Monday, May 18, 2015

Don’t Leave Your Future to Chance

Graduation is in the air. End of troop year for some, end of school year for many. Whether it’s looking forward to a new program level in Girl Scouts or placing an eye on the future with college ahead, young women are getting some advice from our CEO Tracy Keller to take hold of their futures and don’t leave anything to chance. She’s been keeping a busy schedule this spring speaking at awards ceremonies and graduations. On Friday, Tracy addressed an audience at the Virginia Beach Campus of Tidewater Community College (TCC) who were attending the annual Women’s Leadership Breakfast.

TCC President Edna V. Baehre-Kolovani, Ph.D.
and Girl Scouts of the Colonial Coast CEO Tracy Keller
As an alumna from TCC who serves on the board of the College’s Alumni Association, Tracy knows only too well what challenges students face when trying to reach a dream. That was her message to donors in the room who were there to support the TCC Women’s Center.

“Let me start off by being very clear where my leadership journey started,” she began. “ It started as a Girl Scout Brownie at the age of six. My mom enrolled me in a large troop, and right from the start, I was encouraged to be a leader and a decision maker as part of a bigger team. I learned how to make good choices, plan activities, set a budget and lead younger groups of scouts as I grew in the program.”

Her story took a sharp turn from those early years to the years where she experienced a broken relationship and financial challenges. She found a healing place in Girl Scouts, an organization that meant so much to her growing up. Taking a job in data entry, she found herself surrounded by women who encouraged her – just as it had been when she was a girl. Little by little, she stepped up in the ranks at work and took on an evening job to pay her tuition to go back to school. Finding herself at TCC, she says it was very much like the supportive environment she found when she went to work for the Girl Scouts.

“Math was not my favorite subject in school,” Tracy said. “ I took the minimum requirements in high school and had my last class as a sophomore. That really changed and so did my life when I went to TCC. I had one teacher after another that made it not just bearable, but really interesting. They showed me how to apply it and took time to help me understand. It was as if a lock had been opened, and I entered a whole new place. ”

Tracy worked hard to finish TCC and earned a scholarship to attend Virginia Wesleyan where she earned a degree in math and computer science. Her role at Girl Scouts also changed as she became finance director for the Council. She graduated with honors from Virginia Wesleyan College in 2005 and soon after became the chief executive officer for GSCCC.

“When I look back, I can’t believe the struggles I had, but I’m not unusual,” she said. “Every day there are women who struggle to earn an education. I was one of the fortunate ones who made some good decisions and was mentored by some amazing women. I hope that I’m sending a message that women – and girls - are worth the investment.”