Friday, October 30, 2015

Board Chair & CEO Conference Focuses on Girl Outreach

With virtually all 112 Girl Scout Councils represented, the 2015 Girl Scout Board Chair & CEO Conference provided the opportunity for board chairs, CEOs, and representatives from GSUSA to discuss organizational policies and procedures and develop strategies for bringing the Girl Scout Leadership Experience to even more girls. 

As the largest girl-serving organization in the U.S., Girl Scouts has incomparable reach. The organization is:
  • In virtually every residential zip code,
  • Socioeconomically diverse,
  • In schools, churches, temples, and mosques, and
  • Inclusive of all racial and ethnic groups. 
Girl Scouts says "yes" to every girl and breaks the leadership barrier for girls of all backgrounds. Our membership reflects the rich diversity of our communities, state, and country. In Alaska, with the help of 1,500 adult volunteers, we serve 5,000 girls who live in 90 communities both urban and rural. Thirty-seven percent live off the road system and 40 percent receive financial assistance.
GSAK serves 5,000 girls in 90 communities south of the 63rd parallel
"Girl Scouts is the only girl-focused, girl-led leadership organization in Alaska," Girl Scouts of Alaska CEO Sue Perles said. "GSAK seeks to serve more girls while providing fantastic programs and activities."

Held October 15-17 in Chicago, the Board Chair & CEO Conference gave Sue the opportunity to: 
  • Network with other CEOs, 
  • Meet board chairs from other Councils, 
  • Hear from other Councils that have implemented GSUSA's latest software, and 
  • Discuss ways GSUSA can support Councils and learn how Councils can increase membership. 
Sue attended in person and GSAK Board Chair Lynda Zaugg participated via phone.

GSAK CEO Sue Perles, center, with Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains
CEO Patricia Mellor, left, and Girl Scouts of the Desert Southwest CEO Diane Flanagan
A highlight of the conference was speaking with GSUSA Board President Kathy Hopinkah Hannan. As a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation and GSUSA's first Native American board president, Kathy was particularly interested in hearing about how Alaska Natives participate in GSAK. 

More than 30 percent of girls served by GSAK identify as Alaska Native. They participate in all our Pathways including: 
  • Troop membership, which enables girls to earn badges and complete Journeys promoting community service, skill building, environmental stewardship, world cultures, arts, sports, STEM, and collaborating as a team to set and accomplish goals;
  • Summer resident and day camps; 
  • Women of Science & Technology Day in nine communities, including Bethel and Dillingham; and 
  • Our own Council Patch series, which includes the Alaska Native Heritage and Alaska Traditions patches.
2015 summer day camp in Bethel 
Also discussed at the conference was the Girl Scout Gold Award, which will celebrate its centennial in 2016. 

“Only five percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn Gold Awards. It is a prestigious award that speaks boldly of each recipient’s commitment to community service, maturity, and integrity," Sue said. "We would love to see more girls pursue their Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards. They are a fantastic learning experience for girls and a wonderful way to give back to the community." 

Girls who earn the award report greater success in reaching their goals in many areas including: 
  • Higher education and career 
    • Distinguish yourself in the college admissions process
    • Earn college scholarships
    • Enter the military one rank higher
  • Life skills 
    • Be seen as a role model and distinguished leader
    • Master time management skills
    • Make the world a better place
  • Community 
    • Use your vision for change
    • Tackle an issue, locally or globally
    • Establish a lifetime network
    • Create your community legacy with a sustainable solution to a problem
For information about the Girl Scout Bronze, Silver and Gold Awards, including upcoming orientations, click here.

GSAK's 2015 Gold Award earners
The Board Chair & CEO Conference was "three days well spent," Sue said. "Talking to other CEOs and board chairs drove home the message that our girls can, and are, changing the world. We're here to help girls discover their strengths, passions, and talents. Any girl in grades K-12 is encouraged to reach out and see what Girl Scouts can do for her!"

