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October 6, 2012 marked the first Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas Girl Expo 2012 at the Freeman Coliseum in San Antonio, Texas. This significant event was a day-long celebration of the year of the girl and everything great about being one. The Girl Expo featured thousands of confident girls of all ages accompanied by women and leaders who stand behind them to reach their full potential.
The Girl Scout Mission, “Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence and character, who make the world a better place,” positively puts that mission into practice with opportunities that will make them stronger through education. One Girl Scout’s shirt read: “Who needs boys I can win by myself.” It shows that the message of confidence and no limitations has been reached.
Along with providing girls with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and art activities, outdoor experiences, healthy living, and career exploration, the Girl Expo featured astronaut, Dr. Shannon Walker, Girl Scout southwest top cookie seller and entrepreneur Hannah Richardson, and girl duo Jonnie and Brookie in concert to celebrate 100 years of Girl Scouts.
Astronaut Shannon Walker, Ph.D., recalled that there are more opportunities for girls and women today. She began her professional career with the Rockwell Space Operations Company the Johnson Space Center in 1987 as a robotics flight controller for the Space Shuttle Program. Dr. Walker launched and served as flight engineer (co-pilot) of Russian Soyuz spacecraft, TMA-19, on June 15, 2010 for a long duration mission aboard the International Space Station. She again served as a Flight Engineer during landing, which occurred November 25, 2010. The entire mission lasted 163 days, 161 of them aboard the Station
Back when Dr. Walker was a girl, Title IX was into force. Girls couldn’t play sports and study certain fields because they weren’t open to them. Walker recollects one of her professor’s from alma mater, Rice University, “She wasn’t allowed to study physics, so she studied math instead.”
Walker said, “Girls can realize the possibilities, not to limit themselves and to follow your passion and your dreams because you never know where it will take you.”
Walker didn’t recall any struggles as her journey to an astronaut. Perhaps, she was “extra fortunate,” she said. “My parents never put any strains or expectations. When I said I wanted to be an astronaut, they said ‘OK’. They let me be who I was and that was the biggest gift.”
Girl Scout delegate and top cookie entrepreneur, Hannah Richardson, is a spunky 15 year-old who introduced herself as “I’m Hannah, and I’m amazing.” She hadn’t always been so forward with confidence but after selling 3,258 boxes of Girl Scout cookies her first year and close to 6,000 boxes her second year, she had to be nothing but.
Richardson said no one wants to buy Girl Scout cookies from someone who is timid. “Having confidence really gets you out of your shell,” she said. “To sell more cookies, you have to be. Confidence is important.”
“One day I just said ‘I’d sell the most cookies’ because no one would’ve thought I’d do it,” she said. “I was inspired [and] I had a business plan.” Richardson went to many businesses and asked if they would purchase 1,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies. From the companies that did, 2 of them donated 800 boxes to the USO- San Antonio and the San Antonio Food Bank.
Part of the Girl Expo is showing girls that if they dream it, they wish it, then they can do it. And that’s just what delegate Richardson did. She went from ordinary to extraordinary as a young entrepreneur who gave me a business card and a magnet out of her over-sized purse that fit her personality. “I’m always prepared,” she said.
For Richardson, being the top cookie seller in the southwest region has opened doors for her to expand her leadership as a Girl Scout delegate. “Being a delegate is like being in the politics of Girl Scouts,” she said. “I help make little decisions like what food for camp, and give a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for little decisions.”
Richardson is a leader and a representative to all girls in her region and gives them a voice in decision-making. “It gives girls a chance to say what they like and don’t like [about Girl Scouts] and an opportunity to change things.”
Richardson was the youngest of 12 people chosen to be featured in Oprah’s O Magazine in the “Politics Unusual” feature for her entrepreneurship, cookie sales, and leadership.
Richardson has also been featured in Forbes, San Antonio Women, and San Antonio-Express News. Her appearances include Great Day S.A., Good Morning America, Fox TV, and KBBT News. “Girl Scouts for me has been the biggest impact of my life,” she said. “I wouldn’t be in O Magazine if it wasn’t.”
Jonnie and Brookie Allen are sisters in a band, Jonnie and Brookie, that was voted Radio Disney’s Next Big Thing in 2009, and chosen to be a part of the Disney Channel’s Summer at Sea Concert series. This duo performs to crowds anywhere to demonstrate that it’s cool to help others and to never compromise yourself which makes a difference. Jonnie and Brookie like to display that in the music industry, showing the right things and being role models counts for something.
“It’s worth it in the long run to keep your values and your morals,” said Brookie.“Keep your head straight and rise above.”
Being a girl today has so many challenges. In tenth grade, Brookie left a traditional high school education and became home-schooled. She said there were many obstacles from staying confident when you have girls around you comparing themselves to each other.
“Sometimes you don’t feel good enough,” Brookie said. She added that even with boys, “You may not have a whole line of them and that’s OK, because they’ll know what you’re about.”
When Jonnie and Brookie were moving up the industry and appearances with Disney started, “[School mates] would say ‘Oh you’re Disney,” as if they were less of artists for being a part of a label that didn’t compromise what they stood for.
As Brookie passed through the crowds of young scouts to meet her Jonnie backstage, her mother reminds her to make sure they pray. Her mother has always instilled in them that even as they are making a name for themselves as young women in music, to never forget their true self and how they were brought up.
“If you keep your morals and values, you’ll save yourself from pain,” said Brookie. “You’ll realize that when you keep [your] morals, it’s such a difference and people will respect you at a higher level.”
Image Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas