Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan (GSHOM) invites parents, mentors, and youth development professionals to help build the self-esteem of girls at the 7th Girl Developers Summit, on Saturday, February 4, 2012, at the Fetzer Center, Western Michigan University, 2350 Business Court, Kalamazoo. Keynoting the summit is Debra Gano, CEO of BYOU “Be Your Own You,” a Denver-based company that develops self-esteem in girls through products and education. Debra’s keynote address, “Becoming the One Voice: Our Role and Responsibility for the Women of Tomorrow,” will address the need for adults to speak up to empower girls. Gano will also present workshops on body image issues and building self-esteem at the summit, as well as offer a special program to the girls at the coordinating girls’ summit that day. For the first time, GSHOM will offer programs for girls in grades K-12 that will mirror the workshops offered at the adult summit for a small additional fee at the Kalamazoo Girl Scout Program and Training Center, located at 601 West Maple Street, a seven- minute drive to/from the Fetzer Center.
The 7th Girl Developers Summit begins with registration and continental breakfast at 8:30 a.m. Following the keynote address, workshops facilitated by additional experts in the area of girls’ self-esteem will continue until 4:30 p.m. Lunch will also be provided. The conference is open to the public and ideal for parents, Girl Scout volunteers, educators, religious leaders, social service providers, and anyone involved with and interested in making a positive impact on girls. Cost is $50 for the general public, $40 for currently registered adult Girl Scout adults, and $25 for college students. Financial assistance is available to help with the cost of registration; contact Mariela Rua at 269-532-7020 for details. To register, call Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, 1-800-497-2688 (49-SCOUT) or register online at www.gshom.org.
Gano’s company, BYOU, is partnered with Nickelodeon’s newest star, singer/actress/girls advocate Cymphonique Miller, whose show “How To Rock” is premiering the day of the summit (February 4), and connects with many additional high-profile positive role models for girls, including Ashley Arm, star of Disney’s “So Random,” who is featured in the February issue of BYOU’s Be Your Own You magazine. “Whether we like it or not,” begins Gano, “our girls are influenced by pop stars and celebrities. Our mission is to spotlight the ones who are making a positive impact on girls’ self-esteem.”
Gano is also a best-selling author of the Heartlight Girls series; her book, “Beauty’s Secret: A Girl’s Discovery of Inner Beauty,” has been honored with multiple awards, including the Gold Winner of the Mom’s Choice Award and a first place for children’s fiction in the USA Book News National Best Books Awards. After many years in the externally-focused ‘glamour’ world as a successful international model and actress, working with top Hollywood talent and well-known fashion designers worldwide, Gano now speaks to empower girls from the ‘inside out.’ Says Gano, “In today’s world, girls need a stronger foundation than ever to be able navigate this vulnerable age and make wise choices. As caretakers of these girls, it’s essential to be aware of the challenges they face and equip ourselves with tools to guide them into living an empowered life.”
Girl Scout Article Featuring Debra Gano,
Keynote Speaker 7thGirls Developer Summit Feb 4
“The women who share with girls the importance of living authentically must speak louder than those individuals who promote unrealistic expectations which often lead to low self-esteem and eating disorders,” said Debra Gano, keynote speaker at the upcoming 2012 Girl Developers’ Summit on February 4 in Kalamazoo.
The Summit is sponsored by Girl Scouts Heart of Michigan, which has a Program and Training Center in Kalamazoo. This is the 7th annual Summit, said Mariela Rua, coordinator of the event and an adult recruitment and education specialist with GSHOM.
Gano is Chief Executive Officer and President of BYOU “Be Your Own You”, a girls’ self-esteem apparel and educational company, the Publisher of Be Your Own You magazine, and the best-selling author of the Heartlight Girls series. In addition to the keynote address, Gano will be among 13 speakers, including Jan Barker, Chief Executive Officer of GSHOM, who will facilitate breakout sessions addressing issues such as the development of healthy body image and counteracting bullying.
“I feel the Summit is a much-needed event and so important,” Gano said. “I’m a huge advocate for empowering girls. Today it’s a whole different world than the one we adult women grew up in, and it’s important to keep abreast of what our girls are facing.”
Gano, a Colorado resident who grew up in Grand Rapids, said the Girl Scouts hold a special place in her heart. While growing up, Gano was a Michigan Girl Scout. “My appearance in Kalamazoo holds a really, really soft spot in my heart because it’s a Michigan Girl Scout Council,” she said.
According to Rua, “Debra a perfect fit for what we want to accomplish with this event. We are the ‘go-to’ organization for girls, so we look for experts that can help others to become better girl developers and then bring them to the Summit. Sometimes parents don’t even know these resources are available.” The Summit annually brings these resources together in one place to make it easier for time-challenged parents to access information about ways to help their girls.
“There are so many voices coming at girls today and these voices are primarily negative and deliver unhealthy messages to girls,” Gano said. “WE need to be the louder voices. Our responsibility as women is to be louder, stronger, and more unified. We need to stress the urgency of what is necessary in today’s society in empowering girls.”
According to Gano, technology is a blessing but it also exposes girls to a steady stream of information and misinformation which they are not often able to discern. Images of anorexically-thin models and the pursuit of instant gratification have the ability to sway girls in the wrong direction.
“They think that’s the way the world is and how it should be,” Gano said. “For a young girl this is really hard to negotiate until she has the emotional and mental maturity to discern what is right and wrong, realistic and unrealistic.”
The biggest obstacle for girls is a society which forces them to live inauthentically, Gano said. She offers some good old-fashioned advice to counteract the negative and unrealistic messages girls are force fed on a daily basis…listen to your heart.
“I tell girls to listen to that small voice inside of them that knows when they’re being true to themselves… and when something is wrong or not the right thing to do,” Gano said. “I call that voice their “Heartlight” and it will remind them when they’re not being true to themselves…for that inauthenticity causes not only unhappiness, but poor decision making as well.”
Rua said this is the type of information parents need to have to help their girls develop the courage, confidence and character to become leaders. She said past Summit participants have told her that they have had conversations with their girls that they never thought they’d have because of the resources they were exposed to. “Participants get the tools that they need to overcome issues when they appear,” Rua said.