By Diana Bejarano
She is an award-winning community leader and she has served as deputy chief-of-staff for urban relations and community development under former Governor of Arizona and current U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, and she is now the chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA, one of the largest and most prestigious non-profits in the country.
But, before accomplishing all of this, she was a young Latina born to migrant farm workers in the small town of Eloy, Arizona, and she was a Girl Scout.
At the age of 10, Anna Maria Chavez joined a local Girl Scout troop, and her world has never been the same. She was able to join a sisterhood and travel to camps and learn about things she had never heard about, such as protecting the environment.
“The Girl Scouts inspired me,” says Chavez, “I discovered I wanted to be an attorney because they help to protect the environment and people’s civil rights.”
At a very young age, Anna’s parents instilled in her a strong work ethic and the belief that one should be a good person who gives back to the community. The Girl Scouts built upon that foundation and continued to reinforce those values.
Anna set her goals high and, after graduating high school, she attended Yale University where she received her bachelor’s degree in American History and then went on to graduate from the James E. Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona.
“We weren’t a wealthy family, but we were always giving back to the community. And we believed that, as long as you give more than you take, things would always work out in the end,” she said.
On March 12, the Girl Scouts will celebrate their 101st anniversary of helping so many women, including leaders, such as Condoleeza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State, Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
“We need to work harder to ensure that we are reaching all girls, including Latinas,” she said. In the last decade, the Girl Scouts have increased Latina membership by 55 percent, according to Chavez. She says the Girl Scout organization is very focused on developing culturally relevant outreach methods to work more closely with the Latina community.
There are 3.2 million Girl Scouts in every zip code in the United States, including Arizona, and there are Girl Scouts living in more than 90 countries around the globe. There are also 59 million Girl Scout alumnae and, Chavez says, there are data that clearly show a correlation between being a Girl Scout alumna and higher earning power, greater level of civic engagement and greater satisfaction with life than non-Girl Scouts.
To learn about volunteering, visit girlscoutsaz.org/become-a-volunteer.
Diana Bejarano is an Arizona native and a graduate of Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or latinastillstanding.blogspot.com