At Girl Scouts of Orange County, we are committed to working for inclusion, diversity, equity, and accessibility across Girl Scouts so that ALL GIRLS -- from every social, cultural, economic, intellectual, and developmental sphere, including those with physical limitations -- can feel a sense of belonging with us. This is just one way that we work towards making the world a better place, as we have for over 100 years.
LEADERSHIP: To fuel our commitment to furthering positive change in our community, GSOC has appointed Maria Alderete as our Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer. IDEA stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accessibility. Maria leads the development and implementation of programs to foster diversity and cultural competence, belonging and inclusivity, and equitable achievement for Girl Scouts, volunteers, and staff. Her diverse background and experience make her ideally suited for this vital role. She completed the 12 month OC Together: reStructure cohort, a county-wide initiative to enhance DEI throughout Orange County.
Prior to joining GSOC, Maria supported diverse populations as Operations Manager at Good Shepard Shelter and served as Assistant Director in the Center for Service and Action at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), where she created sustainable service projects to encourage cultural competency for student volunteers and community conversations with underserved populations. She was selected to represent LMU in the Bridge Building Leadership Institute, a consortium of 10 universities focused on creating a learning community to build cross-cultural relationships and multi-contextuality. Maria holds a B.A. from Loyola Marymount University in Theology and English and an M.A. from Mount St. Mary’s University in Religious Studies.
Noelle Hales, M.A. is the Inclusion Specialist, Noelle works as the special education subject matter expert in regards to accessibility and inclusion at GSOC. She works to guide the development of processes, resources, and procedures to increase accessibility to Girl Scouts with disabilities. Noelle is a member of the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility) team that works to promote diversity and inclusion for all Girl Scouts.
Noelle earned her Master’s degree in Special Education from Chapman University in 2017 where she focused on supporting students with extensive needs and Autism. Prior to that, Noelle earned a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Redlands in 2012.
Noelle has extensive experience working with a diverse population of people with physical and developmental disabilities. Her experience expands across 10 (+) years and includes working and volunteering in a wide variety of settings like schools, Special Olympics, and vocational training sites. Noelle spent several years working as an Adapted Physical Education aide for the PYLUSD where she helped modify P.E. exercises and activities for pre-school to high school aged students.
Prior to joining the GSOC team in 2023, Noelle spent 8 years working for Goodwill of Orange County where she focused on educating and supporting adults with disabilities as they worked towards achieving competitive integrated employment. During her time at Goodwill Noelle took on the roles of a Behavior Training Specialist, a Program Coordinator for a community based program, and finally the Program Supervisor and Instructor for the Gilman Project SEARCH program at CHOC Hospital.
Noelle is also an adjunct professor and teaches for Santiago Canyon College’s School of Continuing Education Adults with Disabilities program. Noelle is passionate about helping others and is ready to help make GSOC a place where ALL Girl Scouts can thrive!
Elaine Kwak is the Administrative Assistant for the IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility) Department. She provides administrative support for the team through preparing for events, scheduling interdepartmental meetings, and contributing her creative expertise through designing different projects. She provides strong communicative and organizational support for the team. She works with the team to create a more inclusive environment for Girl Scouts to thrive to their fullest potential.
Elaine has a strong background in education where she focused on creating a more inclusive environment for students of all ages and backgrounds. With her BFA in Drawing and Painting from California State University of Long Beach, she uses art to create a more inclusive space for all. She worked for various art education studios as Manager, Assistant Director, and Instructor where she implemented systems that prioritized the wellbeing of the students, parents, and staff. Her students range from all ages, economical background, and developmental disabilities. Parents often requested Elaine as an instructor for their children because of her encouraging demeanor and steadfast leadership. As Manager, she developed strong administrative skills which created an organized work environment for her staff members. Whether it is delivering uniformed scheduling, accurate accounting skills, or supporting her team, Elaine always strives to create harmony. She believes inclusion matters because it is the first step of self-love for oneself, for others, and ultimately, the world. She believes it is the first step into creating a more harmonious world. She believes in creating an inclusive world for all no matter their differences in gender, age, race, economic background, sexual identity, and religious rights.
We’re stronger together. By acknowledging the diversity, heritage, and contributions of our multicultural communities, Girl Scouts can find new ways to make the world a better place for everyone.
Now, Girl Scouts of all levels, your friends, and your leaders have plenty of activities to choose from to earn each segment of this fun patch. Whether they choose to do one or all of them, you’ll discover interesting new things about your neighbors—and yourself.
The United States is home to about 60 million Latino and Hispanic people. That's a lot of culture (and people) to celebrate! You can celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with your family and friends by recognizing all the histories, cultures, and contributions that Hispanic and Latino people have made. Take this opportunity to learn more about the 21 Spanish-speaking countries and territories’ cultures honored during these four weeks. And with plenty of activities to choose from, the discovery and fun are endless. Get the Hispanic Heritage Month Patch!
The United States has 574 federally recognized Indian Nations (variously called tribes, nations, bands, pueblos, communities, and native villages).
You can celebrate Native American Heritage Month by recognizing with your family and friends the histories, cultures, and contributions of the Native American communities that were the first inhabitants in the United States. Take this opportunity to learn more about the cultures of the Indian Nations in your state and across the country. We’ve got plenty of activities to choose from, so you can make new discoveries and have tons of fun while earning your patch!
February is Black History Month, where we honor the incredible contributions, the Black and African American communities have made throughout U.S. history — from civil rights leaders to artists, politicians to inventors. Take this opportunity to learn more about the community’s central role in U.S. history and the world. We’ve got plenty of activities to choose from, so you can make new discoveries and have tons of fun while earning your patch!
The Girl Scout Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Month Fun Patch is designed for Girl Scouts of all levels and their leaders, to celebrate the cultural richness of all people in the U.S. whose ancestors came from the Pacific Islands or the Asian diaspora, and to acknowledge the many contributions of the AANHPI community to our nation. Girls and leaders have plenty of activities to choose from to earn this fun patch, and we encourage girls from all ethnic backgrounds to participate.
The Girl Scout LGBTQIA+ Pride Month Celebration Fun Patch is designed for Girl Scouts of all levels and their leaders to honor LGBTQIA+ history, to celebrate the diverse cultures and identities of LGBTQIA+ people, and to acknowledge the many contributions of the LGBTQIA+ community has made and continues to make across our nation. Girls and leaders have plenty of activities to choose from to earn this fun patch, and we encourage girls of all identities to participate.