Kari Niedfeldt-Thomas is a Girl Scout alumna and 2013 Women of Distinction honoree. She’s the manager of the Mosaic Company Foundation, where her role is to coordinate the global giving program and build global NGO partnerships. She has been a leader in the nonprofit sector for over 18 years and loves working with organizations to identify opportunities in the areas of global food and water security.
What is your favorite memory from Girl Scouts?
I have many favorite memories of Girl Scouts. I joined Girl Scouts in 1974 as a first grader at Harry Spence Elementary School in Lacrosse, WI. I attended the weeklong camping opportunities and went swimming and hiking. I also enjoyed participating in day activities at Goose Island Camp. I eventually became a counselor, and at the same time a leader in my high school.
I also earned my Silver Award and Gold Award by taking on global food security and hunger issues. Our troop mobilized in the community to work on a number of projects relating to these topics. I think it’s interesting that my Gold Award Project was on global hunger and now I work on food security issues in my job. It has been a theme that has followed me throughout my career.
What is your biggest accomplishment?
One of my biggest professional accomplishments was leading the design and construction of the Paul and Sheila Wellstone Center for Community Building when I was working at Neighborhood House. It was a 93,000-square-foot community center with a $27.5 million project budget that was constructed to serve the multi-cultural community on the west side of St Paul. For this project, I had to bring together leaders from all over the community. It really enabled me to find a way to reach out from my comfort zone as a leader and be able to engage people in new ways.
What does it take to be a leader?
Being a leader means listening to others and taking the time to hear what is important to them. It means looking at what the opportunities are and mobilizing people around a central vision. That is not always simple to do.
For a girl who thinks she can change the world, what is your advice?
I would tell her that she should go for it. Absolutely she can change the world. There is nothing holding any girl back from being able to do whatever she wants to do and make whatever difference she wants to make. She just has to put her mind to it, and she has to be able to encourage others around her to help follow that vision.
Why do you think Girl Scouts should reconnect with one another?
Lifelong friendships are important. Everyone in my troop is different. We are not the exact same person. We have different career paths and have different family lives. There is a shared experience that we all had with one another in our troop though, and we can draw on that. We can continually be there for each other. We’ve been there for each other through celebrations of weddings and of new children, and we’ve been there for each other for losses of family members and divorces. It’s wonderful to have people in your life who knew you when you were young—they appreciated you for who you were and they are glad to have you as you are today as a part of their life.