Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois (GSSI) is excited to advance it's Mission Delivery Team with the promotion of Carolyn Brooks (left) and Julie Fox (center), as well as welcome new hire, Jessica Upchurch (right).
Carolyn Brooks - Director of Girl Experience
GSSI is pleased to announce the promotion of Carolyn Brooks to Director of Girl Experience.
Brooks started with Girl Scouts back in 1996 after replying to a newspaper ad and the rest is history. This September marks 21 years with GSSI and its legacy council, Girl Scouts of River Bluffs Council. Most recently, Brooks served as the Extension Program Manager, which provides a Girl Scout experience during the school day in under served communities using a 9 month program that promotes a healthy self-image, life skills and social skills. During her career with GSSI Brooks has filled many additional roles within the organization that have ranged from volunteer development and membership, to programs and retail.
When asked what the responsibility of the Girl Experience department means to her, Brooks easily related it back to the Girl Scout mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character, who make the world a better place. “Making sure that we are building girls that are caring, competent and feel like they can go out to the world and do whatever it is that they feel like they have been called to do,” said Brooks. “I think that if you can inspire girls to believe that they can pretty much do whatever their mind tells them they can do; that’s what I think girl experience is. And it doesn’t matter where they live, what their background is, what their socio-economic status is - none of that matters. They can do whatever it is that they set their minds to do.”
Brooks was born and raised in East St. Louis and has been in the area all her life. She is a proud member of the Macedonia East Baptist Church in East St. Louis and currently serves as a Deacon and a leader in the Children’s, Media and Sunday school ministries. She is a Belleville Leadership Alum, a Southern Illinois Volunteer Conference committee member and has served on the referral committee for the Association of Girl Scouts Executive Staff (AGSES). She now lives in Collinsville with her husband of 12 years, James, and 9 year old daughter, Alana, who is making memories and gaining experiences of her own through Girl Scouts.
Julie Fox - Director of Operations
GSSI is thrilled to announce the promotion of Julie Fox to Director of Operations. Fox has been with GSSI for a little over six years now; taking on many titles, such as: Membership Development Manager, Awards Program Manager, and Human Resources Manager before taking on her most recent role as Director of Operations.
Fox oversees GSSI’s Mission Delivery department, which serves girls by providing programs and assists volunteers by providing training, troop leader support and help with regional recruitment and placement of girls into troops. She also oversees the organization’s Customer Care department.
As a former Girl Scout herself, Fox truly understands the importance of the mission and how each department works together to empower not just girls, but women as well.
“It’s awesome to see how the mission works in so many different ways,” said Fox. “We want to build girls of courage, confidence and character and we say girls, but I really feel like we empower women too. So when you come into it you just think about the girl aspect; they sell cookies, they go camping – but you don’t really see how much volunteer work goes into it and then how the volunteers develop. One of my favorite things is recruiting a volunteer and then two years, three years later you run into them and they’re the Service Unit Manager. It just comes together so well. So I know we do great things for the girls but I also believe we do great things for the adults.”
Fox goes on to say that “Girl Power” is her favorite aspect of working for Girl Scouts. “I’m very passionate about giving girls and women opportunities. It’s so awesome that that is our focus and that’s what we do. We work to give the best opportunities to women and girls.”
When she is not empowering young women, Fox loves to volunteer her time to various animal welfare organizations. In past years she has served as the Assistant Event Director for the Strut Your Mutt event in down town St. Louis. Fox has a full household with her husband of three years, Dan; son Holden, 11 months; and two rescue dogs – Ginny, a six year old Pitbull mix and Philly, an eight year old lab.
Jessica Upchurch - Drector of Volunteer Experience
GSSI is delighted to welcome Jessica Upchurch as their new Director of Volunteer Experience.
Upchurch has been with the Girl Scouts organization for almost nine years now. Her journey first began as the Programs Manager with Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri (GSEM) in Hannibal, Missouri. From there, she went on to be the Programs Manager at the GSEM corporate office in St. Louis. She also served as the Community Development Manager and the Senior Manager of Customer Service, both for 2 years. Upchurch’s roles and responsibilities encompassed troop support, recruitment, as well as cultivating relationships in the community.
“I got started working for Girl Scouts because I’m from Hannibal and there are not a lot of opportunities for girls in that area to take on leadership roles,” said Upchurch. “And so although I went to college elsewhere, I knew that I wanted to come back to my home town and Girl Scouts was a fantastic way to offer those girls leadership opportunities that they wouldn’t have anywhere else.”
As a previous Girl Scout herself, Upchurch never imagined coming back full circle to turn her experiences into a career.
Moving forward in her new role, Upchurch oversees a team of Troop Support Managers that provide volunteer assistance for GSSI’s 40 ½ county jurisdiction. “It’s a new role, so we’re kind of building that from the ground up and were going to be doing a lot of communicating with troop leaders to see how they wish to be supported,” said Upchurch.
She describes the new role as being a big shift for the organization. Rather than focusing specifically on geographical territories, GSSI has implemented new strategies to focus more on age level. Upchurch goes on to describe that supporting volunteers who lead young Daisies and Brownies will obviously look a lot different than building leaders who are at the older girls’ Senior and Ambassador levels.
“The most exciting thing is that it is new and that we are building it from scratch,” said Upchurch. “We created a mission statement for our department to guide us where we want to go. So our big three overarching themes, or our three “E”s, are that we’re looking to engage, educate, and empower our leaders of today so that they can empower the leaders of tomorrow.”
Upchurch currently lives in Saint Charles, Missouri, with her husband of 11 years, John, and her 4 year old son, Christian. She loves to spend time with her family, as well as attend local festivals and live music events in her community.