Sunny Stars

Keep Shining Girl Scouts

I was recently asked to speak at the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles Gold Award Ceremony. While I was eager to say yes, I had no idea how truly inspiring these Gold Award recipients would be. These young women exemplify motivation, persistence, gumption, and grace. While it saddens me to say that I was not a Girl Scout, I hope that one day I can have a daughter so that she may be a Girl Scout. The organization is that amazing.


There’s a big reason why I think we need more programs like Girl Scouts. It was not until after my college graduation that I realized how truly unprepared I was to take on the world. Perhaps it was my lack of initiation or the heavy emphasis on research and theory from college but there was something crucial missing from my training: how to SURVIVE.


While our schools teach us about the quadratic formula, Thomas Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase, and the anatomy of a fetal pig (or frog or cat, etc.), we were forgetting something major. Maybe you were lucky enough to have parents take time to educate you further but ultimately, many of us are missing the essentials. These include the following:

  • How to establish credit and effectively use a credit card
  • How to purchase stock and save funds proactively
  • How to rent an apartment and someday purchase a home
  • How to cook a meal other than macaroni and cereal
  • How to maintain happy and healthy relationships

Are you catching my drift? We’ve been so busy teaching to the test every year, we’ve forgotten how to help kids not only survive, but THRIVE. And this is why I love Girl Scouts.


Girl Scouts teaches young women the most valuable lessons.—these are lessons where you earn a patch but never a grade. These are lessons that we may innately know as adults but sometimes forget to teach to children. We can’t always remember pre-calculus or even algebra for that matter, and so we hire teachers. But investing? Laundry? Friendship? Kids are supposed to watch and observe and if they miss it, too bad. Sometimes we forget that if school isn’t in session and there’s no bell to start class, students don’t need to keep learning. But I think it’s what happens after school hours—like talks at the coffee table or drives in the car—when kids can truly learn the most valuable lessons. We just have to make sure our parents are sharing and our kids are listening.


Because parents are so cramped for time, they don’t always have the time or energy to educate their kids on these life lessons. There will be another time—another moment when it will matter more. That’s what we say as the days turn into weeks and into months and into years. And then it’s graduation time…except the graduate doesn’t know how to iron their graduation gown.

What I love about Girl Scouts is that they don’t wait. You’re never too young to learn…even if you’re a Daisy or a Brownie. They take the precious time to TEACH young women what others think is innate. Children are not born knowing how to prepare effective business plans, rise to leadership roles, or simply connect with others. By taking the time to train these Girl Scouts on the building blocks of a successful life, they are able to truly shine as they reach adulthood. They are not the college students fumbling to find out the answers (like I was), they are the ones exceling and moving one step ahead. They are ready in every sense of the word.

With the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles CEO: Lise Luttgens

With the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles CEO: Lise Luttgens

While those Girl Scout cookies are darn delicious (even just the smell of the Trefoil cookie candle they gave me is intoxicating), they are teaching young women invaluable lessons. They are learning how to network, approach and interact with adults, organize money, and set challenging goals. They also get to experience the reward of meeting those goals and thus they are motivated to reach higher. Hence the prestigious Gold Award years later.


When the big day came, I asked a question before my keynote. I was quickly corrected. I said, “How many hours does it take to win the Gold Award?” To which the Marketing Director replied, “Our Girl Scouts don’t win the Gold Award…they EARN it.” I think that says it all.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Caitlin Gainey

I’ve had the opportunity to meet wonderful Ticktockers around the country with my National Charity League speaking events. One particular member that I met, Caitlin Gainey, is a seventh grader full of light and love for the world. She shared a new idea with me, called the Warm Fuzzy Jar, and I thought it was too good to keep to myself!

1. You are a Ticktocker with National Charity League. How has this experience brought happiness to your life?

KG: Being a Ticktocker with National Charity League puts a smile on my face everyday! It is a honor to be a part of this program, because it is putting yourself out there to help the community become a better place for the people around us.

2. Tell us about your Warm Fuzzy Jar and how you hope it will bring happiness to those around you.

KG: My idea for this new year was getting a big glass jar and filling it with colorful pieces of paper that have funny or nice things that happen to my group of friends and myself over this next year and open all of these little fuzzy things at the end of 2014 for a fun New Year’s Eve tradition.

