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Debra Nakatomi - Girl Scouting as a Pattern for Life

Photo Credit: Debra Nakatomi

If one person can embody the imperatives and ideals of the Girl Scouting movement, that person just might be Debra Nakatomi.

A lifelong Girl Scout, Debra credits Girl Scouts with playing “a pivotal role in shaping who I am.” Her parents had been interned during World War 2 because of their Japanese origin, and her mother wanted to find a safe and inclusive experience for her daughters as the family worked to recover from the trauma of those years.

“I realized how important her decision was to my life and for her own, many years later,” Debra explains. “Girl Scouts played a pivotal role in shaping who I am. From a young age, it provided a safe place to develop my confidence, skills and relationships with other girls. For those who are fortunate to be a member of Girl Scouts or Girl Guides, it is very significant. For many, it is a life-changing and life-shaping experience.”

This is such a critical moment for our movement, and our world. The pandemic has reminded us of our interdependence — in our families, communities, and our Girl Scouts sisterhood.

Debra has dedicated much of her adult life to giving back to the organization that has given so much to her. She served as a Girl Scouts of the USA (GSUSA) board member for 12 years, including three years as board secretary and six as international commissioner and chair of the GSUSA World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) Task Force. As international commissioner, Debra helped to increase capacity and resources for GSUSA’s crucial global engagement work.

Her Task Force achievements included partnerships with WAGGGS on initiatives including co-chairing a roundtable on single-gender experiences, serving as a member of the diversity working group, and representing the organization at the International Association for Volunteer Effort.


Debra explains that her time on the GSUSA board fueled her passion for global movements and the value of global experiences for girls. “I co-chaired a WAGGGS/GSUSA roundtable on single-gender experiences and chaired the GSUSA global task force promoting our global programs. Each of these experiences deepened my resolve of the power and potential of our global movement.”

As founder and president of Nakatomi & Associates — a strategic communications and change-management firm — Debra has also given freely of her professional expertise to advise and support nonprofit/NGO organizations in the United States and Japan, including the Los Angeles Women’s Foundation, GOLD (Global Organization for Leadership and Diversity), and Girl Scouts of the USA.

Debra enumerates the gifts that girls and women bring to that leadership — the values that Girl Scouting helps to nurture.


Her focus has always been on making sure the future of leadership looks inclusive, and on creating changes that transcend borders. It's a mission that truly resonates with Debra, and one that holds significant meaning to her at this time. “This is such a critical moment for our movement, and our world. The pandemic has reminded us of our interdependence — in our families, communities, and our Girl Scouts sisterhood,” Debra says. Her hope is that “we can use this moment to find new ways to lift up our movement, learn from each other and emerge stronger. Now, more than ever, the leadership of girls and women is essential as our world grapples with so many challenges.”


Debra enumerates the gifts that girls and women bring to that leadership — the values that Girl Scouting helps to nurture: empathy, inclusive generative thinking, organization, as well as management and leadership skills that value inclusion, consensus, finding common ground, and teamwork.

For the next iteration of her work, Debra has been nominated to the WAGGGS World Board. “The opportunity to serve on the WAGGGS World Board is the convergence of my work and life values: promoting equity and inclusion, advancing intergenerational leadership, and helping WAGGGS emerge stronger for the future,” she says.

These are the values that make Girl Scouting such a special force in girls' lives, and the values that have made Debra an extraordinary woman with so much to give back.


CircleAround is operated by a wholly owned subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA. The site serves women nationwide by providing content that is uplifting, thought-provoking, and useful. We make revenue distributions back to GSUSA so they can further their mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.

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