Recently in CEO Category

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

I was fortunate to have an opportunity to be up at Sail Away camp last week.   This camp is a specialty camp that is focused on sailing all week long.   Because it requires higher-level skills, such as swimming and good strength, it is intentionally a camp for older girls.   It isn't often that I get to observe our older girls in action.    But this was an especially gratifying experience.

When you sail you don't move to your destination in a straight line, you tack, which is back and forth, zigzagging, rather than directly.   You have to rely on the wind, or lack of wind to move you to your destination, so arrival is not necessarily in your hands solely.   You also have to work to get to your destination; sailing is an active sport, not passive.   You are always looking for the wind and determining your next move in relation to the shifts in the wind.

What I observed was a group of girls who were highly skilled.   There were a few younger ones, working with the Sunfish, which has only one sail, so in some ways it is harder to deal with.   They were doing a great job working their way along the edge of the cove to move out into the more intense wind of the length of the lake.

There was another larger group of more experienced girls, who were working on rigging the larger boats with two sails.   Once rigged, those girls quickly tacked out to get into the big air of the lake to sail.

It was amazing to watch.   These girls were skilled, self reliant, resilient, and knowledgeable.   They were good about listening how to rig the boat, then proceeded to rig their own.   From there they took action.   They were told what to do, watched, and then managed to take care of their own boat and they were on their way.    They illustrated their confidence, their ability to think in action, and make adjustments.

If you ever wonder about the quality of the leadership skills that being a Girl Scout imbues, watch these girls sail.   They exhibited many leadership qualities.   They were able to put together many leadership skills to hone a skill they will possess for a lifetime.   Although sailing might be a metaphor for later life, sometimes we can't take the direct route, our path is indirect and fraught with unanticipated challenges.   But after watching these girls, it is clear they have benefitted from honing their leadership skills and will have capabilities they can apply to life's challenges.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

As I sit here writing, there is a slight breeze off Lake Martin, although the humidity is pretty high today.   This is the best office in the world. I spent 30 years in higher education in a basement office with no windows, so you have no idea how much I have enjoyed my summer offices in the woods.

As I write this, I see girls standing on stand up paddleboards, kayaking in the slough, now with skills they did not possess when they arrived.  Some didn't want to try the stand up paddleboards, but summoned the courage to give it a try.   Now they can paddle around without ending up in the water, but seem to enjoy falling in, too.

There's another group in the Sawyer-Weil Pavilion, singing songs with different hand motions, while some are working on making lanyards.   The song floats across the water and through the woods.

There's the whirrrrrrr of the zip line running.   Girls are donning their helmet, putting on the harness, getting connected to the lanyard and experiencing a thrilling rides down the line.   Some are concerned about taking that step off the platform, but these girls have courage, so they will try it.

Away from where I sit, there are girls learning to swim.   Many come to camp and can't swim.   I learned to swim in a murky lake. It is hard to put your face in a body of water where you cannot see your feet, but they do it.   They learn how to swim, how to get out to the floating dock, and how to have confidence in the water.

These girls have slept with spiders in their tents, hiked around camp in the dark, lived with mosquitos and other bugs, and heard noises by sleeping in the outdoors they have never heard before.   They have cooked their own food in the outdoors, sat at a campfire, and learned songs to hike by.  They have become more independent.   They have done what a very small percentage of the population does, learned outdoor skills and how to live in the woods.   What a wonderful gift.   I'm fortunate to meet many older women who talk about how learning to camp and these experiences changed them.   They still value this experience at the end of their lives, so what seems to just be "a week at camp," will be a memory that will last a lifetime.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

One of my favorite holidays is the Fourth of July -- not only because it is during the summer, but also, as with many, I'm a patriot. There's something special about Independence Day that transcends fireworks, picnics, and family fun

What is interesting about my work is the many people I work with are patriots, too.    Girl Scouts learn about the American flag.   They learn how to handle it, how to post the colors, and how to respectfully discard a flag through a flag retirement ceremony.   If you have never experienced one, they are well worth it.   I was invited to a retirement ceremony a number of years ago in Dothan, an event I will never forget.   The girls who participated did a wonderful and respectful job, reading about the colors and what each meant.

One of the longstanding tenets of Girl Scouts is honor and respect for country.   It has been one of the elements of the leadership program that has been present for more than 104 years.   The girls in the room have spent the time to learn about the flag and what it means -- white purity and innocence, the red hardiness and valour, and the blue or chief, vigilance, perseverance, and justice.    Have a great Fourth of July holiday and take a minute to remember the meaning of the holiday.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

It is with a heavy heart that I announce my retirement as the CEO of Girl Scouts of Southern Alabama.   For those of you involved many years ago, you may remember that I was hired as the first CEO of GSSA at the point of the merger discussions.   What I found was, although there were many issues to address merging councils, the joy of working with girls, and the many wonderful volunteers and staff made the hard parts of the task very rewarding.

