2016 Leading Women Awards

Women exemplifying the Girl Scout mission, in partnership with Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England.

In partnership with Rhode Island Monthly magazine, Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England is proud to honor the following women within our local community. These women are shining examples for our young female leaders of tomorrow. The 2016 Leading Women Awards showcases women that lead by example and exemplify the Girl Scout mission of developing girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place. These individuals worked hard to get to their accomplished careers and champion their teams successfully each and every day; they are supporters of the Girl Scout mission and as you will read, each have a bit of Girl Scouting within them. View photos and video from the awards reception.
 


Gail Lowney Alofsin

Director of Corporate Partnerships & Community Relations for Newport Harbor Corporation,
Author, Speaker, Adjunct Professor & Humanitarian

Were you a Girl Scout and if so, what was the most important life skill you learned?

Yes, in Norwich, Connecticut from grades four through six. Setting and achieving goals was among the skills we learned in addition to building and maintaining relationships. These skills have assisted me personally and professionally.

What do you believe makes an exceptional leader?

The most important leadership traits that have influenced me are exhibited by my parents, Virginia and  Jeremiah Lowney: The importance of being positive, authentic, inclusive, trusting and generous. They always encourage me, to this day, to build, hone and share my skills and gifts.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

Throughout my “careers,” I have had the privilege of embroidering non-profit partners and their causes into all that I do. On a personal note, I wrote a business and personal development book for our son, Samuel, as a high school graduation gift. The book, “Your Someday is NOW—What are YOU Waiting For?” offers life lessons I have learned through my career. The book offers advice from more than 100 executives and emerging leaders that I had the privilege of interviewing. Published in 2014, the book has raised over $25,000 for non-profit organizations including the Haitian Health Foundation, our family’s foundation in Jeremie, Haiti. Volunteering in Haiti since 1983 has been a highlight and privilege in my life.

What advice would you give a young Girl Scout?

Learn how to balance your career and personal time. In the end, your family and relationships are most important. Stay positive, avoid gossip and look beyond yourself to assist others.

Be a lifelong learner.
 


Meg DeCubellis

RISD Faculty, Apparel Design Department. Co-Founder of the Katie DeCubellis Memorial Foundation, Co-Founder of illumiNITE

Were you a Girl Scout and if so, what was the most important life skill you learned?

Yes! I was a Brownie in Warwick. I loved working towards the badges and the recognition you received from completing a badge spoke to me.

What is an interesting insight into your career?

I love teaching college students. They are smart and interesting. I enjoy meeting them, seeing what they do with the information they’ve stored, seeing their designs come to life.

What do you believe makes an exceptional leader?

Remembering what it’s like to not be a leader. To remember moments when you weren’t in charge, what it’s like to be led and questioning what it means to lead someone.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

It would have to be my children. They are my twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. My family comes first. My accomplishments are wonderful, but my family is always behind all of that. Katie’s Foundation allows her memory to live on; we are all so proud of KDMF. Each year we have a road race, this year it’s July 12th, it’s the 17th annual event. It’s a wonderful day for the community to remember Katie in a big way.

What advice would you give a young Girl Scout?

Do what you really love. If it doesn’t sound right, don’t do it. Think about who you are. Deep down you really know what you like, so you should do that. If you don’t like something, be honest; listen to yourself.
 

 

Nellie M. Gorbea

Rhode Island Secretary of State

Were you a Girl Scout and if so what was the most important life skill you learned?

I was a Girl Scout in Puerto Rico. I started as a Brownie and finished as a Senior. I really enjoyed working through the badges. Early on the troop meetings were at my school and our moms rotated being troop leaders. My mom was our troop leader when I was a Junior. I really enjoyed serving my community through the Girls Scouts.

What is an interesting insight into your career?

From elections to business services to overseeing our wonderful history in the State Archives, the Department of State has many touchpoints with Rhode Islanders. I love working to engage and empower all of our residents by making government more accessible and transparent and encouraging civic pride.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

I am thrilled to be able to modernize our elections, making it easier for people to vote through new voting equipment and online voter registration. It has been great to work with the governor and the General Assembly to improve our democracy.

What advice would you give a young Girl Scout?

Reach out to others—ask for their help, ask questions, and try to understand how the world can be seen through different points of view.
 


Alison Bologna

NBC 10 Morning News Anchor

Were you a Girl Scout and if so what was the most important life skill you learned?

When I was young and living with my family in Massachusetts I was a Brownie! As a Brownie, I learned quickly how to try new things with an open mind and how to develop meaningful relationships.

What is an interesting insight into your career?

Anchoring more than twelve hours of live news every week requires flexibility, focus and endurance. I love the challenge and spontaneous nature of covering local news while also balancing those duties with my full-time community work.   

What do you believe makes an exceptional leader?

Vision and credibility, while being current and connected, with an unmatched work ethic. 

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

Co-building a new, successful 7 p.m. show when I decided to leave Boston several years ago to come back to NBC 10, and then “doing a 360” to join the NBC 10 Sunrise show this past summer; since then we’ve enjoyed a 171 percent rise in key demos over the nearest competition.

What advice would you give a young Girl Scout?

Invest in your education. Prioritize. Find a mentor. Speak up when it matters. And ask questions while listening to the answers with attention.

 

Kathy O’Donnell

Senior Vice President, Head of Public Affairs, Citizens Bank

Were you a Girl Scout and if so, what was the most important life skill you learned?

I was a Junior Girl Scout and there were many lessons I learned. I learned about being entrepreneurial, setting goals and strategizing how to achieve them, about community and the importance of stewardship and giving back where you live, how to sew and how to make a mean Rice Krispies treat!

