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Mona Tolbert
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Girl Scout attends Congressional Black Caucus forum, addresses leadership in Black girls

Girl Scout Research Institute unveils study that shows resiliency of African-Americans and Hispanics

HOUSTON (September 30, 2011) – Jillian Ross, a senior at William P. Clements High School in southwest Houston was the only teen and Girl Scout represented on a panel hosted by Girl Scouts of the USA in partnership with Black Entertainment Television (BET) to discuss leadership in African-American girls in September.

The panel discussion titled American Girls’ Leadership and Resilience was part of the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. and included findings from the Girl Scout Research Institute’s (GSRI’s) new study, The Resilience Factor: A Key to Leadership in African American and Hispanic Girls. Jillian joined Debra Lee, chairman and CEO of BET Networks, Congresswoman Karen Bass of California, Constance White, editor-in-chief of Essence Magazine and Beverly Bond, founder of Black Girls Rock on the panel.

“I’m sitting on the panel with these great leaders and I’m only 17 years old,” said Jillian. “Girl Scouts has really given me the confidence to do these things.”

Girl Scouts found that African-American and Hispanic girls aspire to leadership more than Caucasian girls and had more frequent and more positive leadership experiences. In addition, according to the GSRI, African American girls not only aspire to leadership more than Caucasian girls and have more positive and leadership experiences, but also rate themselves higher than Caucasian girls on key leadership indicators such as overall self-confidence. They also appreciated qualities such as creativity, caring and problem solving.

The panel also discussed the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) gap among African-American girls and other races. As an aspiring biomedical engineer, who’s passionate about becoming a scientist, Jillian shed light on why African-American students aren’t entering the education fields necessary to fill the void.

“I do believe that African-Americans girls would like to get involved in STEM, but aren’t involved because they haven't been exposed to STEM programs,” said Jillian.

At 12-years-old, Jillian attended the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp to learn about science and engineering. While there, she won first place in the robotic engineering and programming contest. As a high school senior, she takes rigorous courses including nearly every Advanced Placement (AP) math and science course offered. She is a member of the National Honor Society and is an AP Scholar with Honors who scored in the 97th percentile on the SAT exam. Last summer, Jillian participated in several University STEM and business leadership programs, including Colombia University, Howard University, The University of Texas at Austin and Rice University.

Ultimately, Jillian hopes to research the use of stem cells to repair and restore the function of tissue damaged by injury, disease or age. Jillian knows first-hand what patients and their families awaiting organ transplants go through. Her brother died in 2010 from complications due to kidney disease.

“I really want to change the world and empower African-American girls and I do believe that we can get involved in STEM,” said Jillian. “The GSRI research shows that we have more leadership potential than our Caucasian and Asian peers and I want to harness that potential to make a difference.”

The Girl Scout Research Institute, formed in 2000, is a vital extension of Girl Scouts of the USA. The GSRI conducts original research, evaluation, and outcomes measurement studies, releases critical facts and findings, and provides resources essential for the advancement of the well-being and safety of girls living in today’s world. The GSRI also informs public policy and advocacy for Girl Scouting. For more information about the Girl Scout Research Institute, please visit

Girl Scouts of the USA is the world's preeminent organization for girls, with a membership of more than 3.7 million girls and adults. Girl Scouting builds girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. Chartered by GSUSA to provide Girl Scouting locally, Girl Scouts of San Jacinto Council is one of the largest Girl Scout councils in the country serving more than 76,000 girls served and nearly 18,000 adult members in 26 southeast Texas counties.

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