Reflections from a Girl Scout Alum

What does it mean to be a Gold Award Girl Scout?

Jeanine Shraim earned her Gold Award in 2015; today she is an Avionics Service Engineer with the Boeing Company. Boeing is the world’s largest aerospace company and leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space, and security systems. Her many years as a Girl Scout helped foster her love for engineering and gave her the tools to succeed in life beyond school. At the 2021 Gold Award Ceremony, Jeanine shared the important lessons Girl Scouts instilled in her, the hurdles she had to overcome as a female in a male-dominated STEM career, and what earning the prestigious High Award means to her now six years later:

Jeanine Shraim speaking at the 2021 Gold Award Ceremony.

Hi everyone, my name is Jeanine Shraim. I am a Gold Award Girl Scout from the Class of 2015. I became a Girl Scout as a Daisy in 2002 and remained a Girl Scout up until I graduated in 2015! But you know, once a Girl Scout always a Girl Scout so now I am still involved as an adult Girl Scout volunteer.

When I think back on my overall Girl Scout experience now, the friends for life I made through it stick out the most.

My Girl Scout troop, 10529, continued on after most of our troop graduated in 2015. For the first couple years, we had just one or two girls close to my age remaining until they graduated and then the next generation of troop 10529 came around. Ms. Toni Jacobsson and my mom, Joyce, were my Girl Scout leaders growing up and now they’re the Girl Scout leaders for troop 10529 2.0 as well! Over the years since graduating high school I’ve volunteered at various events. Eventually my engineering organization at FIU, American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) started hosting annual “STEM Day” with troop 10529 2.0 helping them earn a STEM-related badge in a day. The girls had a blast, and so did we as volunteers!

When I think back on my overall Girl Scout experience now, the friends for life I made through it stick out the most. You know those friends that you might not speak to for weeks or months on end and when you talk again it’s like no time has passed? Those are the kinds of friends that last a lifetime, and those are the kinds of friends I made through Girl Scouts — truly an embodiment of the Girl Scout friendship song “a circle is round, it has no end…” Friends like that aren’t found just anywhere. Friends like that helped me complete my gold award project.

I remember when I set out to begin my Gold Award, it seemed like this daunting, impossible task. Slowly but surely it came together with determination and support from leaders and mentors around me, and many many many helping hands that I couldn’t have done it without. It’s been six years since my own ceremony, and I remember feeling like it was such a cherry-on-top moment after putting so much time and energy into my Gold Award project. Not everyone accomplishes such a feat, and I am so proud of each and every one of you for going the extra mile to make the world a better place.

Every experience that we have, everything we go through and how we choose to react to those things shapes who we become as we go on in life. Having been a Girl Scout ever since I was 5 years old, Girl Scouts really shaped who I was instilling values in me and my little mind ever since I can remember.  Without a doubt those values plus the leadership skills I gained set me up for success in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I was in grade school. 

…the experience and skills I developed through earning my Gold Award have translated into valuable leadership skills that I built on for multiple leadership positions…

Now, my Gold Award didn’t single-handedly get me any scholarships or anything like that, but the experience and skills I developed through earning my Gold Award have translated into valuable leadership skills that I built on for multiple leadership positions I took on throughout my years in undergrad which absolutely helped me set me apart for my both internship and now full-time position at Boeing. If I never took on the challenge and earned my Gold Award, I know I wouldn’t have developed the skills necessary that got me to where I am today.

Speaking of undergrad, after completing my Gold Award I went to Florida International University in Miami where I earned my Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering. I was a part of multiple clubs such as ASME, Relay for Life, Dance Marathon and even joined a sorority Phi Sigma Sigma. Now I work at the Boeing company as an avionics service engineer specifically working with the displays and crew alerting systems. Essentially I help the airplanes flying worldwide everyday remain flying wherever they go! Whenever they encounter something they don’t know how to fix relating to the displays in the cockpits, I’m the one that helps them figure it out and get back to business.

…only 20% of engineering graduates in the entire country are women on average and only 11% of practicing engineers are women.

During my college years, I always found myself counting how many women were in each of my classes of 40+ people, and it was almost always less than 10 women. In fact, only 20% of engineering graduates in the entire country are women on average and only 11% of practicing engineers are women. Just the other day I was chatting with one of my colleagues about this and we were discussing how we decided that we wanted to go into engineering despite the scarcity of women in the field. For me, I didn’t even know engineering was a thing until I was a teenager. Once I learned about it, I felt like I finally found the right field for my strengths and passions — helping people, and math/science but NOT biology (I hated biology class).

The first time I went to the GSUSA national convention, I was 17 and had already my mind set to pursue engineering. I remember the CEO of GSUSA mentioning they were planning on creating multiple STEM-related badges and activities for every level to start introducing young girls to engineering. I was so excited for the next generation of Girl Scouts after me growing up learning about engineering from the time they’re young rather than having to discover it way later in life the way I did. By introducing girls from when they’re young in fun and interactive ways, we’ll slowly get closer and closer to closing that gender gap. As Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, once said, “young girls need to see role models in whatever career they may choose, just so they can picture themselves doing those jobs someday.”

Go getter. Innovator. Risk taker. Leader. That’s what it means to be a Girl Scout. And women like that are set apart and excel in any field and every situation they find themselves in.

So, now what? As you move on to your next challenge, whether that’s college, joining the workforce, exploring the world, whatever it may be — take the lessons and skills you learned through your Gold Award with you. You took a dream and turned it into a plan with goals and made it a reality. You put together numerous events. You kept track of everything you did and had to do next in order to accomplish your goals. You organized countless volunteers. You led others to care about and believe in your project’s unique mission the same way you do. You made a difference in the lives of other people, and in our world.

Don’t underestimate the value of what you’ve learned and accomplished throughout your years in Girl Scouting and especially in earning your Gold Award. Don’t stop talking about it as the years go by. You might not have a resume right now, but eventually, you will and you should definitely keep this on there! If it comes up in conversation and someone is unfamiliar, teach them about what the Girl Scout Gold Award is and why it’s special. Among all Girl Scouts, only about 5% go on to complete and earn their Gold Award, and now that includes each of you, too.

Girl Scouts really is the gift that keeps on giving. The older girl volunteers are an integral part of running events for the younger girls, but behind the scenes, the adult volunteers pour their time and energy into making things happen for everyone, both younger and older. As a young adult continuing to volunteer in Girl Scouts, I’ve gotten the chance to pour into the very generation I was excited for when I went to the convention 7 years ago. The adult volunteers poured into me and my fellow Girl Scouts so we could grow and flourish when I was in grade school, and now I get to pass it on. Over the years I’ve seen the girls of troop 10529 2.0 grow from daisies to soon-to-be juniors, and it’s been so fun and wonderful to be a part of that. I think the funniest part is remembering when I was their age and thinking the adult volunteers were so much older than I was. The mind is funny when you’re a little kid!

Now, as I am older and wiser at the ripe age of 24, I’ll leave you all with this. Our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, once said “the work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.” Ladies, today, May 22nd, 2021 marks the official completion of your Gold Awards. You’ll go down in GSSEF history as the Class of 2020 and 2021 gold awardees — but your story doesn’t end here. I think I speak for all of us when I say we are ready and eager to see what this group of go-getting, innovating, risk-taking leaders will accomplish in the coming years. Congratulations!”

Please note that the above speech written by Jeanine Shraim was edited for context and length.

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