For information, visit our website or call 907-248-2250 / 800-478-7448

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Summer camps held in Cordova, Seward, Talkeetna, and Valdez for first time

Girl Scouts of Alaska brought day camp to four new locations in 2015. Girls in the communities of Cordova, Seward, Talkeetna, and Valdez experienced a classic and timeless GSAK summer camp experience for the very first time, which included activities such as arts and crafts, community services projects, cookouts, nature hikes, outdoor education, and more.

Camp staff were dispatched to the four communities June 20-25 due to the Sockeye Fire, which forced us to close Camp Togowoods during that time.  

Campers outside the program yurt at Camp Singing Hills
Day camp in Valdez

In all, this summer GSAK served 2,300 girls through camp programs in 40 locations. 

"Camp matters because it gives girls vital engagement," Chief Mission Officer Amanda Block said. "It not only teaches them skills they can use in the future, but it allows them to practice those skills today."

Campers in St. Mary's
Beachcombing in Sitka

Whether new and challenging or familiar and comforting, the activities girls partake in at Girl Scout camp help them develop the character traits youth need to develop into successful adults: 
  • A sense of wonder about the world
  • Social intelligence
  • Zest for/love of life
  • Optimism
  • Grit
  • Self-control
  • Gratitude

A visit to the Borough Public Safety Building in Haines

Because GSAK feels the camp experience should be made available to ALL girls regardless of ability to pay, we offered financial assistance (known as "camperships") for up to 90 percent of the camp fee to any girl who wished to attend camp.

Outdoor education in Kotlik

In several communities in Western Alaska, we offered camp at a significantly reduced cost. Our key sponsors included Alaska Commercial Company, Calista Corporation, ConocoPhillips, and Donlin Gold. We also received generous in-kind donations from Avis Alaska, Grant Aviation, and Ravn Alaska. 
Outdoor education in Bethel
Feather Winds resident camp in Juneau
GSAK wishes to thank the girls, parents, volunteers, camp staff, and donors who helped make the 2015 Girl Scout camp season a success!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Girl Scouts Aid Fire Relief Efforts

Alaska's dry summer has led to one of the worst wildfire seasons on record, with 4.5 million acres burned as of July 13. The Mat-Su Sockeye Fire and Kenai Peninsula Card Street Fire led to a host of evacuations, with many properties and structures damaged or destroyed. As always, when disasters occur, Girl Scouts young and old are at the ready! 

Sockeye Fire

For "outstanding support and professionalism" during the Mat-Su Sockeye Fire, GSAK received a Certificate of Appreciation from the Alaska Incident Management Team, an organization that provides response to complex emergency incidents.

Certificate of Appreciation from Alaska Incident Management Team

Mat-Su troops assembled more than 600 American Red Cross of Alaska "comfort kits," which included personal care items (soap, deodorant, Q-tips, etc.) and kids' items such as crayons and coloring books, games, and puzzles. Girl Scout Cookies were also given to first and secondary responders, shelters, and non-profit agencies that assisted with food distribution.  

"At first I only gave cookies to the shelters, but when I gave some to the Red Cross staff they were so grateful and happy," Mat-Su Member Services & Program Specialist Emily Tiller said. "In that moment, I realized we needed to go further than just the survivors. We are all in this together." 

Mat-Su girls assemble Red Cross comfort kits

Emily came to GSAK in the spring of 2015 from the Department of Homeland Security: Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) where she worked to support flood survivors and volunteers as they helped to rebuild eight rural Alaska communities adversely affected by 2013 Alaska flood. Emily also formerly worked for the American Red Cross of Alaska.

Emily's experience and procedural advice proved invaluable during not only the Sockeye Fire but to the Kenai Peninsula Girl Scouts when, several days later, the Card Street and several other area fires forced evacuations on the Peninsula. 

A big thank you to Emily, our girls and adult volunteers who collected items and assembled the kits, all those who donated items, and the folks at J&J Independent Living for providing a space for donation drop-offs and kit assembly.

