When I was invited to participate in the Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago & Northwest Indiana's 2014 Camp CEO, I had little idea what that meant but gladly accepted on the premise that I would be mentoring high school girls. When I was sent a list of items that I needed and saw 'sleeping bag', 'bug spray' and 'rain poncho', I got a bit nervous. Now I am sitting here reflecting on 24 hours that I wouldn't trade for the world, and wondering why I didn't know how much Girls Scouts had to offer when I was in middle & high school.
Camp CEO combines a group of highly motivated teenage girls (of those who apply, 25 are accepted) with c-level executives in a relaxed summer camp setting. When I say highly motivated, I mean every girl had a plan for the future, and every plan included somehow making the world a better place for others - I didn't know what I wanted to do until well after college! There is a nice mix of career focused events like creating an elevator pitch and traditional camp activities like hiking and swimming. I enjoyed the blend of formal and informal, as it allowed campers to ask career specific questions and also more personal questions like 'how do you feel about feminism in the workplace' over a hike through the woods.
The beauty of Camp CEO was that we were there to provide guidance and inspiration to a special group of young women, and through that process I was inspired by both those young women and other CEOs. On one hike I was able to talk to a high schooler who is deciding what to do with her non profit when she goes to college. She is still in high school and has already built a non profit that donated over $6,000 to charity last year! Impressive. My mentee wants to work with the loop system in inner city schools to provide a family unit for at risk students, an alternative to seeking that family unit within a gang. I was constantly impressed with the campers, and cannot wait to see all of the good that they do in their lives.
Beyond camp activities and casual conversations, Dream Your Future panel discussions provided a formal setting for CEOs to share their story and leave campers with a piece of advice. These panel sparked questions and conversations amongst CEOs and campers, which led to a great learning experience.
My "Dream Your Future" panel (from left to right) included myself, Phyllis Cochran, Cheryl Burton, Raschanda Hall and Diana Palomar.
Here is a snippet of their advice for the campers. There is no way to sum up the wisdom shared in one blog post, but this is my attempt at the important nugget they left behind.
Do not be afraid to take the job that no one else wants, which is how Phyllis started her journey to the top of the ladder. She also recommended hiring people that are smarter than you and having a mentor.
Cheryl started her career in sales at Xerox and is proof that if you follow your heart and pursue your dreams you can end up with a career that you love.
"Good . Better . Best . Never let it rest until good is better and better is best."
"Whatever you do, bring other girls along and share your opportunities with them."
Thursday's "Dream Your Future Panel" included (from left to right) Angela Hickey, Melissa Preston, Connie Lindsey and Brenda Russell.
Angela's story is truly the American dream. She lived in poverty as a child but was determined to make a better life for herself, and is now an Executive Director at a law firm. Angela is proof that determination and persistence can help you achieve your dreams, regardless of your current situation.
Melissa took an untraditional path by having the courage to always seize opportunities that presented themselves. She was also confident enough to ask for what she wanted, even when what she wanted was to travel around Africa with the Vice President of our country while at one of her first jobs!
Connie had so much wisdom and inspiration to share that it's hard to pick one thing. The piece of advice that made the greatest impression on me was that your job does not define you. Your job is important, but it's connecting your job with your charitable work and your personal life that make up who you really are. This is incredibly important to keep in mind as you work your butt off to get where you want to go. A job is a means to the lifestyle you want to live, but don't forget to take time to do good, give back and have a personal life.
Brenda shared a special story about a spontaneous birthday trip and marathon that took her across the world. No friends or family could make the trip, but the kindness and love that she was greeted with 1/2 way around the world just gave me chills thinking about. Brenda's story was full of life lessons, and to me one of the most important lessons was - don't miss out on the experiences that you want in life because no one is willing to go along for the ride. If Brenda had decided to back out because she was going at it alone, she would have missed out on a memory and experience that will last a lifetime.
As hard as I'm trying, there is no way to sum up Camp CEO in a blog post. It's a special place that lends to invaluable experiences with new lifelong friends. There is so much more that I want to say about the good that Girl Scouts does, but I'll close with some of my favorite tweets from Camp CEO (I especially loved when the campers "took over Twitter" to live tweet their experiences):