Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas to Celebrate Exceptional Leaders in North Texas

Story by Leslie Chatman. Photos courtesy of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas.

The Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas (GSNETX) will recognize outstanding leaders of all ages, from high school students to executives, for their service to the community during the 18th annual Women of Distinction Luncheon (WDL), presented by AT&T on October 28, 2022 at Omni Dallas Hotel. Nickoria Johnson, Partner and Chief Diversity Officer at Credera, and Teresa Lin, Managing Director at Grant Thornton, are serving as the 2022 Women of Distinction Co-Chairs.

“As we pursue our mission to build girls of courage, confidence, and character who will make the world a better place, we are excited to recognize those who are leading and charting the path alongside us,” said Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of GSNETX. “Each of these incredible individuals has demonstrated a passion for serving their community and has taken actionable steps to help others.”


Women of Distinction, presented by AT&T, will celebrate outstanding women, men and young women leaders of all ages, from high school age to adult, for their service in the community as they make the world a better place.

We recently had the opportunity to visit with Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, to learn more about Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas and the Women of Distinction Luncheon.

Hiawatha Williams, Man Enough to be a Girl Scout WDL honoree

The Girl Scouts of the USA has been building and encouraging leaders for 110 years. What do you believe to be most important to the continued existence and evolution of the organization?

Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas is at a pivotal moment post-COVID. It is a moment of adaptation and reimagination as we consider what our community most needs from a girl-serving organization. As part of that, we have a vision of accessibility and belonging, where every girl has access to Girl Scouts. By building meaningful and long-term relationships in communities that have not traditionally engaged with Girl Scouts, we can ensure more girls get access to these life-changing programs. We are focused on being a people-first organization, leaning into our commitment to inclusion and belonging, and preparing for a future where we serve more girls who truly need Girl Scout programming. Today’s girls need Girl Scout programming that offers connection, fun, social and emotional learning, mental health and wellness programs, STEM and career opportunities, outdoor access and so much more. Girl Scouts is prepared to be the most trusted organization for families and their girls.


Jennifer Bartkowski, CEO of Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas

How long has the local council, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas, been hosting the annual Women of Distinction luncheon and what inspired its creation?

This is the 18th annual Women of Distinction Luncheon. When the council first envisioned this event, it was an opportunity to bring together like-minded women and men to celebrate all things women and girls. As the organization has evolved, it has grown significantly in dollars raised and attendance at the event but at its core, it elevates women and girls in North Texas. We hope to inspire attendees to invest in and champion the girls and women in their circle of influence to ensure they have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential, while becoming the future leaders of our community.


How does the annual Women of Distinction luncheon support the mission of the Girl Scouts of the USA?

The Women of Distinction Luncheon is Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas’ largest fundraiser and friendraiser. In addition to bringing much needed funds to the organization each year that allow us to serve girls throughout Northeast Texas, the Women of Distinction Luncheon is also a place for men and women to gather, network and celebrate the future of women and girls. Each year, we hope to elevate the voices and needs of girls and women, as well as tell the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas story, while we inspire nearly 1,000 Girl Scout friends to get involved and invest in the future leaders of our community.


What are the qualities you look for during the Women of Distinction selection process?

We look for individuals who demonstrate courage, confidence and character and who are making the world a better place. We deliberately choose honorees who may not be Girl Scouts but who reflect our mission by being champions of women and girls in our community. These could be leaders in business or nonprofits or unsung heroes in our community. But what makes them special to us is that they have both a voice and a platform that they use to lift up girls and women now and in the future.


This year, we are excited to honor three Women of Distinction – Rebecca Acuña, Director of Government Affairs at PepsiCo; Vidya Krishnan, Chief Learning Officer and Global Head of Learning and Development at Ericsson; and Jennifer Stimpson, Ed.D., Chief Programs Officer at T.D. Jakes Foundation – and one Man Enough to Be a Girl Scout – Hiawatha Williams, Founder and CEO of Williams Chicken.

We will also recognize high school students Jordan Flint, Sofiaenid Rodney-Hernández, and Gracie Wakefield as the Mary Anne Cree Young Women of Distinction. The Young Women of Distinction designation recognizes Girl Scout Gold Award recipients whose final projects demonstrated extraordinary leadership, had a measurable and sustainable impact, and addressed a local challenge related to a national or global issue.


How did the honor of “Man Enough to Be a Girl {Scout}” come to be?

The Women of Distinction Luncheon was originally designed to recognize amazing women and girls who are dedicated to making the world a better place, especially for girls and future generations of female leaders. But we need men to lean into this work too! Men have power, influence, resources and connections that women need access to also. We wanted to create something unique that fit our mission – an award for men who are visibly and actively supporting women and girls. This year’s honoree couldn’t be a better fit. Hiawatha Williams has made entrepreneurship and ownership accessible to women and in doing so, has provided a launching pad to change the trajectory of those women’s lives and their families’ lives.

This event is sold out. Net proceeds raised during the luncheon will provide leadership development, mental health support, socio-emotional skill cultivation, and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), entrepreneurship, life skills, and outdoor leadership programs to more than 19,000 girls in Northeast Texas.

To learn more about the Women of Distinction Luncheon, click here.