Sylvia Acevedo: From Rocket Scientist to Head Girl Scout

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Recently, the Tattered Cover at Aspen Grove was host to Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Girl Scouts of America, who spoke to about 35 Girl Scouts (and about 75 people overall) about her life, her job as the top Girl Scout of the USA, and her new book, “Path to the Stars: My Journey from Girl Scout to Rocket Scientist.”  

Acevedo’s journey is notable because she didn’t start off in a position that most people equate with success. “Women like me don’t even represent half of a percent [in Silicon Valley].” Not many poor girls from Mexican-American families decide to go to college, let alone do the 

Sylvia Acevedo signing her book for Denver area Girl Scoutsthings Acevedo has done. As a kid, Acevedo didn’t really have a concept of planning ahead or of a girl’s worth outside the household.

She had very traditional parents that wanted her to do what girls had always done: cook and clean. But “cooking is just like science,” according to Acevedo, and she wanted to pursue science.

When she became a Scout, she changed her expectations of herself. “Thank goodness I was a Girl Scout,” she remarked. In GS, she learned how to plan, budget, and dream of a life that included college and careers.

“My inspirations were Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale, because they were big innovators.” However, Acevedo didn’t go into medical school. Instead, when college rolled around, she went into industrial engineering. She loved “getting to study stuff that opened up your mind and taught you about things that are outside of your realm.”  

Acevedo became a rocket scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. She worked on designing the Solar Polar Solar Probe and interpreting data from the Voyager 2 satellite.  

When Acevedo realized how much of an impact Girl Scouts had on her life, she started volunteering and ended up as the CEO of the Girl Scouts of America.

She loves to talk to girls around the country, telling them, “Take away the objections” and “Don’t take the first no,” as well as “chart your own path to the stars.”

Sylvia Acevedo speaking at the Tattered Cover

One of Acevedo’s passions is integrating STEM into Girl Scouts. “STEM is changing the world… I want to have more girls at the table.” She finds ways to teach “science in a way that is unplugged, but still gets the concepts.”

For example, she taught girls how to code by using different colored beads to represent ones and zeroes and making a bracelet with their initials in binary code.

“We are the experts on how girls learn and lead.” Sylvia Acevedo’s story is a powerful one: she is living proof that you don’t need a rich family or a polished life to find success: you can engineer your own future with enough hard work. Acevedo is an inspiring woman and a role model for generations of girls to come.