3. What brings you happiness in life?

KG: The things that make me happy are my friends and family, and I also LOVE my Santa Barbara Volleyball Club team, they are an amazing group of girls, and we probably have the best team name ever (the Wicked Wheatgrass!). One of the BIGGEST joys that I do is volunteering because every time you finish working you always have a realization that “Wow! I just helped somebody!”

4. What goal are you working toward and how has this increased your happiness?

KG: I am working toward making Varsity Volleyball at my school next year. This is increasing my happiness by like 10000% because when you have a goal and you work hard for it you will always have the biggest smile on your face every time you get one step closer to your goal.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

Sunny Star: Professor Karen Givvin

562907_103445313139198_1856704238_nI’m so excited to introduce the latest Sunny Star, my Psychology of Education Professor, Karen Givvin. As I prepare to graduate in June, taking her class has been one of the highlights of my academic career thus far. After being a student for the past 17 years or so, it has been so interesting learning about learning. We’ve covered how our teachers instruct most effectively, how students retain knowledge best, and how the classroom culture can help us foster a love for learning or a love for merely earning the best grades. This class has been a perfect reminder about how class is not meant to be a competition or a rat race, but rather, an opportunity to learn valuable information for the sheer sake of knowledge.

Thank you so much to Professor Givvin for this interview! I hope you enjoy reading what she has to say and I hope it brings back fond memories of your days in school!

1. You are an Education Psychology Professor at UCLA. You are especially interested in looking at the different teaching styles in America and other countries. What inspired you to pursue this research?

Each of the members in my small family was born on a different continent and we traveled a lot when I was a kid.  I think I’ve had a sense for a long time that different cultures have different ways of doing things.  It’s interesting when you take that approach toward education.  After all, every culture educates its children in some way — most even in some formal way.  To fail to learn from what people are doing elsewhere is a tremendous (inexcusable) loss.

2. Many American students don’t particularly love school. For example, they often wish their time away by saying, “I can’t wait for the weekend,” or “I can’t wait for the school year to end.” What do you think is the reason for this?

I don’t think it’s a terrible thing to be eager for the weekend or for summer break.  I always am!  Learning is hard work and it’s natural to look forward to time off and the freedom that brings.  Dreading school is something else, and there are too many students for whom that’s the case.  For those students  who hate hard work, there’s little way around it, either in school or in life thereafter.  For those who hate school because they don’t feel cared about or don’t feel safe, we need to make sure we offer a place in which they feel supported to learn.

3. How do you think we can make the classroom environment a happier experience for students?

I believe firmly that the best motivator is an interesting task.  We know from the TIMSS 1999 Video Study that American teachers often make their classrooms fun at the expense of learning.  Challenge can be fun and deeply rewarding.  If we all wanted to engage in tasks that are easy, the developers of Sudoku puzzles wouldn’t offer varied levels of difficulty.  In fact, there probably wouldn’t be Sudoku developers at all!  Struggling with a task and experiencing success as a result makes us feel competent and happy.

4. What do you think we can learn from other countries so that American students are not only learning more, but enjoying the process of learning as well?

Some other countries value students’ thinking more than we do.  I’m particularly drawn to that.  It has the potential to lead individual students to value their OWN thinking more.  That can result not only in a greater willingness to DO more thinking, but also to put more ideas “out there” for discussion.  We’re all better off when there are more voices in the mix.

5. What is your hope for the state of education in our country in the next 20 years?

Education is an enormous undertaking.  Anything with that kind of mass has a great deal of inertia.  It’s difficult to change.  I hope that there will be some resignation to the fact that there aren’t any easy fixes.  We can’t expect to be on top of world rankings in a short period of time (if, indeed, that’s our goal).  I hope that our K-12 education finds a way to settle on small, continuous, and sustainable improvements.  With respect to higher education, I hope that states increase their support for public universities.  Students shouldn’t be expected to carry the amount of debt they currently do.

Keep shining,

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook

The Sunny Girl, Lauren Cook
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