On March 28, Canales flew into San Antonio for the sole purpose of visiting Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas’ Girl Power! exhibit at the Institute of Texan Cultures. We sat down with Canales during the tour to find out what impact Girl Scouting has made on her life.
|Judith A. Canales and husband, Juan Antonio Tovar, Jr., at |
the Institute of Texan Cultures Girl Power! exhibit
"Oh, indeed and throughout my life. I became a Girl Scout at the age of seven, starting out as a Brownie, and my mother was our troop leader at Sacred Heart School in Uvalde, Texas. I went through the entire program with Girl Scouts there in Uvalde. I sold cookies and was highly involved with Camp Jo Jan Van and day camp at Camp Burns, now that it's all coming to my mind. For years, I participated in the Girl Scout program, earned badges along the way as a Junior and Cadette and Senior Girl Scout, where I became a First Class Girl Scout (the highest award a Girl Scout can earn, now called the Girl Scout Gold Award). When I was at Southwest Texas Junior College in Uvalde for two years, I had my own troop. I was a Brownie leader there with the troop out of Sacred Heart School. And so, I had my service as a girl and then years later, coming back to Eagle Pass and South Texas, I served on the board of the formerly known El Camino Girl Scout Council and was their board president. Once realignment occurred, I was able to come together with Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas and I served for a period of time on the board there before I received my presidential appointment to go to Washington, D.C."
What has Girl Scouting done for you as an individual and as a professional?
"Girl Scouts, to me, is about leadership. It is about the fact that all girls have it within them to become natural leaders, and it’s a positive environment for girls to come together to get to know each other, to support each other. What happens is that it's a bridge. I will never forget that there in Uvalde, because we were going to catholic school, and it gave us a chance to meet girls from other parts of the community who were in public school. It was a chance for all of us to come together in the community in a rural area. Since many of us didn't play sports, this was a way to come together as a team. Although there were many girls who did get involved in sports, (Girl Scouting) was really an opportunity for any girl. There were no specific requirements.
I remember my mother wanting to make sure that even if a girl couldn't afford a uniform, she would (purchase) the different uniforms available so that each girl could have the proper uniform because she wanted everybody to be the same. That was an example that my mother set for me. Later, she served on the board of the (former) El Camino Girl Scout Council, so we used to travel to San Angelo, which was a long distance. Frankly, she was one of the few Mexican-Americans who served on the board at that time. She believed that she was representing, not just Uvalde, but the girls and women that were from our South Texas region ... that also became a very important example for me. Here was what my mother did; now I have to take it to the next level, which is what I have aspired to in my career. To live these values and to put myself forward in that way because in leadership roles, very often, you see a lot of different conflicts and people don't necessarily want to work together, and I think what (women) do is bring to the table a very different style that is inclusive and collaborative, and it values people. And that's what I bring to my job, even now. Serving in this administration is trying to build those bridges that were the examples that I saw growing up because of Girl Scouting."
What is your impression of the Girl Power! exhibit?
"I am so proud of this being here in San Antonio. This is remarkable, and I am so proud that the Institute of Texan Cultures saw fit to honor Girl Scouts from this region, from San Antonio and beyond. Truly, the Institute goes beyond the boundaries of Bexar County, so we can all relate to this. I had an opportunity to visit (Juliette Gordon Low's birthplace) in Savannah while on a business trip with the USDA. A colleague of mine said, "We've got about an hour, let's go!" And he knew! I told him this means so much to me to go and see this, and I had a chance to do that.
Our version is an opportunity to educate people about the profound history of Girl Scouting in this region and to inform those who don't have the same background or knowledge that this is what has been the history and here is the future. The panels in the back (part of the exhibit) show what the goal is now: moving forward. That's the best part of Girl Scouts. It is constantly evolving with the realities of what girls are about and what they will become. And so I'm comparing the Savannah experience to this, and I'm so pleased that it's not only historical, but also futuristic."