Sylvia Acevedo knows girls: As the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, she sits at the helm of an organization that touches the lives of more than 5 million of them. This fall, the Girl Scouts will introduce a set of badges that girls can earn in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and the outdoors. These join the new space science badges, which resonate with Sylvia, a former rocket scientist who worked at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
Her goal is to get girls to engage with the world around them—as inventors, creators, designers and entrepreneurs, whether in their communities or in the cosmos. Sylvia spoke to Landcruisers Editor-in-Chief Susan Spencer about what it takes to raise a girl with character, resilience, and confidence.
1. She needs a spark.
As a girl, Sylvia was on a Girl Scout campout when a troop leader pointed out the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper. "I just thought they were twinkling lights in the sky. But she taught me that there was a system," she says. The leader encouraged Sylvia to earn her science badge, launching a lifelong passion for space. Every girl needs that moment when infinite possibilities seem closer—and achievable.
2. She needs to dream big.
When Sylvia was 9, a teacher showed her a picture of Stanford University. She was growing up in southern New Mexico, so the green hills seemed magical: "I said to the teacher, Mrs. Baldwin, 'I want to go there.' And Mrs. Baldwin said, 'You're a smart girl. You can.' And I did." (She was one of the first Latinos to attend.) Being helped to think about her future in a way she otherwise might not is a huge confidence booster for a girl. Sylvia points out that most of the female astronauts, half of the U.S. female elected officials, and the three women Secretaries of State were all Girl Scouts.
3. She needs a voice.
When girls learn how to engage with their communities, they feel more confident and have the courage to speak out. "We want girls to know how to take civic action, how to find common ground, how to influence public policies, how to get out the vote," says Sylvia. "We want girls, from the very early ages, to know how to use their voices to lead."
4. She needs never to take "no" for an answer.
A troop leader offered a smart piece of advice as Sylvia embarked on cookie sales: Never leave a potential customer until you've heard "no" three times. "There were plenty of times when people told me 'no' more than three times, but that taught me persistence and resilience," says Sylvia. When girls ignore attempts to hold them back, it allows them to create opportunity for themselves, which can lead to success.
Landcruisers is collaborating with Girl Scouts of the USA to help support the future generation of female leaders with its new initiative: the G.I.R.L. Agenda. (Only donations made within the U.S. can be accepted by GSUSA.)
Help Landcruisers and Girls Scouts of the USA build tomorrow's female leaders. DONATE NOW at hearstforhumanity.com/wdgirls.