Card Street Fire

Like their Mat-Su neighbors to the north, Kenai Peninsula Girl Scouts channeled their leadership skills into helping their neighbors in times of disaster. In addition to assembling 50 comfort kits, girls stood outside Safeway grocery store in Soldotna and collected $560 in cash donations and three carts of food for evacuees and firefighters.

Kenai Peninsula Brownies collect donations outside Safeway

"These fires have really driven home for me the importance of Firewise," Kenai Peninsula Member Services & Program Specialist Billeen Carlson said. Firewise is a cooperative effort among local, state, federal and private agencies and organizations to promote fire safety in the wildland/urban interface. When adequately prepared, a house can withstand a wildland fire without the intervention of the fire service.

"It's great to see Girl Scouts actively seeking roles to assist their communities in times of need," Billeen said. "After all, helping girls become leaders in their own lives while preparing them for future leadership roles is what the Girl Scout Leadership Experience is all about!" 

Thank you to Safeway, Northwest Customs for serving as a donation drop-off center, Soldotna United Methodist Church for providing a space to assemble the kits, and Sterling Community Center for distributing the kits. Kudos also to Billeen, our girls and adult volunteers, and all those who donated items.  

Monday, June 15, 2015

2015 Encampment Draws Girls, Adult Volunteers from Across the State

Learning and leadership, fun and friendship were the hallmarks of 2015 Encampment, held June 4-7 at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer. 

Nearly 750 girls and 350 adult volunteers turned out for this year's Encampment. Troops came from Anchorage, Chugiak/Eagle River, Fairbanks, the Kenai Peninsula, Kodiak, Mat-Su, Prince William Sound, Southeast Alaska, and Southwest Alaska.    

After troop arrival and check-in Thursday, the girls gathered for the Parade of Troops. Bag pipers from Alaska Celtic Pipes and Drums led the parade. Girls carried banners with their city and troop number, wore costumes, and heralded their arrival with noisemakers. 

Parade of Troop 

Afterward troops gathered for the official 2015 Encampment photo and opening ceremonies, which included addresses from GSUSA Board President Kathy Hopinka Hannan; Katie Nitzberg, a geologist with BP Alaska; and Lynda Zaugg, first vice chair of GSAK's board of directors. Kharissa C. from Palmer and Jordan C. from Juneau served as our event emcees.

The 'official' 2015 Encampment group photo
Friday and Saturday morning and afternoon were dedicated to workshops. Digital photography, dog mushing, belly dance, and basket weaving - this year's Encampment workshops spanned a range of topics including sports and recreation, music and drama, arts and crafts, and STEM.

"My favorite activity... It's hard to choose between 'Improve Your Improv' - because improv and acting [are some] of my favorite things to do - and photography," Sabrina A. of Troop 124 told Coastal Television Your Alaska Link reporter Caroline Flynn.

Click here to see Caroline's news piece, which was put together with the help of some potential future journalists!

In between workshop sessions girls could rock climb, tackle a bouncy-house obstacle course, enjoy some "me" time, or sit for face painting.

Baton and flag-twirling workshop

A highlight of Encampment was Friday night's presentation by keynote speaker Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle.

A 15-time Iditarod finisher, Aliy Zirkle has been the runner-up in the Iditarod for three consecutive years: 2012, 2013, and 2014. In 2000 she became the first woman to win the Yukon Quest, a 1,000-mile dog sled race from Whitehorse to Fairbanks.

Along with her husband Allen Moore, who is also a champion musher, Aliy owns 40 dogs and runs SP Kennel in Two Rivers, a town 25 miles northeast of Fairbanks.

The theme of 2015 Encampment was "Superheroes in the Making," and Aliy told the girls that her superpower is to "keep smiling throughout all of the incredible challenges in life."

Aliy said 2015 Encampment was one of the best motivational presentations she has ever given. To quote Aliy when she returned home: “I went to to 2015 Girl Scout Encampment to try and inspire and encourage those girls, and I left the fairgrounds more motivated and inspired than I have been in years!”

