Making the World Bigger

Girl Scouts has changed to become more relevant to issues girls face today.

By Michelle Valigursky

Story Photo
Amy Sykes Dosik 99L, newly-appointed CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

Katie Couric, Taylor Swift, Gloria Steinem, Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, and Sandra Day O’Connor proudly carry this honor. Like these successful women, 59 million women are Girl Scout alumnae. “We focus on issues young girls face today and help them to develop the skills and competencies they need as adults,” says Amy Sykes Dosik 99L, newly-appointed CEO of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta.

With a renewed focus on leadership development, civic responsibility, education, and friendship, the Girl Scouts engage young minds with possibilities. As Dosik shares, Girl Scouting has changed with the times in the last 100 years. “We’re more relevant,” she says. “As a national organization, we advocate for positive changes in public policy and legislation that will ultimately provide more leadership opportunities for young women.”

In the Atlanta metro area, girls in grades K-12 partake in a wide range of activities such as Girl Scout Day at the Capital (during which girls set up meetings with legislators on issues important to them), an annual Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Expo, Camp CEO (a mentoring program matching older Girl Scouts and women business executives), and career exploration. “Girls need to see what other women are achieving,” Dosik explains. For example, “They have shadowed young female engineers at Lockheed Martin and participated in business pitch ‘Shark Tank’ workshops with Deloitte. By working with adult mentors, they’re gaining real-world perspective that inspires them to think critically and succeed.”

Today’s Girl Scouts promotes health and wellness, financial literacy, STEM skills, and environmental awareness as well as traditional skills development workshops and outdoor adventures. “For at-risk girls, we often become the anchor in their lives,” Dosik says. For girls who hail from socioeconomically challenged environments, scouting is made possible through financial assistance. “We want Girl Scouts to be a place that embraces all the girls in our community. Our goal is to double the financial assistance we offer by 2020.”

Beyond troop activities, leadership development takes top priority. The Girl Scout Leadership Experience is designed to ensure that every girl has the opportunity to become a healthy and productive woman who can be a leader in her own life and in the world at large. “While a majority of all girls want to be leaders, many girls face challenges including poverty, mental health issues, and a lack of positive role models that prevent them from making a successful transition to adulthood,” said Dosik. “For these girls, Girl Scouting can make a world of difference. More than 93 percent of girls tell us that Girl Scouting helped them discover their personal strengths and talents and allowed them to do things they would not get to do otherwise.”

Looking forward, Dosik hopes to expand the corporate and community partnerships of Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. “Our girls need positive role models from all professions and walks of life. By collaborating with well-respected public and private companies and institutions of higher learning like Emory, we’ll continue to widen horizons.”

Recognizing young women of distinction, the Gold Award is given to young women who “have demonstrated their courage, confidence, and character” through building skills in “leadership, communication, time management, presentation, delegation, interpersonal relationships, responsibility, and commitment.”

This past year, 113 outstanding young women in greater Atlanta were awarded this honor. As the Gold Award yearbook describes, “Their projects impacted local, national, and international communities and approximately 9500 hours were collectively invested in implemented sustainable solutions.” Projects included Charishma Chinoy’s documentary “Breaking Barriers” about refugees in Clarkston, Jennifer Hite’s “Mr. and Miss Special Gwinnett County Pageant” for raising social awareness of individuals with special needs, Aliya Nurani’s painted murals for the Emory Children’s Center, and Susannah Haury’s Dignity Revolution Film Festival that showcased the full and enriched lives of people with “diffabilities.”

As the growing organization’s CEO, Dosik is proud to guide the 46,000 girls and 18,000 adults in Atlanta who participate annually in Girl Scouts.

“I could eat a whole box.”

Cookies

www.showmethecookies.com

We all have a personal favorite Girl Scout cookie, and it’s no wonder. In Atlanta, there are six varieties to suit every palate, and new recipes are always in research and development. Though your favorite cookie in Atlanta may have a different name in Idaho (depending on the regional baker), “The top secret recipes are prepared to the same exact specifications nationwide,” Dosik assures.

Cookie season occurs each year in Atlanta from January to April. The tradition of Girl Scout cookies began in 1917, when the Mistletoe Troop in Muskogee, Oklahoma baked cookies and sold them in its high school cafeteria as a service project. Across the country, the program generates nearly $800 million in revenue each year, with all of the profits staying in the local community to fund program activities. In addition to traditional door-to-door sales, cookies are sold via troop booths at locations such as grocery stores and civic centers. To aid customers in making purchases, the new www.showmethecookies.com identifies purchase points.

As Dosik points out, the Girl Scout cookie program is “the single largest girl-led financial literacy effort in the country. Each girl learns critical skills including goal setting, decision making, business ethics, money management, and customer service that will help her later in life.” In addition, “They learn to work together as a team while deciding how to spend the portion of the proceeds designated to their individual troop.”

Once a Scout, Always a Scout

The history of Girl Scouting goes back more than one hundred years to when “Juliette ‘Daisy’ Gordon Low assembled 18 girls from Savannah, Georgia, on March 12, 1912, for a local Girl Scout meeting. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally, and spiritually. With the goal of bringing girls out of isolated home environments and into community service and the open air, Girl Scouts hiked, played basketball, went on camping trips, learned how to tell time by the stars, and studied first aid. Within a few years, Daisy's dream for a girl-centered organization was realized. Today, Girl Scouts of the USA has a membership of over 3.2 million girls and adults, a significant growth from its modest beginnings nearly a century ago,” the group’s history explains.

Dosik leads Girl Scouts of Atlanta after having served the business, legal, and tax needs of the nonprofit community for more than 20 years. “I am thrilled to be wearing my Girl Scout pin again in this exciting leadership role. Growing up, I was fortunate to have a lot of adults who helped make my world bigger by exposing me to new challenges, new experiences, and new places. I am privileged to have the opportunity to work with all of you each day to make the world bigger for the girls in our community.”

In simple terms, Dosik is exhilarated. “The longer girls stay in scouting, the more their worlds open up. It’s truly exciting to participate in their journey.”

Editor’s Note: Here are my personal disclaimers: My favorite cookie is the Tagalong, and I was a loyal Girl Scout for many years with fantastic memories of Camp Te Ata at Kanawaukee Lakes, NY. If you were an Atlanta-area Girl Scout, the organization’s History/Archives Committee would love to hear from you. Please contact staff liaison Margaret Paschal at 770.702.9610 or toll-free at 1.800.771.4026 or email Margaret at mpaschal@gsgatl.org.​​ To learn more about membership, please visit here. To learn more about volunteering, please visit here. To see other famous American women who have made scouting a big part of their life, please visit this Forbes magazine gallery

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Michelle Valigursky