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Girl Scouts thank Karen Pehrson for dedication to annual conference

Karen with GLC attendees
Karen Pehrson (standing front) appears with the attendees at a past Global Leadership Conference at Salve Regina University in March. At this year’s event, the first in-person conference since the pandemic began, Pehrson was recognized with the Girl Scouts’ Thanks Badge II for her decades of work putting on the annual conference for high school-age Girl Scouts in New England. (Courtesy photo)

Organizer of Global Leadership Conference recognized with Thanks Badge II

NEWPORT, RI – Karen Pehrson is dedicated body and soul to the betterment of girls and women around the world, and was honored by Girl Scouts for her decades of work with the Thanks Badge II at the Global Leadership Conference in March.

Pehrson, 77, of Wells, Maine, founded the Global Leadership Conference 35 years ago. The Global Leadership Conference (formerly Senior Leadership Conference) has seen great change since its early days at Wheaton College. Over the years, the conference has grown from a small gathering of Girl Scouts to a multi-day conference at Salve Regina University, addressing the changing world our girls face each day.

Previous conferences, sponsored by Girl Scouts of Southeastern New England, have featured timely discussions and exciting guest speakers while celebrating the powerful Girl Scout sisterhood. Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, the council serving New Hampshire and Vermont, is honored to have continued this tradition since 2018.

“I am deeply humbled by the presentation of the Thanks Badge II recognition at the Global Leadership Conference,” said Pehrson. “It was completely unexpected. The warmth, friendship, support of the community of all of the Girl Scout volunteers and staff was overwhelming. Together, we can accomplish anything!”

The honor was passionately supported by many who know her.

“In 2009, I started attending the (former Senior Conference) Global Leadership conference with my daughter,” wrote Tara Pacht, the Girl Scout council’s board president, in her endorsement of Pehrson. “I had not yet met Karen Pehrson, (but) by the end of that first day, I was already signed up for next year to attend as a volunteer. Most folks would stop to ask ‘Well how did that happen?’ but if you have a chance to be in Karen’s light, passion for the Girl Scout movement, and the girls we serve, you will have the answer! Karen has created an event that is life-changing for girls and adults alike.”

Pacht noted that Pehrson’s conference never shies away from tough topics and is real with what girls face. The conference offers a weekend of keynote speakers, classes, and opportunities to meet women involved in changing the world for the better. Girls may participate in workshops like “You Made It! Interview Skills That Work,” “Climate, Environment, and Us,” LGBTQQXYZ” (an introduction to diversity in sexual orientation), “Democracy in Danger,” or “Comedy, Character, and Confidence.”

“Karen is great at surrounding herself with talented and passionate folks who want the best for the girls,” she said. “The relationship that Karen has built with Salve Regina University is such a strong bond that Salve has said that they have a higher-than-normal enrollment rate of girls who have attended in the past. Karen continues to have an open and honest conversation with them built on trust. I have rarely experienced this strong of a bond between an event and the venue, this is all Karen and the folks whom she surrounds herself with. The gifts in kind, the staff and the facility that SRU donates each year are staggering and something that would be hard for most to afford without this sizeable donation. For some girls seeing this campus is a game changer in their lives. I know it was for my daughter.”

Jaye Watts, director of transgender health for the Thundermist Health Center first met Pehrson during a visit to Watts’ Girl Scout troop about 40 years ago.

“As a teen, I struggled with self -acceptance but through Mrs. Perhson, found safety, encouragement and the mentorship that has shaped who I am today,” Watts said. “It’s hard to describe but it is like she saw me and believed in me even when I had a hard time seeing myself.”

Watts said Pehrson “exemplifies the qualities of a special leader and a resounding commitment to Girl Scouts.”

Similar thoughts were expressed by others endorsing Pehrson for the honor.

“I have seen Karen resolve conflicts and handle other very difficult situations with remarkable professionalism, patience and admirable tact,” said Donna M. Fortune, who met Pehrson in 2000 when her Girl Scout troop attended the conference. “She loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her.  Karen is committed to getting girls the help they need and has a network that can deliver, no matter how difficult the task.”

Masako Nakamuta-Vigneault attended the conference with her troop in 2006.

“(Pehrson) has an almost magical ability to bring people together and make everyone feel welcomes," she said. “When Karen asked me to do a conference workshop that would introduce my Japanese culture and Girl Scouting in Japan, I didn’t hesitate to say yes.”

Karen S. Beres brought her Girl Scout troop to the conference in the mid-2000s and continued to offer her time to volunteer for the conference for the next 10 years.

“Karen attracts experts to help young women deal with a variety of well-rounded subjects that are light-hearted to real-world serious issues,” she said. “Karen resolves conflicts and tackles demanding situations all weekend with outstanding competence and care.”

Pehrson and the Girl Scout council are looking forward to continuing their collaboration, with the 36th Global Leadership Conference, already set for March 2023.

Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains is proud to work with and honor Pehrson for her decades of service and dedication to creating young women of courage, confidence, and character, and looks forward to continuing the Global Leadership Conference into the future.


Girl Scouting offers a wide variety of opportunities for learning and leadership for girls, whether a kindergartner just starting school or a 12th-grader almost ready for college. Girls are welcome to join Girl Scouts any time of the year. Find out more at

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Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains serves girls throughout New Hampshire and Vermont through volunteer-run troops, events, and virtual programs. Visit to learn more.