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

My career has given me the opportunity to be involved in many great efforts. I created the Gear for Grades program that provided more than 30,000 students in need with new backpacks to return to school prepared to learn.

I was also part of the team that created the award-winning Champions in Action program that has since given more than $8.1 million to more than 300 non-profits across the country. I’ve also mentored dozens of colleagues and interns who have gone on to be great leaders.

What advice would you give a young Girl Scout?

It gets better! I think it’s really difficult to be a young girl these days. There is so much coming at them at an early age with social media. The discussion around making good choices starts a lot earlier than previous generations. Regarding education and career, be a lifelong learner. Read, make eye contact with adults, try new things. Be kind. Show compassion. Give back. Stay humble. Put down the phone. Listen to your gut. Most of all follow your passion.


Sierra Barter

CEO & Co-Founder, The Lady Project

Were you a Girl Scout and if so, what was the most important life skill you learned?

Yes, in Hubertus, Wisconsin. I was involved up to a Junior! Most importantly I learned how to be a good friend and stand up for myself.

What is an interesting insight into your career?

I love meeting women from all over the country, and hopefully soon, the world! I am inspired by our amazing members; their hustle, their passion and the way that they define success on their own terms.

What do you believe makes an exceptional leader?

Being able to fail and get back up again. Humility. Knowing you cannot do it alone.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

Our summits — each one is better than the last and it keeps growing each year. Our team is beyond amazing and I cannot wait for 2017! And, being named Glamour’s Hometown Hero in 2015 for Rhode Island, which was pretty cool!

What advice would you give a young Girl Scout?

It gets better.  Stay true to yourself, listen to your heart and know that you can do anything you want if you’re passionate and work hard.

 

Nancy Armstrong

Lifelong volunteer

Were you a Girl Scout and what was the most important life skill you learned?

Yes, in New York, Port Dickinson to be exact. I learned how to be a leader. What I learned as a young Girl Scout enabled me to lead throughout my life. I started the investment program for the council when we were known as the Girl Scouts of Rhode Island.  

What do you believe makes an exceptional leader?

Someone that listens more than they talk. Someone who does, rather than talks about doing. Being an individual who’s not afraid. Girl Scouts is one of the only values teaching organizations in the world. Overall, our girls learn to lead.

What achievement are you most proud of in your life to date?

I would have to say my 58th Wedding Anniversary. My husband is a marvelous man and as a team we’ve done pretty well.

What advice would you give a young Girl Scout?

Have the courage to be who you are, not who anyone else has told you to be. “Keep on paddling” I always say. Stick with it, stick with Scouting and get your Gold Award. In Girl Scouts you never do anything alone. Find out what makes you happy; sticking with it verifies who you truly are.
 


Julie Sygiel

Founder, Dear Kate, Co-Founder, The Lady Project, Member of the Board of Directors, Girl Scouts of the USA

Were you a Girl Scout and if so, what was the most important life skill you learned?

Yes, I was a Girl Scout for twelve years in Kentucky. I sold over 10,000 boxes of Girl Scout cookies while a member and credit selling cookies for my entrepreneurial success. I was also very shy as a child. My dad would knock on people’s doors and say “Julie here has a question to ask you,” while I hid behind him and whispered, “No Dad, YOU ask them.” He always made me do the asking so I learned over time that talking to strangers wasn’t scary and I started to enjoy meeting new people through the cookie sales.

What achievement are you most proud of in your career to date?

While I was working on my performance underwear and yoga pants startup, Dear Kate, we not only brought a physical product to life that makes women’s lives easier, but we challenged the conventional standards of who can model lingerie. We featured women in our look books we admired because of who they are and what they do, rather than solely for how they look.

What advice would you give a young Girl Scout?

Decide for yourself what is cool and what you want to pursue. Often in school, girls hesitate to speak our minds. We worry too much about how what we say or do will be perceived by others. When you get older,  you realize that if you are excited about what you’re doing, others will admire that and cheer you on. 
 

 

Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England, located in Warwick, RI, serves over 7,000 girls from the Southeastern New England area with over 2,600 volunteers working to lead our
Girl Scouts every day. Our mission? To develop girls of courage, confidence and character that make the world a better place.

With this mission at the forefront, we are home to The Girl Scout Leadership Center, that provides programming to girls in kindergarten through twelfth grade, and receive a variety of leadership opportunities. The Center encourages increased skill-building and responsibility, and promotes strong leadership and decision-making skills. A few areas of focus include Leadership and Self-Esteem, Environmental Awareness, the Arts and the increasingly popular Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

hrough the Girl Scout Cookie Program girls learn the “5 Skills” of Goal Setting, Decision Making, Money Management, People Skills and Business Ethics. These skills are essential when a girl takes part in the Girl Scout Cookie Program, the largest girl-run business in the world! And 100 percent of the net revenue raised stays with our local council and troops. Through these sales, girls can earn credits toward a summer at one of GSSNE’s beautiful camps, which include Camp Cookie–Glocester, Camp Green Forest–West Kingston, Camp Hoffman–North Kingstown, Camp Rocky Farm–Newport, and Camp Promising Acres–Swansea, Mass.

Being active in our community is another focus of our council. Through our Urban Outreach programs we engage young girls from underserved communities to participate in our leadership and empowerment programs. And with our newly launched Hispanic Initiative, we have taken to task the goal of reaching out to the Hispanic community to acquaint them with our Girl Scout programs and offerings.

Girl Scouts of Southeastern England is proud to provide the next generation of girls a safe place to be themselves, find their courage, discover their confidence and ‘build’ their character in a world that challenges them at every step.