Imagine this: You are the lone adult in a raft full of nervous 11-year-old girls careening down a white-capped river. Two of the girls fall in the fast-moving water at separate times in the trip and you have to move quickly to pull them back to safety.
For troop leader Carol Obando-Derstine, she never wavers – she is always there for the girls –coaching, leading and assuring her Girl Scouts in all they do.
The girls overcame their fears that day on the river and all wound up having a great time. While they came a long way on the short trip, they probably have no idea how far their leader has come.
Obando-Derstine was once a shy and quiet girl – a native Colombian and Spanish speaker in a New Jersey school filled with English-speaking students.
A teacher took Obando-Derstine under her wing in kindergarten, boosting the girl’s confidence and teaching her English. That teacher and other role models along the way laid the foundation for the leader Obando-Derstine would eventually become.
A regional affairs director for PPL Electric Utilities, Obando-Derstine has mastered English and is far from an introvert.
And now she’s paying it forward as a strong community leader.
“When I was young, people invested in me, saw potential in me,” said Obando-Derstine, a Girl Scouts leader since 2012. “That’s what I want to do in my life – to constantly help young people succeed.”
Obando-Derstine said it’s important for young girls to have strong female role models involved in their lives on a regular basis. But she does find Women’s History Month in March as a perfect opportunity to reflect on the accomplishments of women.
“It’s an opportunity to celebrate the many contributions of women in all aspects of our society,” she said.
It’s a lesson she hopes to instill on her troop, based in the southern portion of Lehigh County.
Each April, the Girl Scouts host Take the Lead, an event honoring four outstanding women in the region. Before the event, the girls take part in hours of training on networking, interviewing, public presentation and speech writing. The girls also interview and job shadow the winners. During the ceremony, the Girl Scouts present the awards and talk about their
experiences with the winners. All this is designed to produce the next generation of female leaders.
“I got involved in the training and the organization as a whole because I firmly believe in the mission of the Girl Scouts, which is to build up the girls’ courage, confidence and character,” Obando-Derstine said. “I simply want these girls to succeed in life.”
Obando-Derstine is involved in many other groups. She’s an active member of PPL’s POWER Network (PPL’s Organization of Women Engaged for Results) and Lead (Latino Employee Alliance for Diversity). She’s also on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Latino Affairs, the Rotary Club of Allentown and a cabinet member of the United Way’s Women United.
“I want to do as much as possible in my community because I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded,” she said.