When De Meita Vincent and her 9-year-old daughter, Arielle Vincent, attended Celebrate Science Indiana at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in early October, De Meita Vincent’s breath was taken away at how many hands-on activities there were for her daughter and others from Girl Scouts of Central Indiana to participate in. Attendees could experience what a moving tornado feels like, build a mason bee house, and learn about what specific building materials are used for.
One booth was hard to pull Arielle away from, De Meita said. As Arielle learned about pollution’s impact on our environment and ecosystem, she also saw how animals are cleaned after an oil spill as the booth’s exhibitor demonstrated with a rubber duck coated in oil.
“I didn’t want to leave that [booth] because I just thought, ‘How could we do something like that to all the animals?’” Arielle Vincent said. “All of us humans are creating stuff that hurts them. I just thought that was so sad that we’re doing that to animals, so that’s why I wanted to stay for a long period of time.”
It was refreshing to see so many exhibitors catering specifically to young women, De Meita said, by piquing their interest and engaging them in STEM — a world that hasn’t always been designed with girls and women in mind.
“I think that’s one thing that Girl Scouts really does for young women — exposes them to possibilities that they may not necessarily get in their home and gives them a positive environment to thrive, learn, and grow and feel safe while doing so,” De Meita Vincent said.
De Meita Vincent first joined Girl Scouts as a Daisy when she was in her daycare program. She was a member of the Hoosier Capital Girl Scouts Council’s Troop #24 through middle school.
Her favorite part of Girl Scouts was camping during the summer, she said, as she and her peers would sing silly songs, “leaving life where it was and really enjoying being a kid.” She wanted her daughter to have the same experiences and learn how to think outside-the-box when problems arise, she said, so Arielle Vincent joined Girl Scouts as a kindergartener.
De Meita also became a part of Girl Scouts again in October 2021 as the co-leader for Arielle’s troop. In September, De Meita transitioned to troop leader.
“Being free and playing is how you grow and learn,” De Meita Vincent said. “As adults, we get so caught up with everything around us — meeting goals and meeting deadlines — that we forget just to be human. We forget just to be present in the moment. I’m really learning to embrace that this year as a leader.”
While collaborating with her co-leader, De Meita organizes meetings and outings for her girls to earn their badges pertaining to Girl Scouts’ four pillars — STEM, Life Skills, Outdoors, and Entrepreneurship.
For example, last spring Arielle, with a walking stick and popsicle in tow, explored Riverside Park in Indianapolis with her troop, she said, to learn about the types of squirrels living in the city and their environment’s characteristics.
Ever since joining Girl Scouts, De Meita said that Arielle has become more confident by selling Girl Scout cookies. At her charter school in Indianapolis, Arielle sold boxes of cookies to teachers and staff members, including her favorite — Adventurefuls, a brownie-inspired cookie with caramel flavored crème and a hint of sea salt.
“[Arielle] actually started off very, very shy,” De Meita Vincent said. “She would talk to us at home and people that she was familiar with, but other individuals, not so much. She would take her time to warm up to them. Selling cookies has helped her come out of her shell and have conversations with people.”
Whenever Danielle Shockey, CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, meets with Girl Scouts while they’re presenting their Take Action Projects to make positive impacts in their communities, she has felt inspired to build up her own confidence and courage.
“When you watch four [teenagers] go stand in the Senate chambers and speak their truth about why something matters to them,” Shockey said, “you’re like, ‘Gosh, if they can do that, I can certainly walk into this person’s office, or I can have this courageous conversation.’”
Ever since the first grade, Shockey said, she knew she wanted to spend her life working with children. Her part-time jobs growing up were working at a daycare and babysitting. Now, she has spent more than 20 years working in education.
Shockey was an educator for the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township for 11 years. In 2008, she became the principal of Forest Glen Elementary School before transitioning her career in 2013 to education policy as the Deputy Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Indiana Department of Education.
When Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz’s term came to an end in 2017, Shockey was at a crossroads of what she wanted to do professionally, she said. She considered going back into education at the building-level as a principal or school district’s superintendent. But, because Shockey served all of Indiana’s 92 counties at the Department of Education, she wanted to continue making a wide opportunity for impact.
So, in 2017, she decided to apply for the open CEO position at Girl Scouts of Central Indiana, which couldn’t have been a better fit for her career, she said, as the organization’s events and programs parallel and expand upon classroom curriculum.
“When I was at the Department of Education, we talked about workforce development and college and career readiness,” Shockey said. “Employers told us, ‘We can teach a skill, we can teach somebody to code, we can teach somebody to be a nurse — what we need most are people who come to us with perseverance, strong communication skills, and the ability to have teamwork.’ In Girl Scouts, we’re building girls with character, and I think that is what prepares you for life, potentially more than anything you might learn in a textbook.”
Until becoming CEO, Shockey said, she didn’t know just how strongly she felt about societal issues affecting girls and women. She started to truly recognize how much of the world around her isn’t designed with a woman in mind or a female point-of-view at the table.
“Women have a skill set, a gift, and a craft that makes businesses stronger and boardrooms more dynamic,” Shockey said. “Now, more than ever, I can really tell where women aren’t; you can feel the difference. Some of the most amazing women I’ve met are sitting in places of influence, and I’m thankful they were there. It makes me want to do more in terms of preparing the leaders of tomorrow.”
In Indiana, females hold only 38% of seats of influence while 51% of the population is female. To change this, Girl Scouts of Central Indiana announced its “Her Seat at the Table” campaign — a promise that every girl will have a seat at the table, “wherever they dream of making great discoveries, provoking thought, creating innovative tech, or changing the world.”
As part of the campaign, Girl Scouts of Central Indiana will measure the increase of how many troops’ members across the council’s 45 counties earn their civics and democracy badges. During the next presidential election, the council will also host a “I Promised a Girl Scout I Would Vote” campaign, where troops will encourage people in their communities to vote, even if they aren’t old enough themselves to participate in the democratic process.
Shockey will also continue connecting with community partners like Roche and Cummins whose missions match the four Girl Scouts pillars. These community partners will bring experts in their fields to present learning opportunities and hands-on activities for Girl Scouts, so they feel empowered to achieve their dreams of being leaders in companies’ boardrooms, STEM spaces, and state- and local-level committees.
De Meita Vincent is also empowering young women in her science classroom at Purdue Polytechnic High School. Since becoming a co-leader and troop leader, De Meita said she has been more deliberate at having conversations with her female students. Even if they don’t have their hand raised, she said she calls on them to encourage them to give their opinion and believe in themselves.
“At the end of the day, everyone wants someone in their corner,” De Meita Vincent said. “[I’m] thinking about how I can be that advocate, that voice of reason for my students who are female … Young ladies, we stand back, and we wait. We try to get everything to a level of perfection before we answer, before we try, or before we go forward. [I’m] letting my female students know it’s okay to not have all the answers.”
Becoming CEO of Girl Scouts of Central Indiana has influenced Shockey to make active changes in her personal life, she said. Not only has she given more financial support to organizations she cares about, but she and her daughters have also volunteered more in their community to “serve the greater good” because “a little bit does make a huge difference.”
“The word ‘joyful’ is an odd way to describe a profession, but it truly is,” Shockey said. “Girl Scouts bring joy to the people around them. Our cookies are yummy. They make people smile. The work that we do changes lives in a ripple way that brings these positive feelings. This is the most joyful job I could ever have.”
To learn more about Girl Scouts of Central Indiana and its “Her Seat at the Table” campaign, visit Girl Scouts of Central Indiana’s website or its social media pages @girlscoutsin.
Nicole Thomas is a writer and digital marketer who loves cozying up with a book and cup of coffee. When she’s not reading or writing, you can usually find her crocheting another sweater or cardigan for her wardrobe. You can find her on LinkedIn or Twitter.
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