Since 2009, the Girl Scouts of Central California South has been honoring women in our community who inspire girls to be successful leaders and believe in themselves. The honorees are dynamic women who have shown exemplary achievements in their areas of expertise, displayed outstanding leadership qualities that have allowed them to overcome obstacles, and served their community while continually making a difference in people's lives.
Each year, they are honored during a luncheon that also benefits a Girl Scouts program for economically disadvantaged girls. Meet this year's honorees here.
Betty Shaneyfelt Finch
Betty Finch was the first female homicide detective of Kern and opened the door to promotions for women in local law enforcement.
Betty came from humble beginnings. In 1974, she escaped from an abusive husband and found herself homeless. She found her way to Bakersfield where she enrolled in Bakersfield College, worked as a waitress and slept in a park bathroom. After working as a commercial artist, she found herself in a 25-year career with the Kern County Sheriff's Department where she worked her way through the ranks, blazing the trail for future women in the department. Today, she is a gourd artist and founder of the Kern County Gourd Society.
Though never being a Girl Scout herself, Finch said the true honor and value of this award is the opportunity to share insights with many young girls.
"Having a positive influence on the lives of adolescent girls as a role model is a rewarding way to add purpose and meaning to your life," Finch said. "Coming from humble beginnings should not be used as an excuse. Challenges build character. You expect less and will work harder in difficult conditions, use this to your advantage and ultimately you can accomplish more."
Cynthia Pollard is a Bakersfield native who didn't seek out to become a role model or inspiration. Instead, she said, it's just something that happened on her way to becoming herself.
Pollard serves as the president and CEO of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, a position she earned after an impressive career in business and public relations, working for PG&E, Walt Disney Productions, and in her own public relations firm, Cynthia Pollard Communications.
Pollard said she believes in supporting the community that has given her so much, and as a former Girl Scout, Pollard knows the importance of having positive role models.
"It is extremely important that girls have strong role models so that they can see the possibilities that lie ahead for them in terms of education, careers and life in general," Pollard said.
Her advice to young girls:
"Be who you want to be," she said. "Don't let others determine who you are. Always be true to your dreams and set your goals. Aim high ... be prepared to work hard and don't let hard work deter you. Anything worth doing is worth doing well."
Joan Dezember, along with her husband, Ray, are known throughout our community for their local volunteer work and philanthropy. Joan has dedicated herself to the betterment of Bakersfield, which she has called home since 1956.
Today, Joan serves on the board of Garden Pathways, Flood Bakersfield Ministries, Inc. and CSUB Foundation while holding true to her belief that volunteerism is the greatest asset to the community.
For Joan Dezember, the award is not only a great honor, she said, but a humbling experience as well. She has served as a Girl Scout, helped her daughter's troop, and witnessed her granddaughter receive the Girl Scouts "silver award."
"Young girls need to have women who will love them and listen to them and their concerns," she said. "It is important for girls to know they are loved and are free to accomplish any dream ... I would love to pass on the importance of serving and encouraging one another, as the outcome is always a positive one."