I have served as the CEO for the past nine years, and believe this is one of the best jobs on the planet.   I believe the leadership experiences girls gain from their Girl Scout experience is unparalleled.

As some of you know, I have had a "commuter" marriage for the past nine years, flying to Kansas City one long weekend a month to be with my husband.   After a 30-year career in higher education and nine years in Alabama, it is time for me to move into a new phase of my life, allowing others the opportunity to experience the joys of working with girls and shaping tomorrow's leaders.

The current plan is that I will serve until the Sept. 30, which marks the end of our fiscal year.   Know that I will always cherish the nine years I have spent with the many wonderful girls, volunteers, parents, and staff of GSSA.  

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

Ready to think about doing some running?   We are hosting a THIN MINT SPRINT in Mobile on August 20.   We have presented this event before, and it is always a lot of fun, whether you are a runner or not.   We try to make it a healthy event, so you can run, walk, jog, or whatever you choose for the fun of it.   It is a sanctioned event by the Port City Pacers, in case you are in search of points for a qualifying event.

This year, the THIN MINT SPRINT will be held within the University of South Alabama's campus.   It is a family-friendly event, so bring the kids, bring the spouse, or bring the troop (or all three!).   Because it is within the confines of the USA campus, it should be a safer event than the usual road race.   We also plan to have a health fair in addition to the other activities of a run and fun run.

It should be some early fall fun right around the time of the beginning of school, so consider putting it on your calendar as a family outing. It's a great way to have some fun and support Girl Scouts at the same time.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

It is week 2 of resident camp, and I am surrounded by giggles, learning lashing, watching swimming lessons, and the canoeing is about to begin.   Each year, I'm struck by the value of camp for girls.   We are emphasizing outdoor skills this year, so girls are learning to build fires, outdoor cooking, and other survival skills.   These skills will last a lifetime.

I'm always stunned and amazed at what they will try, given just a gentle nudge and watching kids do it.   This includes putting your face in the lake where you cannot see the bottom, working your way up on a stand up paddleboard, going down a zip line, or spending the night in a tent.   Although for us, some of these things seem like no big deal, facing your fears can be daunting at that age.   For some it is spiders, for others snakes (I'm still no real fan of snakes), and for others it is the dark of the night outside in a tent.   It is always amazing to see how they summon the courage to face down what scares them, confront it, and become a confident skilled leader.   It is good to never underestimate the power of confidence built at resident camp.


While others are spending their summer gaming, watching television, or texting, we have a large group of girls who have gone cold turkey from their electronics, and heard the bullfrogs and cricket frogs, cicadas, and birds instead.   They have hiked, learned about the outdoors, sung songs, and become tomorrow's leaders.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

The end of the school year has again rolled around very quickly. It is amazing how time flies by in the blink of an eye, and it is simply amazing.

This time of year, we receive many invitations to end of the year events and activities, which are always so much fun to attend. It is clear that you do so much for our girls, and I want to take some time to say thank you to those of you who make this endeavor possible.   Recently, I have been privileged to be in the presence of some tremendous volunteers.   I have witnessed great recognitions for the girls; girls who have learned to speak in public, finding their own voice, and accomplishing great things.   We have seen girls making wonderful end-of-the-year mementos that will have meaning and value for them.

We have seen girls walking across bridges, moving into a different part of their journey, and exploring new paths.   We have had the opportunity to celebrate all the girls who have earned their Bronze, Silver, and Gold awards.   But we also have seen hundreds of girls earning all sorts of badges.

None of this would be possible without the time, devotion, and commitment of you as a volunteer.   Someone, like you, who is willing to step up, takes the time from your schedule, and serves as a leader.   We recognize your time is valuable and something that you can't get back.   But as we watch the many wonderful events and activities you plan, coordinate, and invest yourself it, it becomes clear that you are investing in the growth of the girls you work with, you make your own community a better place, and change the world.

Thank you for being a volunteer and a wonderful person.



Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

Now's the time to take some of the cookie proceeds your troop has left and register your girls for next year.   I'm always amazed at how few folks take advantage of early bird registration.   Troops that are intact and ready to go in the fall practically have their pick of the use of all our camps, since camp reservations don't usually ramp up until October. This means there are all sorts of good opportunities to use camps and do things in the early part of the school year.