Five lucky troops were randomly selected to attend a meet-and-greet with Aliy before her presentation. All the girls received a signed photograph of Aliy with her sled dog Junior.

Troop meet-and-greet with Iditarod musher Aliy Zirkle

After another day of workshops, Saturday ended with closing ceremonies. The girls heard from U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski, who had been a Girl Scout growing up in Ketchikan and serves as a member of the honorary Congressional Girl Scout troop called Troop Capitol Hill. Senator Murkowski addressed the girls via video:

"We all know that superheroes have superpowers. So when you think about that, where does your superpower come from? I'd say that my superpower is being at my best when I push myself out of my comfort zone," Senator Murkowski said. 

"Those who are familiar with sailing know that you can sail pretty close to the shore to get to your destination, but risking the open seas and the rough waters will allow you to stretch yourself and help you find out what you're made of. You still get to the same place, but the adventures you have along the way? They're really worth it."

After closing remarks from GSAK CEO Sue Perles and Encampment Coordinator Tasha Nichols, the girls sang karaoke and danced the night away.

Troop karaoke the last night of Encampment

A big thank you to our girls and troop leaders, adult volunteers, workshop presenters, special guests, and the GSAK staff for making 2015 Encampment a success!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Nearly 400 Attend the 2015 Young Women of Distinction Luncheon

The highest achievement in Girl Scouting, the Girl Scout Gold Award challenges Girl Scout Seniors (grades 9-10) and Ambassadors (grades 11-12) to take action to improve their world. Girls who pursue the Gold Award aspire to transform an idea into an actionable plan with measurable, sustainable, and far-reaching results.    

This year GSAK honored seven Girl Scouts who earned their Gold Award at a luncheon in their honor: 

  • Emily Carman, Anchorage
  • Ariel Hasse, Wasilla
  • Jordan Lane, Anchorage
  • Kathleen Meeds, Anchorage
  • Kelsey Olmstead, Anchorage
  • Sharayah Taylor, Ketchikan
  • Rachel White, Anchorage

The event was held May 4 at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage.

L to R: Emcee Kharissa Chasse and Gold Award earners 
Kathleen Meeds, Sharayah Taylor, Kelsey Olmstead, Emily Carman, and Rachel White

Nearly 400 attendees turned out for the event, which featured speeches from five of the Gold Award earners. Kharissa Chasse, an Ambassador Girl Scout with Palmer Troop 447, served as event emcee and presented the girls their Gold Awards.  

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Girl Scout alumna and member of honorary Congressional Girl Scout troop Troop Capitol Hill, addressed the girls via video:

“The Gold Award is the Girl Scouts’ highest honor, an impressive achievement reflecting tremendous dedication, personal drive, and hard work. I want to thank each and every one of you for all that you’ve done to make our great State of Alaska an even better place to live,” Senator Murkowski said. “Your commitment to your communities – from Wasilla to Anchorage to Ketchikan – is truly inspirational.”   

Olympian Holly Brooks served as the luncheon keynote speaker. A Girl Scout while growing up in Washington State with a troop-leader mother, Holly has served as Girl Scouts of Alaska’s spokeswoman since 2013.

Keynote speaker Holly Brooks with Gold Award earner Kathleen Meeds

Holly talked about the important lessons she learned while participating in the Girl Scout Cookie Program such as courage, goal setting, dedication, and perseverance. Holly sold 1,000 boxes each cookie sale so she could earn enough cookie credits to attend summer camp. 

Holly said those early lessons learned in Girl Scouts set her up for success in life. She also talked about what it takes to go “from idea to action, from dreaming to doing”: 

1. Own it
2. Share it 
3. Be persistent 
4. Get lucky 
5. Pivot 
6. Be true to yourself 

GSAK CEO Sue Perles thanked our Girl Scout supporters, including event Gold Sponsor CIRI and Bronze Sponsor Soroptimist International of Anchorage on Cook Inlet, and GSAK Second Vice Chair Beth Nordlund asked the luncheon attendees for support. 

