Inspiring Latina Of The Week: Girl Scouts CEO Anna Maria Chavez

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How does it feel to be the first Latina head of such an iconic organization? 

Well, first of all, it was so humbling. You know, you don’t wake up one day and say, “I’m gonna run the largest leadership organization for girls in the world,” right? [Laughs] And it’s such an iconic brand, right? It is America. It is apple pie America, and, you know, so many amazing individuals have led this organization both from a staff position but also from a volunteer position. And it changed my life dramatically, so positively. So when I learned that I had been appointed the 19th CEO of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A in 100 years, you know, it was overwhelming knowing the responsibility but also having the opportunity to serve as a role model for girls and women who may not have had all the breaks possible, who may have started their lives in environments where they didn’t have access to all the resources that other individuals did. Um, and so I knew that Girl Scouts had the opportunity – not only to change lives, but to potentially save lives. You know, people a lot don’t realize it. And that’s why I loved working at the local level in Girl Scouts. I ran what we call a local Girl Scout counsel, so, if you don’t know about our framework for Girl Scouts, we have 112 local Girl Scout counsels, and they serve a territory. And I was able to serve in Southwest Texas, and what I truly understood – what a lot of people don’t realize – is that we are providing a safety network for girls communities across the country. So we have Girl Scout troops in juvenile detention centers, so they may not be Girl Scouts, obviously, going into the detention center, but we go in and we provide the same leadership training for girls. So that when they leave, they’ve got some skills to help them succeed in school and in life. You know, we have troops in housing developments – low-income development communities. We have them in after-school programming places where girls may not have access, you know, to other opportunities. For me, it is just such an honor. And my biggest challenge, I think, going forward is: how do I get this message out there – working with community leaders, national leaders, educators, faith leaders – that we are alive and well, that we are a relevant organization, and that, with such an amazing opportunity to invest in this organization, we have the scale – unlike other organizations – to actually have a huge impact on girls and families? 

What advice do you have to offer to other Latinas? 

We always have to think about how we’re reaching back to help other people. You know, I can name throughout my life, the people who always took the time to mentor me. [Those people] who had life experience to say, “I would think differently about making that choice right now. Maybe this path is better for you?” So always understanding – when you get to positions of leadership – that we have a responsibility to pave the way for other individuals. And I think part of it, as well, is just to have faith. Things are not always going to go well in life, and – as a leader – you’re always going to have challenges. And it’s how you deal with those challenges that really sets the future for the organization that you’re leading or the people that you’re working with. And you never know who’s watching, right? So for me, that’s what I love about my role is – just by dreaming big and inspiring and engaging people, you’re having an impact on individuals you don’t even know, right? Because you never know who’s watching.

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Cristina Arreola, Associate Editor

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