By Michelle Eberhart (USMA West Point Public Affairs)March 21, 2016
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Mar. 21, 2016) - The U.S. Military Academy at West Point Women's History Month luncheon took place at the West Point Club, on West Point, Mar. 2.
Guest Speaker, Anna Maria Chãvez, CEO of Girl Scouts of USA, spoke to Cadets, staff and faculty about the importance of instilling confidence and leadership values at a young age.
Chãvez was born in rural Arizona and grew up as a Girl Scout. Although her grandmother, who was born in Mexico, and her mother were never Girl Scouts, both knew they wanted Anna to succeed. "My parents wanted me to beat the odds," Chãvez explained. "They knew Girl Scouts developed leaders of the future."
At the age of 12, Chãvez decided she wanted to become an attorney, a feat which she later accomplished after receiving her bachelor's degree from Yale University and her juris doctorate at the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona.
After working for the President and Vice President of the United States and two Arizona State Governors, Chãvez decided she wanted to go back to her roots and become the CEO of Girl Scouts.
Why? Because Chãvez, while working for the state of Arizona, helped the Governor put together capital budget plans for prison beds based on the fourth grade dropout rate. "We were investing more in prison beds and foster care than we were on education," Chãvez said. She knew she wanted to empower girls, not incarcerate them.
"If you currently look at the leadership positions in the United States," Chãvez began. "Women who are running corporations, leading the military, you will find (Girl Scouts) alumni in key positions." By joining an organization that teaches leadership, teamwork and confidence, it allows young women to realize how bright their futures can be.
Chãvez remarked that the number one thing she hears from women CEO's is that their first business transactions began with selling Girl Scout cookies.
But it's so much more than cookies.
"(Girl Scouts) are about creating the future leadership pipeline in this country," Chãvez said. By creating a network of future leaders, it allows girls to inspire one another to take on leadership roles. Not to mention, leadership roles that effect the increasingly diverse military.
"As you lead your troops and you lead your organizations, you will get to know the importance of ensuring that you do have a diverse workforce," Chãvez said to the Cadets. "Whether its gender balance leadership, whether it's from an ethnicity standpoint, a religious standpoint or just a philosophy standpoint, the best teams in the country are built from a very diverse group of individuals."
Class of 2018 Cadet Tia Borrego left feeling inspired after listening to Chavez's insight. "The speech today was really incredible and truly empowering," Borrego said. "As an African American and Hispanic female cadet, things can be really difficult, just like growing up in life. "So I think it's really nice just to hear somebody speak who's had similar experiences to mine, had similar tribulations and a similar plight, and they've overcome and become the CEO of one of the biggest, well-known organizations. I think it's uplifting and inspiring," Borrego added.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremee Brown, the U.S. Corps of Cadets Equal Opportunity Advisor, agreed. When choosing a guest speaker, he and Master Sgt. Jonathan Emerick knew that Chãvez would offer a unique and necessary perspective. "Leadership wise, (Girl Scouts) establishes that confidence in a child as they are growing up," Brown said. "When young ladies come into the Army, or any military branch, they're already going to have a base of confidence, it will help them become better leaders."
In addition, the Girl Scouts headquarters is in New York City, allowing the Academy to build another bridge to its nearby metropolis.
"We're trying to reach out to New York City and different influential individuals that we can bring in, and that's one of the reasons why Ms. Chãvez was the leading choice we wanted," Brown said.
Existing leaders and future officers both see the importance of empowering young women.
"The points (Chãvez) were making are that Girl Scouts prep young women to be leaders in America and also in the Army," Class of 2016 Cadet Othie Freeny, the 1st Regiment Respect Officer, said. "When she asked the audience how many of them were Girl Scouts, a good portion of the females raised their hands. So I feel like Girl Scouts prep women to know that they can lead, to know they can be a big contribution to the U.S. and in the Army.
"It makes you realize that you have to be all inclusive with the teams you build as an Army officer," Freeny continued. "You need to be aware that women, men, we're all equal and we can all have a good contribution to our units."