GSAK board member Beth Nordlund 

Though there was no charge for the luncheon, there was a suggested minimum donation of $100 and many donated more. In addition to our Gold and Bronze Sponsors, corporate donors included Alaska Commercial Company, BP Alaska, and Saltchuk Corp.  

Donors who give to Girl Scouts of Alaska are investing in the next generation of female leaders. Their money supports Alaska's girls through a variety of pathways including troop membership, summer camp in 35 communities, Council events, and series such as our Girl Scout all-girl LEGO robotics teams.

GSAK board member Lynda Zaugg, left, with luncheon guest Janna Stewart

“Only five percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn Gold Awards. It is a prestigious award that speaks boldly of each recipient’s work ethic, maturity, and integrity,” GSAK CEO Sue Perles said. “We know that transformational leadership begins in girlhood, and Ariel, Emily, Jordan, Kathleen, Kelsey, Rachel, and Sharayah have demonstrated they have what it takes to excel, exceed, and lead now and throughout their lives.”

Congratulations to our 2015 Gold Award earners and thank you to all who turned out for our Young Women of Distinction luncheon! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Alaskan Girl Scouts Attend UN Conference in NYC

With the goal of the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women, the 2015 United Nations Commission on the Status of Women drew women and girls from across the U.S. The event was held March 9-20 at UN Headquarters in New York City. 

Four girls represented Girl Scouts of Alaska at the conference:

  • Kharissa Chasse, age 17, Troop 447, Palmer;
  • Lacey Davis, age 16, Troop 4019, Juneau;
  • Tessah Stokinger, age 17, Troop 459, Palmer; and  
  • Roslyn White, age 16, Troop 15, Anchorage. 

Lisa Mead, GSAK’s Encampment 2015 coordinator, served as travel coordinator and adult chaperone.

L to R: Lacey, Kharissa, Tessah, and Roslyn outside GSUSA headquarters 

In 1995 the UN adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which addressed 12 critical areas of concern:

  1. Women and poverty
  2. Education and training of women
  3. Women and health
  4. Violence against women
  5. Women and armed conflict
  6. Women and the economy
  7. Women in power and decision-making
  8. Institutional mechanisms
  9. Human rights of women
  10. Women and the media
  11. Women and the environment
  12. The girl child

2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action. The main focus of this year's conference was the declaration, including current challenges that affect its implementation and the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Kharissa poses next to a life-size cutout of 
Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low

Their first day in New York, Kharissa, Lacey, Tessah, and Roslyn toured Girl Scouts of the USA headquarters and met CEO Anna Maria Chavez. 

The rest of the trip was dedicated to the conference. A few of the many seminars the girls attended included “Changing the World, One Story at a Time,” “End Gender Discrimination Now!,” and “Where are the Girls? Promise and Progress in Gender Bias since Beijing.”

Tessah and Kharissa (far right) participate in a workshop

A highlight of the conference was “Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality,” an event with musical performances, high-powered speakers, and celebrities including former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Academy Award-winning actress Patricia Arquette, and global philanthropist Melinda Gates. 

The girls participated in a march for equal rights that took them from the UN through Central Park and ended in Times Square; participated in workshops hosted by the Working Group on Girls, a coalition of more than 80 national and international non-governmental organizations dedicated to promoting the human rights of girls; and attended a speech given by Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace and women's rights activist who spoke about her experiences growing up in war-ravaged Liberia, the issue of women in conflict situations, and her hopes for the future of all children. 

(L to R): Tessah, Lacey, Kharissa, and Roslyn outside UN Headquarters

GSAK would like to thank Kharissa, Lacey, Tessah, and Roslyn for representing us at the 2015 UN Commission on the Status of Women. Awesome job, girls! 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Auction supports Girl Scouting in Southeast Alaska

Girl Scouts has been active in Southeast Alaska since 1968, when the Tongass Alaska Girl Scout Council received its charter from Girl Scouts of the USA. 