Early bird registration, as with all Girl Scout registration, comes insurance coverage.  If you are not registered, you don't have Girl Scout insurance coverage.   Your troop, by being registered, can sign up for the fun and exciting council events we have scheduled for the fall.   The program staff is busy working on plans for fall (yes, it does seem really early, but they start now).   Some of the new events in the works are two Journey weekends, a day program at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and so much more!

Also, if you register now, this is simply one less thing to remember in the fall.   We know that, when school starts, everyone is in need of your funds for one thing and another.   Consider it, your girls get an early bird patch if you register by June 17.

Click here for more information on Early Bird Registration.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

We had a wonderful time celebrating those Girl Scouts who earned Bronze, Silver, or Gold awards this past year.   Since it was the 100th anniversary of those awards, our staff planned two wonderful recognition events.

The first event was held in Mobile.   Gigi Baroco, our council archivist, put together a wonderful display of requirements for the various awards and some great uniforms.   It was amazing how captivating the displays are for girls earning awards.   

At that event the girls receiving their Gold Awards were Huntir Bass, whose project, Team Red, White and Blue, was to present a Gold and Glory 5K Run/Walk to benefit veterans.   Amerie Gramelspacher focused on Suicide Prevention and Awareness for her high school by doing a number of activities to heighten awareness of prevention possibilities.    Abigail Legge's project, the Buddy System, matched high school tutors with elementary school children in need of tutors to improve Math and English skills, as well as serve as role models.   Morgan Mitchell's project, Delicate Embrace Angel Gowns, took donated wedding dresses and remade them into bereavement gowns for children who do not make it out of the hospital.  Nicole Nobles did Barks for Books, where students at Spanish Fort Elementary School read to Hoss the dog, an excellent nonjudgmental listener.   Jeralynn Servos' project, Give a Book, Build a Future was creating a reading corner at the Prodisee Pantry where children can be read to while their parents are shopping at the food pantry.   When they are done, a book can be taken with the child.

Some of the recipients elected to speak, thanking those in the audience for their support.   Receiving these awards is not only about what the girl achieved, but it is done with the assistance of others.

The second event was held in Montgomery a week later.   This one featured Lt. Col. Keisha Douglass as the speaker.   Lt. Col. Douglass is the battalion commander for the U.S. Army Recruiting Command for the same area of GSSA's footprint.  Her remarks were to "be your best self.   You can accomplish anything."   Part of her point was that you can accomplish anything, but it is important to have mentors and a support system.   Lt. Col. Douglass enlisted in the Army as soon as she graduated from high school as a private.   After 10 years serving in the Army, her superiors suggested she attend Officer Candidate School.   This was not what she had wanted, but with much encouragement she did and has completed three degrees and continued to move up in the U.S. Army.   She was such a hit that she was mobbed after the event for autographs and photos.

The Gold Awards in Montgomery included Abby Campbell, who, through her project Baby Showers for Women's Hope, solicited needed items from the Auburn community to give to single mothers who live in poverty, to help them to provide a safe and nurturing environment for their children.   Elizabeth Prior's project, Parkerson Mill Creek Awareness Campaign and Restoration, focused on identifying Parkerson Mill Creek and working with the City of Auburn and Auburn University to recognize where dumping into the creek went and its ramifications.   Lucy Puranen did Operation Treble Clef, where middle school band participants are paired with high school band participants to encourage retention of band members.

Thanks to Jeannie Napper, Karen Edmondson, and Melinda Stallworth for their work on making these events a success.

Both of these events were well received and highlight that you should never under-estimate what a girl can do.   All these projects were simply amazing.   We are very proud of all our award recipients.

Thumbnail image for Liz-Brent_2016.jpg

It is that time of year when Edward Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March #1 wafts through the air.   There are graduation parties and newly-minted graduates deciding what the next step is in their life journey.   Having spent 30 years at a university, I know that it also means a very large graduation ceremony with way too much food, lots of family, photos, and hopes for good weather.

When you look up the definition of commencement, it is a beginning or a start.   Other words used to define it are an opening, a launch, an initiation, an inception, or in Alabama terms, a kickoff.   As we reflect on what all the Girl Scouts who are graduating this year, we look back on the many things they have accomplished.    We have seven Gold Awardees graduating this May.   We have thespians, musicians, athletes, and all of these girls can do anything, as illustrated by the fact they are still participating in Girl Scouts.

We wish the Girl Scout graduates of 2016 a future filled with changing the world, one day at a time, one person at a time, and a journey filled with courage, confidence, and character.

Monthly Archives