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Role Models

The trio honored as Girl Scouts of Hawaii’s Women of Distinction are living examples of what Girl Scouts aim to teach: Courage, Confidence and Character

Around the world, Girl Scouts have become synonymous with cookies. But behind every box of Thin Mints (or whichever you prefer) is a savvy young girl whose commitment far surpasses the cookies she sells.

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(from left) Michelle Ho, Martha Smith and Christine Camp NATHALIE WALKER PHOTO

It is Girl Scouts who determine everything from marketing strategies to financial projections — not their troop leaders. And it’s only one of a number of programs the organization offers to girls that promise to build upon 3C’s: Courage, Confidence and Character.

“We’re more than just cookies,” says Shari Chang, who recently was appointed Girl Scouts of Hawaii CEO.

It’s a mission that first began in 1917, when the state’s first troop formed at Kamehameha Schools, sponsored by Queen Lili‘uokalani. And it’s one that Chang hopes the community better understands — that more than anything, the program really is about leadership development.

“These are the leaders for tomorrow, and we need to cultivate and support that,” she says.

Next month, Girl Scouts of Hawaii will host its Women of Distinction Dinner to honor three women who have had an impact in the community and serve as inspiration to current Scouts. The March 6 dinner at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort also will present a different format from previous awards ceremonies. Time before this year’s event will be devoted to informing guests of just a few of the initiatives Girl Scouts are involved in — everything from water-shed preservation to Gold Award projects that are meant to have a lasting, sustainable influence in the community. Scouts also will discuss the importance of cookie sales, not only as a source of funding (all money raised stays within the state), but as an experience that equips girls with practical financial know-how.

“We need people to understand (that) there are other benefits from working on these projects besides the fact that they’re helping out humanity,” says Chang. “They’re actually helping themselves to achieve more in the future, and I think that’s important.”

From all outward appearances, this year’s honorees — Christine Camp, Michelle Ho and Martha Smith — may have very little in common. All three work in vastly different fields.

And yet, it’s this exact type of diversity Chang hopes will enlighten Scouts.

“We’re building girls of Courage, Confidence and Character for whatever that may be,” she says.

Christine Camp

At the $165 million development project at 7000 Hawaii Kai Drive, construction is underway. It’s a busy and dusty scene, with groups of mostly men hammering and drilling, while large trucks maneuver in and out of the lot.

When construction is complete, in its place will be two 10-story apartment buildings, designed specifically with families in mind. Playgrounds and business centers will allow parents to work with ease while keeping an eye on children, and a soundproof rehearsal room will ensure musically inclined students don’t disrupt neighbors.

And all of it, including the jobs it has generated, would not exist without Christine Camp.

As president and CEO of Avalon Development Company, Camp directly influences the changing landscapes of Hawaii. What she initially envisions becomes reality through careful coordination and hiring of those who ensure its completion.

It’s a 30-year career that began for the first-generation Korean immigrant immediately after high school, when she began working for an independent developer as a means to pay for college. As Camp is quick to note: She did not choose this profession, it chose her.

“I loved the job,” she says. “Creating something out of your ideas, creating communities where you look back 10 years and it’s still there — it really amazes me.

“It’s an opportunity for me to shape the way we live and where we work … and I found that to be very meaningful.”

The confidence that she so clearly feels now wasn’t always the case. Before Camp went by her full first name, she made herself known as “Chris,” tied her hair up in a bun and never wore skirts, only suits. All of it done in an effort to downplay her gender and assimilate in a profession dominated by men.

“I wanted people to make sure that I was serious and also, for those who never met me, that I would be a guy,” she says. “Then, once I built up the courage and confidence and conviction that I knew what I was doing, I went back to being Christine.”

Michelle Ho

Volunteerism always has been a part of Michelle Ho’s life.

Her earliest childhood memories of giving back to the community are of helping her mother at dental health auxiliary events. There, she would assist by handing out toothbrush kits.

So after having children and deciding not to return to work, it seemed a natural progression for Ho to refocus her attention to the community.

“It enabled me to still kind of be active, engaged and really stay connected to so many interesting people,” she says. “Along the way, it’s been so inspirational.”

She currently volunteers with Hawaii Community Foundation’s Ambassador Program, and serves on the boards for Honolulu Museum of Art and Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children. Her past work also includes time spent with Hawaii Literacy Foundation, and she most recently stepped down from GIFT Foundation’s board after 10 years.

There are, she says, so many worthy local organizations in need of support.

“If I could help more, I would,” she says.

Ho is humbly aware that her place among this year’s honorees may not be a typical one. The notion that success sometimes is equated to a professional title is not lost on her.

“Why am I being honored?” she asks with a laugh, at one point. “I’m not doing anything special, I’m just doing what people do.”

But Ho also knows that her previous life as a business consultant, and overseeing technology, marketing and business development with Prudential Locations, has provided her with experiences on both ends of the spectrum. In this sense, it has increased her awareness and appreciation for the work she currently does.

“I think you always want to be moving forward,” she says, adding that each turn in life is really just another opportunity to learn something new.

It doesn’t mean, though, that Ho, a mother of two children ages 5 and 7, ever misses working. It’s just a different type of fulfillment she achieves these days.

“I really mean it when I say it’s a privilege — being able to work within these organizations fills that cup,” she says.

Martha Smith

Walking through the halls of Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, just about everyone stops to say a quick “hello” to Martha Smith. Her response is warm, as she addresses everyone by name.

Her position as CEO of the hospital requires Smith to be attuned to its needs, allowing no detail to go unnoticed. It’s a necessity for a hospital the size of Kapiolani and the specialized care it provides. And though it seems like a daunting task, it is one Smith always has envisioned for herself.

From as early as sixth grade, Smith knew she loved science and that she would one day work in health care. An assignment in her high school physiology class had Smith researching different health care fields at her prospective college. Looking to do something different that didn’t involve nursing or medicine, Smith presented on respiratory therapy. Her interest in the field persisted, and she eventually received her Bachelor of Science in the specialty.

But after working in a hospital, she quickly discovered something about herself: “I wanted to be in a leadership position,” she says.

So when she later found herself at Kapiolani, interviewing to become the hospital’s director of respiratory therapy, and the then-CEO asked what her professional goals were, she answered: “Your job.”

For about two years now, Smith has served as CEO. However audacious that initial job interview may have been, it’s the exact type of go-getter mentality that Smith encourages.

“You should really reach for the stars, so to speak,” she says, “and not be shy about letting people know what you want — and then you have to work hard.”

Though this former Girl Scout no longer gets to work directly with patients, Smith is exactly where she wants to be.

“I do miss being involved in direct patient care, but the job I have today allows me to make a difference and to work indirectly with patients and families,” she says. “It is very rewarding.”

Girl Scouts of Hawaii’s Women of Distinction Dinner will take place Friday, March 6, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort. To attend or for more information, visit 501auctions.com/girlscoutshawaii, or contact Missy Miranda at 675-5520 or mmiranda@girlscouts-hawaii.org.