Rose González Pérez
New Girl Scout CEO flying high
Rose González Pérez seems completely secure in her own skin. And a person in her position has to be. The recently appointed CEO of Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas (GSSWT), González Pérez is at ease talking with the highest-ranking government officials right on down to the littlest Girl Scout Brownie who comes through her office at the Sally Cheever Girl Scout Leadership Center. González Pérez, a College of Education and Human Development (COEHD) graduate, is both a leader and mentor to the 30,000 girls and adult volunteers in 21 counties who are part of the GSSWT organization. She is making a huge impact on San Antonio and its surrounding communities, one girl at a time.
González Pérez grew up in Mathis, Texas and remembers her first experience with the Girl Scout organization as a Brownie. It was then that her troop leader asked the Brownies to bring food to a meeting to distribute to needy families in the area. Not realizing she meant canned goods, González Pérez made peanut butter, ham and cheese, and pimento cheese sandwiches. When she brought them in and saw she was the only one to make food, her leader assured her the sandwiches would go to a family that didn’t have anything to eat.
“And that made me really sad, because I didn’t realize that was going on in my community,” González Pérez recalls. “I mean, I was only in elementary school. I remember thinking at the time, ‘I am doing something to help other people.’”
As a child, she dreamed of being a school principal or superintendent after seeing great examples in her own school. Now, González Pérez is the example.
“I watched them and saw what they did,” González Pérez recalls. “They walked into the classrooms, and motivated kids. They got to go to all the classrooms, while the teachers stayed in one classroom.”
This love of helping and mentoring students, and the dream of becoming a school superintendent, led her to pursue a Master of Education in Educational Leadership in the COEHD at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA).
“I had such a great experience at UTSA,” González Pérez says. “My advisors really cared, and my professors always took time to sit with us and talk or make themselves available before or after class. They were very nurturing.”
González Pérez graduated with her master’s degree in 1990, taught for a year in San Antonio’s Northside Independent School District, and then decided that she wanted to teach in a Dallas school district for a few years before applying to superintendent positions. She came back to UTSA for a recruitment event that would change the course of both her career and life.
In all of González Pérez interviews that occurred at the UTSA recruiting event, she told school district representatives she wanted to help girls and that she wanted girls to feel like they could do whatever they felt they wanted do. She received three job offers, and one of the Dallas school district representatives she met asked her if he could pass her resume along to someone. That someone was Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas (GSNETX) in Dallas.
The non-profit organization ended up calling González Pérez about a new position with Girl Scouts in Dallas. They wanted someone to work with the schools to do an in-school program, help with curriculum, help get support from corporations, and help recruit volunteers for girls. They required someone who was bilingual and had an education background.
“It was a perfect match,” she said.
And now, more than 20 years later, González Pérez has risen in the ranks at GSSWT. In April 2012, she was chosen as CEO of the multi-million dollar, non-profit organization. In her new role she wants to accomplish a number of goals, one of which is reaching out to teens and helping girls stay in Girl Scouts for a longer period of time once they enter middle and high school.
“I really want to reach out and make sure that the girls we have in Girl Scouts stay as long as they can,” she said. “The older you are the more opportunities there are, and I want to make sure our teens are succeeding. The girls between 5th and 8th grades, that is the time when they need us the most. They are making different decisions about their lives and what they are going to do, and we want to make sure that they stay involved and have those leadership opportunities.”
With 59 million Girl Scout alumni nationwide, González Pérez is among a host of successful former Girl Scouts in leadership positions in both Texas and the nation. As well as being a role model for thousands of girls, she is a role model for two boys: her sons Aaron, 14, and Marcos, 11.
“I’m really proud of my children and the good role models that they are becoming,” she said. “And as a single mother I want other single mothers to know that when you surround yourself with great people and a great support system, the opportunities are endless. If you can’t find it somewhere else, come to Girls Scouts; it is here. This is the place.”
As proud she is of her two sons, they are just as proud of their mother.
“Anytime someone is broken down, needs help, or translating, my boys always tap on my shoulder and say. ‘Mom, I know you can help them because you are a Girl Scout and you know how to do it!’ It is really cool to see that. There can be men in a crowd, and Aaron and Marcos will say, ‘Move over, my mom knows how to do that!’ That, for me, is the coolest!”
As a leader in her family and in the San Antonio community, González Pérez admires the leadership at UTSA. She said that President Ricardo Romo is always in the community and is offering support for her work with the Girl Scouts.
“When you have a leader like that who is visible in the community, that says a lot about the university,” she said. “I have been proud to see UTSA’s growth as well as the leadership there; you all are doing great things.”
González Pérez is flying high. With her positive outlook, work ethic, and drive to provide amazing opportunities to girls in Southwest Texas, this COEHD graduate is a prime example of a strong leader who Girl Scouts should be proud to emulate. And yes, she still donates peanut butter to the food bank – but now jars, not sandwiches.
For more information about The Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas, visit
www.girlscouts-swtx.org. The Institute of Texan Cultures will be featuring "Girl Power!", an exhibit highlighting the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts. The exhibit runs Feb. 22 through July 14, 2013. For more information, visit texancultures.com.