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Girl Scouts Gather in Birmingham For Leadership Summit

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Members of the G.I.R.L. Squad, GSNCA’s media team who helped plan and lead the event, pose on stage with astronaut and Girl Scout alum Jan Davis. (Provided)
Special to The Times 

Hundreds of Girl Scouts from across Alabama attended the 2019 G.I.R.L. Leadership Summit earlier this month at Samford University in Birmingham.

This event, hosted by Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama, gave girls in grades 4-12 the opportunity to learn about advocacy, financial literacy, and career mentorship. Girl Scouts from across the council’s 36 county jurisdiction helped plan the event and lead on-stage.

Miss Alabama Tiara Pennington and astronaut Jan Davis were the keynote speakers.

Davis is an astronaut who has spent more than 670 hours in space as a mission specialist over the course of her three Space Shuttle flights. A Girl Scout alum from Huntsville, she was also the first astronaut to take Girl Scout Cookies into space. 

“Something that is worthwhile doing takes a lot of hard work,” Davis said. 

She encouraged girls to become part of NASA’s Artemis program, which will send the next man, and first woman, to the moon.

Pennington also spoke about the value of determination and persistence when going after a goal. She beat 46 other candidates to become Miss Alabama, and was the first African American to be crowned Miss University of Alabama.

“I love to say I’ve never had failures,” Pennington said. “It’s always been lessons learned. You’re successful when you go through a life experience and you learn something.”

Pennington also highlighted the similarities between Girl Scouts and the Miss American organization, like an emphasis on healthy living, community service, life skills, STEM, and the outdoors. 

“The thing that I took away from the Summit from both Tiara and Jan is that they had persistence,” said Girl Scout Cadette Amanda Browning, who was on the G.I.R.L. Squad which helped plan the event. “They did not give up when they failed the first time. They kept trying over and over.”

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Momentum, a women’s leadership program in Alabama, hosted a speed mentoring session with women from various fields including a journalist, a lawyer, a radiologist, an engineer, and an activist. Girls asked questions to the mentors about the woman’s job and how to pursue their career dreams.

Throughout the day, girls joined in a drumming circle and learned the “Rhythm of Leadership” with John Scalici of Get Rhythm programs; learned credit, purchasing cars, and financing college in financial literacy sessions hosted by Wells Fargo; and learned about advocacy in sessions about animals, women’s suffrage, Alabama history, environmental protection, and more.

Girls also enjoyed a Hall of Experiences with over 20 community partner organizations such as Seven Pines Survival, Tigers for Tomorrow, High Point Climbing and Fitness, and the Society of Women Engineers. 

As a community service aspect of the event, Girl Scouts brought pet food and supply donations for the Shelby Humane Society. Girls were also able to vote with pieces of recycling for an Alabama environmental nonprofit. The winning organization was the Cahaba River Society, which will receive a donation on behalf of the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama. 

 Presenting sponsors included Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, and our G.I.R.L. Pillar Partners, Wells Fargo, Samford University, Vulcan Materials Company, and Publix Super Market Charities.

As the world’s leadership development organization for girls, Girl Scouts welcomes girls of all backgrounds and interest who want to develop the courage, confidence, and character to make the world a better place. 

What is G.I.R.L.? Girl Scouts show grit like a “Go-getter,” problem solve like an “Innovator,” embrace the new like a “Risk-taker,” and display empathy like a “Leader.”

“At Girl Scouts, everything we do is designed with and for girls,” said Karen Peterlin, CEO of the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama. “We are the organization creating the female leadership pipeline, the go-getters, innovators, risk-takers, and leaders of tomorrow. Our 2019 G.I.R.L. Leadership Summit is just one amazing example of the programming we offer that prepares girls for a lifetime of leadership.” 

Troops are forming now and girls and adult volunteers can join by going to girlscoutsnca.org/join or calling 800-734-4541.