Teens and Women of Distinction Explore Leadership and Success: story by Rachelle Trujillo, GSCO

Fifty teen Girl Scouts learned that leadership is about a lot more than what you do; it's how you do it - and they learned this first-hand from spending the day Nov. 13 connecting with 15 of Denver's top female leaders, all Women of Distinction. The Women Workin' It event was cosponsored by Girl Scouts of Colorado and the Women's College of the University of Denver.

"This is a good opportunity to talk to successful women, which is great because I hope to be a successful woman one day too," said Katie Lillard, 16, of Highlands Ranch. These elite women leaders shared life lessons about their professional and personal paths.

Gay Cook, vice president of programs at the Colorado Trust said, "I wanted to be here today because a passion of mine has always been women's leadership, and I've devoted my entire volunteer life to it. Plus, there's nothing more fun than spending the day with a bunch of smart girls."

The event, held at the Women's College at the University of Denver, began with a thought-provoking ice breaker where women and girls speed-shared their thoughts on topics as significant as who has been the most influential person in their lives to as silly as the unique contents of their purses, all in one minute interchanges.

In addition to sharing the stories of how their careers have evolved and the moments that have shaped them, the Women of Distinction also had discussions with the girls on bullying, female images in our culture and how far women have and haven't come in society. When one girl shared that she feels invisible at school, Sandra Scanlon, president of Scanlon Szynskie Group advised, "Who you are comes from inside of you, not how other people define you."

"It was really fun to have these discussions with a group of girls and to be around so many women who want to make our community better," said Saranya Budangunta, 14, of Longmont.

The girls selected three out of 12 career exploration sessions that most interested them. "I learned a lot about environmental science and why water is so important from Mary Gearhart," said Srishti Singal, 14, of Colorado Springs. "I saw a strong connection about how we can use environmental engineering to help others." Gearhart is a senior vice
president at Brown & Caldwell.

Several of the leadership lessons learned were unexpected. "I learned that even the littlest things you do can make a big impact on the world," said Amanda Powell, 14, of Colorado Springs. "I'm going to be more conscious of making people feel good in little ways like giving compliments and opening doors. Maybe I can start a chain reaction at school."

Some of the life-changing experiences the women related made a strong impact on the girls. "Katherine Peck has an amazing job because she makes a huge difference in people's lives," said Emily Beckman, 17, of Colorado Springs. "She got to be present when President Obama signed into law
the Hate Crimes Prevention Act that she helped create." Peck is senior vice president for programs at the Gill Foundation.

The Leadership Class from The Women's College of the University of Denver led the girls in activities designed to help them identify their leadership style, connect with and communicate their passion and take action for their future.

"The leadership styles workshop taught me that people can be a leader in a lot of different ways than just what you normally think of," said Kathleen Whalen, 13, of Centennial.

"I love giving back to Girl Scouts and sharing what I've learned in all of the positions I've had in my career, so I'm thrilled to be here with the girls today," said Toya Nelson, executive director of the Governor's Commission on Community Service.

The other Women of Distinction who participated in this event are: Dr. Julika Ambrose, a retired private practice dentist and professor; Sheila Bugdanowitz, president & CEO, Rose Community Foundation; Toti Cadavid, president, Xcelente! Marketing & Advertising; Lynn Gangone, dean, The Women's College of the University of Denver; Maureen McDonald, executive director, Denver Metro Chamber Leadership Foundation; Myrna Mourning, retired vice president of human resources, Time Warner Cable; Linda Strine, president & CEO, Infinite Link, Inc.; Mary Petryszyn, vice president, mergers and acquisitions, Raytheon; Kristy Schloss, owner, Schloss Engineered Equipment; and Jill Tietjen, president & CEO, Technically Speaking.

The Women of Distinction are committed to supporting Girl Scouts and the organization's leadership programs. Their support helps the young leaders, the Girl Scouts, see that their future can be anything they make it.

Photo courtesy Girl Scouts of Colorado: Environmental engineer Mary Gearhart shares ideas with Kirsten Hollister and Kayla McCullough, both from Broomfield, Colo.

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