Top Girl Scout takes the helm: New CEO to focus on building an inclusive, accessible program

Theresa Lynn talks about her new role as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. One of her goals is to expand the program’s accessibility and inclusivity. “Serving communities that are traditionally underserved is not a short game, it should be a long-term commitment.”

Theresa Lynn talks about her new role as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. One of her goals is to expand the program’s accessibility and inclusivity. “Serving communities that are traditionally underserved is not a short game, it should be a long-term commitment.” STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

 Theresa Lynn talks about her new role as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She replaces longtime CEO Pattie Hallberg.

Theresa Lynn talks about her new role as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She replaces longtime CEO Pattie Hallberg. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

New Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts CEO Theresa Lynn.

New Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts CEO Theresa Lynn. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

 Theresa Lynn talks about her new role as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She replaces longtime CEO Pattie Hallberg.

Theresa Lynn talks about her new role as chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts. She replaces longtime CEO Pattie Hallberg. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

By ARIA MARTINELLI

For the Gazette

Published: 03-18-2024 2:35 PM

Modified: 03-18-2024 5:22 PM


HOLYOKE — There’s something about the Girl Scout cookie Lemon-ups that speaks to Theresa Lynn, the new CEO of Girl Scouts of Central and Western Massachusetts.

In addition to a crispy lemon flavor, the cookies, which debuted in 2020, have stamped messages on them designed to inspire — “I am bold,” “I am creative” and “I am a leader” are three such messages.

As leader of an organization that includes 5,200 Girl Scouts across 186 communities in western and central Massachusetts, Lynn tries to live up to these messages every day, with a commitment to community engagement near the top.

“I’ve long been a fan of Girl Scouts’ legacy experiences — from outdoor adventure to the iconic cookie program — and an admirer of the cutting-edge STEM initiatives that create one-of-a-kind experiences,” Lynn said when she was appointed in January to replace Pattie Hallberg.

Lynn holds a master’s in public administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, a master’s in business administration from Boston University, and a bachelor of the arts in economics from the College of the Holy Cross.

She comes from a background in nonprofit leadership and has worked in the field of community engagement for over 20 years. Lynn previously worked at United Way of Central Massachusetts in Worcester as the senior vice president. Her work focused on creating funding opportunities for people who previously experienced economic barriers. Before United Way, she worked at Reed Boston, a children’s literacy nonprofit.

Lynn’s priority is to make the Girl Scout program of Central and Western MA more accessible and inclusive. She acknowledges that there are a lot of girls that the Girl Scout community isn’t serving.

“Serving the easy to serve is not how we are going to support communities,” she said.

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At the top of Lynn’s agenda is to bring girls into the program who live in communities that lack economic resources and those who live in more rural areas where opportunities for girls are sparse. One of the ways to do this, she says, is to focus on creating better financial and transportation support.

A project that is underway is to create shared space opportunities with other nonprofits or businesses that would allow Girl Scouts to hold meetings in neighborhoods that are accessible to transportation.

“It’s important to meet people wherever they are at,” Lynn says.

Another way that Lynn plans on building the Girl Scout program is incorporating different languages into programming. Spanish is already being added, but Lynn wants to do more.

“We want to grow women leaders and confident women in whatever field they choose,” she continues. “Confidence is like a muscle and you kind of earn it and if we can do that with girls we are setting up the next generation for success,” Lynn says.

“Serving communities that are traditionally underserved is not a short game, it should be a long-term commitment,” she says.

Lynn speaks about how middle school girls are in need of committed support right now. Girls are experiencing social isolation at higher rates due to the influence of social media.

“It’s a hard time to be a girl,” she said.

The regional Girl Scout team is using an eight-week program called “All About Media” to support girls as they navigate the media landscape. The program helps make girls more aware of appropriate ways to use social media, as well as bringing their attention to potential dangers and social ramifications.

Then there’s the Girl Scout Cookie Program, which for years has played an essential role in helping girls actively engage in the community and among their peers while teaching skills such as business ethics, general sales skills, goal setting and learning how to engage with the public outside and in person.

Lynn is grateful for the hard work of the volunteers. “The troop leadership team is incredible,” she says. “The work couldn’t be done without them.”