Oct22

Written by:Monica Gonzales
10/22/2011 10:47 PM 

Across Northeast Texas, more than 35,000 women and girls call themselves Girl Scouts. That number jumps to more than 10 million across the globe.

It takes time to achieve those kinds of numbers, which is exactly what the group in the backyard of U.S. Magistrate Judge Judith Guthrie celebrated Thursday: 100 years of Girl Scouting.

The organization strives to make women fearless leaders.

"We've changed in a number of ways, and we've also stayed the same," said Colleen Walker, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, which covers 32 counties, including Smith County. "We've become the largest pipeline for female leadership in the world."

And Ms. Walker can cite the numbers to back that up.

She said 80 percent of female business executives in the United States were or are Girl Scouts. That includes, she said, the last three secretaries of state.

But the numbers aren't what it's all about for her, nor other Scouts such as Judge Guthrie or Officer Sandra Nauls-Mast. It's about the skills, friendships and personalities the program helped to build.

Mrs. Nauls-Mast joined the organization when her mother started one. The experiences and knowledge she acquired through the program apply to her life and job today.

"It's a way of learning about things you would not learn anywhere else," she said. "It's a way of getting girls together and building relationships."

As a patrol officer with the Tyler Police Department for 30 years, she said the maxims she learned in Scouting, especially "be prepared," are applied on a regular basis.

Ms. Walker and Judge Guthrie agree that the organization brings much more to their lives than just merit badges and cookies.

Ms. Walker said she didn't get involved in the organization until she was 19 years old, but it pushed her into new horizons. She was working as an engineer and volunteering at schools to encourage girls to take an interest in math and science.

Eventually, she teamed up with the Scouts, and it became her passion.

That passion, she said, pushed her back into school to pursue a master's degree in business from Harvard, just so she could take a leadership role in the organization.

"The bigger you dream, the bigger the opportunity," she said with a smile. "The journey is what's worth it."

Judge Guthrie realized the club's potential as an adult, as well, as she encouraged young women to get involved in women's issues, leadership and programs. The Girl Scouts proved to be the perfect group to encourage that at a young age.

"Get in a program that has as its only goal to make you a strong, productive citizen when you grow up," she said. "Get involved, get your daughters involved, (and) get your granddaughters involved."

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