Girl Scouts of Alaska currently serves nearly 1,000 girls in Southeast Alaska. Our jurisdiction includes the cities of Juneau, Sitka, Ketchikan, and Petersburg, and smaller communities such as Angoon, Craig, Kake, and Skagway, among many others.

A can't-miss event that supports Girl Scouting in Southeast Alaska, GSAK's 23rd Annual Southeast Auction was held January 31 in Juneau. This year's auction featured a silent and outcry auction and, as always, a dessert auction. More than 120 attendees turned out for this festive event. 

Dessert auction items

GSAK CEO Sue Perles arrived in Juneau on Wednesday so she could attend an ice-skating party at the Treadwell Ice Arena in Douglas. More than 75 girls, parents, friends, and volunteers turned out for the event, which was organized by Member Services & Program Specialist Taralee Ellis.  

On Thursday, girls from several Juneau troops led the Troop 49 meeting. Troop 49 is an honorary troop comprised of Alaska's first lady, the lieutenant governor's wife, and our female state commissioners and legislators. 

Juneau Girl Scouts with Troop 49

The girls led the women in the Girl Scout Promise and Law, and conducted a pinning ceremony. Toni Mallott, lieutenant governor Byron Mallott's wife, was pinned by her granddaughters, who are active in Girl Scouts in Juneau. Rep. Geran Tarr and Sen. Mia Costello will serve as leaders of this year's Troop 49. Sen. Costello is a lifetime Girl Scout.

 Toni Mallott receives her pin at the Troop 49 meeting while
Sen. Anna Fairclough and GSAK Board President Mary Siroky look on

On Friday, Sue was busy meeting with legislators, reviewing Girl Scout activities, and discussing future projects. The highlight of her schedule was a sign dedication ceremony at GSAK's Juneau field office. A beautiful new Girl Scouts of Alaska sign will hang alongside the Tongass Council sign to commemorate the 2009 merging of the Tongass and Susitna Councils to create Girl Scouts of Alaska.

New Girl Scouts of Alaska sign for Juneau field office

Saturday commenced with a meeting of our board of directors and ended with the auction. 

Volunteers in Juneau worked to gather a variety of desirable auction items. Silent auction items included kayak rentals, cooking classes, spa services, and restaurant gift certificates. Live auction items included round-trip Alaska Airlines tickets; lunch with Vic Fischer, one of the original signers of the Alaska constitution; a condo rental in Palm Springs, California; and skiing lessons with Olympian Holly Brooks.

GSAK Board First Vice Chair Lynda Zaugg, left, 
with GSAK CEO Sue Perles 

“The Southeast Auction is a fun and exciting event that supports Girl Scouting in Southeast Alaska,” said Mary Siroky, GSAK board president and Southeast Auction committee member. "Our Auction Committee works tirelessly to put together an event that will enable us to provide the Girl Scout program to every girl who wants to be a Girl Scout. We are grateful to our auction item donors, our volunteers, and all the generous attendees for making the auction happen year after year."

GSAK's 23rd annual Southeast Auction drew more than 120 attendees

GSAK offers a variety of programs to girls in Southeast Alaska, including: 

  • Traveling rural day camps in Angoon, Gustavus, Haines, Hoonah, Juneau, Kake, Ketchikan, Metlakatla, Petersburg, Prince of Wales, Sitka, Skagway, and Wrangell; 
  • Troop membership;
  • Series and events;
  • Camp Featherwinds resident (overnight) camp; 
  • All-girl LEGO robotics teams;
  • Women of Science & Technology Day; and 
  • Women of the Arts (Ketchikan). 
We would like to extend a special thanks to auctioneers Jesse Kiehl and Kristin Kranendok; auctioneer assistants Bridget Braley and Rachel Hanke; auction committee members Susan Cox, Cherry Eckland, Sharon Fishel, Cori Mills, Shari Paul, Margaret Pugh, Mary Siroky, Janell Hafner, and Sarah Lewis; our auction volunteers; and Viking Lounge and Abby's Kitchen.