Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida will be hosting our annual Girl Scouts Lead the Way Event this September 2020 where seven inspirational women of Broward County will be honored. Each of the women embodies the characteristics of a G.I.R.L. (Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, Leader), are leaders in their industry, and role models for today’s girls.
These are not ordinary women. They are women who have shattered glass ceilings to rise to the top and grab success. They have overcome obstacles and challenges to pave the way for the next generation of girls behind them ready to follow their lead. They are involved with their community and give back in insurmountable ways. They embody the spirit of a Girl Scout.
Kirsten Charlson is the founder and president of DNA Labs International, Inc. Kirsten learned that the processing time for rape kits, sexual assault kits, homicide kits, and other evidence was 18-24 months before cases could go to trial. She could not bear the thought that her daughters or other victims of crimes could be further victimized because of poor DNA processing of time-sensitive evidence. Kirsten decided to right that wrong and challenged the status quo.
Kirsten believes girls can do whatever they want to do – just give them an opportunity. She holds an open house in her business twice a year to allow young girls to participate in and learn how scientists make the world a better place. Kirsten has also been an advocate for girls in the national STEM initiative, sponsoring and participating in programs throughout the country.
Melanie Dickinson is the President and Publisher at the South Florida Business Journal. Melanie is always working to shape the business leaders of tomorrow through leading by example and acting as a driving force for women in business. She is an active board member of multiple organizations, including The Commonwealth Institute of South Florida, Broward Workshop, Greater Fort Lauderdale Alliance and Big Brothers Big Sisters.
As a Girl Scout alum herself, Melanie’s strong sense of self-empowerment and lead by example mentality have naturally led her to become a take-charge individual. Along the way, she has made a commitment to herself to follow one very key principle: stay true to your beliefs and always do the right thing. No matter what situation, Melanie consistently strives to be a positive contributing factor that promotes effective change.
Mayor Christine Hunschofsky was elected Mayor of the City of Parkland in November 2016 and is the second female Mayor in Parkland history and the first in more than 30 years! Mayor Hunschofsky’s service to Parkland began when she served for seven years on the City’s Education Advisory Board starting in 2006. During this time, she initiated the City of Parkland Scholarship Program and spearheaded a citywide anti-bullying campaign.
As Mayor of Parkland, she led her city through the aftermath of a horrific mass shooting and did so with strong leadership skills and compassion. Her focus was on recovery and mental health services. Mayor Hunschofsky testified before two Florida State Senate committees to help pass the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act which was the most comprehensive gun safety legislation in Florida and provided funding for school safety and mental health services. Mayor Hunschofsky is a strong role-model for today’s girls and a true representation of a go-getter, innovator, risk-taker, and leader.
Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr was sworn in as the City of Fort Lauderdale Fire Rescue Chief on July 2, 2018, and became the City’s first female Fire Chief in the 106-year history of the department. Chief Kerr has been a pioneer and trailblazer in the fire profession for decades – she brings nearly 40 years of experience to her current role, where she oversees a staff of almost 500 professional firefighters, ocean-rescue lifeguards, and administrative personnel.
A great example for girls and women who want to break through the glass ceiling in a male-dominated profession, Chief Kerr has become the first female Fire Chief of 3 Major Cities – Little Rock, Arkansas, Austin, Texas, and now Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Throughout her career, she has made sure to create and build equal opportunity organizations promoting and mentoring women everywhere she serves.
Susie Levan is the President and CEO of Bee Hive Publishing and Author of Getting to Forgiveness – What a Near Death Experience Can Teach Us About Loss, Resilience and Love. Susie has established herself as a leader throughout her many career advancements and passions.
Susie founded the non profit organization Work-Life Balance Institute for Women. She was also the Founder and Publisher of Balance Magazine, co-hosted a weekly radio show on 101.5, is a certified Corporate Coach, Success and Life Coach, and hosts Empowerment Circle meetings for women. Susie is a Reiki Master, volunteers her time to non-profit organizations, is on the board of NSU H. Wayne Huizenga School of Entrepreneurship and Business, and is Co-Chair and Co-Founder of the Ambassadors Board at NSU. She has most recently published her book “Getting to Forgiveness” in 2019 and she truly represents what it means to be a Go-getter, Innovator, Risk-taker, and Leader.
Jennifer S. Love is the Global Chief Security Officer and Senior Vice President of Safety, Environment, and Health for Royal Caribbean Cruises. She is responsible for leading and continuously improving these areas throughout the company’s global operations, including multiple land sites, over 77,000 employees, 7.6 million annual guests, and its fleet of 62 cruise ships. Prior to joining Royal Caribbean, she served as Senior Vice President and Chief Security Officer for Cablevision Systems Corporation, and before joining Cablevision, she spent 25 years as an executive-level security, law enforcement, and intelligence professional with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where she retired from the position as the Assistant Director of the Security Division.
Jennifer has accomplished two very successful careers working in male-dominated professions and she is a living example to girls to not let other people’s perceptions of you limit what you think is possible for yourself.
Captain Renee Peterson of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office was promoted to the rank of captain in November of 2019 and has served as a criminal justice professional for the past 22 years. In the Spring of 2016, Captain Peterson was promoted to the rank of sergeant where she became deeply involved in her community in her role as Community Service Outreach Officer. In this position, Captain Peterson bridged the gap between the Sheriff’s department and the community and has done so with respect and professionalism.
After her promotion to Captain, she was entrusted with the implementation of the Neighborhood Support Team initiative. The Neighborhood Support Team works with community stakeholders, unifying efforts to meet community needs beyond routine calls for police service. The Neighborhood Support Team is designed to make law enforcement more visible, approachable, and effective, thereby reducing fear of crime, and encourage interaction with the public.
The 2020 Girl Scouts Lead the Way virtual event and silent auction will be held on Wednesday, September 16 via Facebook Live. The virtual event will include an awards presentation, two panel discussions, and a silent auction. If you would like to join us, the event is free to attend, you can pre-register to receive updates prior to the event going live. Learn more. If you have any questions about this event, please contact Danielle Crouch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event of course would not be possible without the help of our generous sponsors. A very special thank you to Presenting Sponsor: Publix Super Markets Charities; Major Sponsors: Bee Hive Publishing, Holy Cross Health, Panera Bread/Covelli Enterprises, South Florida Business Journal, and Ultimate Software; and Supporting Sponsors: CITY Furniture, DNA Labs International, Inc., Graciela Valdes Fine Art Photography, Kelley Kronenberg Attorneys at Law, and Proffitt Management Solutions.