Growing up in a military family that traveled extensively gave Kim Fraites-Dow a unique perspective on community building and strength. A former director of institutional giving and government relations at the Franklin Institute, Fraites-Dow began her career with Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania in 2011 as chief development and marketing office, later becoming COO. She currently serves as CEO of the 55,000-strong organization, which covers nine counties.
MLT: What drew you to GSEP?
KFD: I’d just had a daughter, my first child, so I was deeply interested in developing strong girls. Joining an organization that was regional and serving a community across eastern Pennsylvania was also new and exciting for me. The mission is what brings everybody to Girl Scouts.
MLT: Do you see similarities between your childhood and typical Girl Scouts experiences?
KFD: For me, in a military family, we traveled quite a bit. My parents really encouraged unique qualities in [my siblings and me], so we had a very strong sense of who we were. We were able to carry that confidence when we picked up and moved from place to place. The correlations between the confidence I felt through my family and through those unique circumstances are what drew me to this mission. [Through Girl Scouts], girls are able to discover a strong sense of self and really have confidence in who they are. They’re able to connect with other people who value the power of diversity, and they’re encouraged to learn the skills to take action to make the world better.
MLT: What sort of skills do Girl Scouts learn?
KFD: Communication, leadership, problem solving, taking risks, learning from setbacks and growing as individuals. Our girls are learning how to speak up and introduce something innovative if they see an injustice of some kind happening, and to feel powerful about their ability to take action.
MLT: Girl Scouts is over 100 years old. In what ways has it changed?
KFD: The organization was founded during pre-wartime, before women had won the right to vote. It was a much, much different environment. Our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, was a visionary who believed in the power of every girl to change the world. Girls were in service to the country during times when the community was in desperate need of basic things. That spirit continues today, where girls are in service to their community—building a handicap swing in a local playground or teaching first responders how to do sign language.
MLT: How does Girl Scouts celebrate diversity?
KFD: We try to bring people together from different places. Through Girl Scouts, they meet all kinds of different people. Our footprint is really diverse, and we have all kinds of different programs—outdoor, STEM, leadership.