl Scout Key- Take Action.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Discover, Connect and Take Action!

Discover, Connect and Take Action are the keys to the Girl Scout Leadership Experience. Most people know about the fun things that Girl Scouts do, how they hang out with their friends and laugh a lot, how their Troops take on projects to help the community, how girls do crafty things and maybe go to camp.  All of these activities are calculated to help girls build courage, confidence and character so that they can make the world a better place.  So, how does this work together? …

All Girl Scout of Nassau County activities and programs use at least one of the three keys.  Some activities incorporate two or even all three … Lots of top thinkers and practitioners in youth development have been part of designing the new Girl Scout Leadership experience, and while we have new books and materials, all of this builds on a strong foundation of Girl Scout programs and activities that have been around for almost a century! The following three blog entries will discuss each of these keys. Let’s first look at Discover

– Girl Scouting helps every girl to discover more about herself and the world around her.  Crafts and community service projects produce a finished product at the end, but along the way a girl may have mastered a new skill, polished an existing talent, gathered information on how something works, and practiced self-control and perseverance.

My very first project as a Brownie was to make a “sit-upon” out of folded strips of newspaper. For many girls this may have been a continuation of craft skills learned at their mother’s knee. However, I come from a very un-crafty tribe.  There were a few aunts that sewed, but, by and large, I was never encouraged to do anything that might involve making a mess, or using scissors.  Imagine my seven year-old delight to come away with a finished usable product!  For weeks I saved all the newspapers I could find and made these mats for everyone I knew … I discovered that I could create useful things!  -- I took the sit-upon skill and figured out that it was the same principle involved in making potholders , with a little loom.  And over my childhood I must have made hundreds of those.  – And while arts and crafts does not play a major role in my world, I do still know that if I try a project, I’ll probably be able to do it!  

Not every exploration finds gold  or a “sit upon” at the end of the rainbow, so girls may also learn what they don’t know, they may have to start again, and they may discover things that they did not know about themselves.  For a generation that is sometimes described as the “Blue Ribbon Generation,” learning that one can fail and still survive, that one can start over, that things don’t always work, and that hard work has special rewards are very valuable life lessons.  Discovery is not just a highway, it is a whole map and some roads lead to adventure, some to success,  some may go in circles and others maybe dead-ends.

I’ve learned so much about myself through Girl Scouting … -- I can’t wait to see what I will discover next about  ME.!

Next up, we’ll tackle the Girl
Scout key, Connect!