Picturesque Salt Lake City Utah was the setting for the 53rd Annual Girl Scout National Convention held October 16-19, 2014. Thousands of Girl Scouts of all ages and designations came together in Salt Lake to reinvigorate the Movement, celebrate tri-annual accomplishments, and chart the future.
I attended convention as a National Council Delegate first and foremost, but no less significantly as a leader, mother of a Girl Scout Junior and an alumna (1980-1983). Upon landing in Salt Lake City, I immediately felt the buzz of excitement, like a first trip to Disneyland. At the airport I was greeted by two Girl Scouts holding a banner with the phrase Discover, Connect, Take Action: Girls Change the World, the theme for the 2014 convention. I couldn’t help but smile a huge, kid-in-a-candy store grin.
From the very first day until the time I got to the airport to go home, every aspect of convention was motivating, empowering and definitely reaffirmed my commitment to Girl Scouts on every level. I was in awe of so many women and girls while I was there, from the Young Women of Distinction, Connie Lindsey, and Anna Maria Chavez to the keynote speakers and Conversations of Consequence panelists. It gave me a lot to think about, especially for the future of girls today.
5 things I’m still thinking about from convention:
1) GSHCC Delegation: Getting to know my fellow delegates, Girl Scout staff and board members was an unexpected highlight of the experience. By the end of the week I felt very close to my fellow GSHCC attendees. These are relationships I plan to nurture for years to come. I was honored to vote on National Girl Scout policy in the business sessions; the experience was one-of-a-kind. The outdoor discussion was so informative and I enjoyed seeing so many girls stand up and report on the input from their individual councils. As a result of the National Convention outdoor discussion, only a few months later councils have already received feedback from girls on outdoor badges!
2) Hall of Experiences: The hall, exhibit hall/expo, proved to be an “experience” not to be missed. I was able to taste the new Girl Scout Cookies from both bakers, officially register as a GSUSA alum and contribute to the swaps map. The swaps map was a huge wall with a map of the United States. Attendees added a pin and/or a swap to their home council. It was such fun to see all 112 councils represented. The Hall of Experiences also featured a life-size Brownie treehouse, computers to test run the all new Digital Cookie Program and dozens of opportunities to take home vintage patches, pins and memorabilia. In the center of it all, a Girl Scout store was stocked with convention memorabilia and other merchandise.
3) The conference app!: Social media went hand-in-hand with convention festivities with the NCS Convention App. Similar to Facebook, the convention app allowed attendees to post pictures, updates and check-ins on the newsfeed for all to see. In addition app users could personalize their schedules (and set reminders!), earn badges and points for posting, access venue maps and more. Since obviously convention-goers couldn’t be everywhere at once, the newsfeed was a perfect way to experience concurrent activities. The app was a wonderful way for attendees to get the full conference experience and keep in touch after.
4) Presentations of 2014 Young Women of Distinction: I was in awe of these young women. Their Take Action Projects were of the caliber of thought leaders. What these women were able to put their minds to, let alone accomplish was simply visionary. For example Varsha Sathappan from Girl Scouts of Northern California initiated construction of a women’s ward at the Vallal Mena Hospital, a small out-patient facility in Kodikkottai, India, and helped to expand it into an in-patient medical facility. Morgan Serventi from Girl Scouts Arizona Cactus Pine researched, prototyped, and developed an alternative source of fuel powered by animal droppings using a device called methane bio-digesters. Girls Change the World!
5) The final day: What can I say? I’m a huge fan of Connie Lindsey. Every time Connie spoke I was mesmerized. What a distinction to get to hear Connie’s outgoing message as she concluded her term as National Board President. In addition to electing the new National Board, Delegates heard from incoming president, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan.
I got teary eyed (okay I cried) during closing ceremonies. It was the culmination of four days of Girl Scout pride in the form of confetti, music and goodbyes. Although it was bittersweet that convention was coming to an end, the folks from Colombus, Ohio (hosts of the 2017 conference) were there to rally excitement for the 54th National Convention coming in three years. It was also time to say farewell (temporarily) to my fellow delegates.
Guest speakers, presentation of the world flags, I could go on and on about my time in Utah. Convention was an absolute blast and it’s an experience I wouldn’t think twice about repeating. GSUSA and councils all around the globe will be will be hard at work during the triennium to move Girl Scouts forward, especially revamping and improving the outdoor experience for girls. Current National Council Delegates of Girl Scouts Heart of Central California, myself included, will finish out their three year terms bringing the GSUSA vision to the council level. I’m looking forward to it.
I carry with me a fire for Girl Scouts that is burning strong, stoked by the collective experience of gathering with thousands of women, men and girls in the movement. I’m proud to be a forever Girl Scout.
This is a guest post from National Council Delegate Jen Allen. Thank you, Jen!