Press Release

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Nathan Tabak, Katrin Maier
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Five Extraordinary Women Named 2013 Women of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of Greater New York

Felita Harris, Samantha Kappagoda, Nicola Palmer,
Laurel Rossi, Cheryl L. Swiatkowski
recognized as role models for “Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Leaders”

(New York, NY) –The Girl Scouts of Greater New York (GSGNY) today announced the five remarkable leaders they will honor as this year’s Women of Distinction. These leaders serve as role models for girls and young women and they advance GSGNY's mission of building girls of courage, confidence, and character. The GSGNY recognizes Women of Distinction (WOD) each fall, coinciding with Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low’s birthday.

The honorees include: Felita Harris of Donna Karan International; Samantha Kappagoda of Risk Economics, Inc.; Nicola Palmer of Verizon Wireless; Laurel Rossi of Havas Worldwide Strat Farm; and Cheryl L. Swiatkowski of Jones Lang LaSalle Americas, Inc.

As GSGNY concludes its 100th anniversary celebration and enters its second century, GSGNY is focusing on four leadership program areas for the nearly 27,000 girls the organization serves across the five boroughs. The program areas showcase the diversity of the future leadership roles available to today’s girls, and GSGNY’s honorees represent all four of these areas: Business & Entrepreneurship; Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM); Environmental Leadership; and Personal Leadership Identity.

“We are proud to honor these extraordinary women, who in such exemplary fashion embody the values we strive to instill in our girls,” said Barbara Murphy-Warrington, CEO of GSGNY. “Our Girl Scouts need only look to these accomplished women to understand that above all, it is dedication, talent, spirit, and vision that open doors and create leaders.”

The 2013 Women of Distinction are:

Felita Harris, Senior Vice President of Global Sales, Donna Karan International. For the past two decades, Ms. Harris has worked with some of the most notable luxury brands including Armani, St. John Knits, Agnona, and Piazza Sempione. In 2003, Ms. Harris joined Donna Karan International; in 2010, she assumed the newly created position of Senior Vice President of Global Sales. Ms. Harris currently oversees the Donna Karan Collection wholesale and online businesses in 38 countries in North America, the Middle East, Europe, Africa, and Asia. Ms. Harris holds a degree in Fashion Merchandising and Buying from Bauder College in Atlanta, Georgia. She currently serves as a mentor for the Cherie Blair Foundation and for Watch Her Work Mentors in association with Pynk Magazine. Ms. Harris resides in New Jersey with her five-year-old daughter, Kennedy.

Samantha Kappagoda, Chief Economist and co-founder, Risk Economics, Inc. Ms. Kappagoda provides advisory services and research and development of rigorous analytics applied to large-scale, real-world modeling and surveillance for geopolitics and socioeconomics involving population, demographics and macroeconomics. She is also co-lead investigator at the RiskEconR Lab for Decision Metrics, and a visiting scholar at the Courant Institute for Mathematical Sciences, at New York University. Previously, she was Senior Economist for over thirteen years at Caxton Associates LP, a global macro hedge fund, investing in global fixed income, currencies, commodities and equities, with over $10 billion of assets under management. Ms. Kappagoda received her MBA in Analytic Finance and Statistics from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, an MA in Economics from the University of Toronto, and a BSc (Hons) in Mathematics from Imperial College, London. She currently serves as a member of the boards of directors for two nonprofit organizations: Glynwood, which focuses on sustainable agriculture and regional food systems; and the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival. She was born in Sri Lanka and has also resided in Canada, the Philippines, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

Nicola Palmer, Chief Network Officer, Verizon Wireless. Ms. Palmer is responsible for planning, engineering, building, and operating Verizon Wireless’ industry-leading voice and data networks and oversees the design and deployment of the company’s 4G LTE network, the nation’s largest. Active in a number of organizations, including the National Academy Foundation, Ms. Palmer is a staunch advocate for women in business and for promoting education and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM). In 2012, she was included in FierceWireless’ list of Most Influential Women in Wireless. Ms. Palmer earned a BA in industrial engineering from Penn State University and an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Laurel Rossi, President, Havas Worldwide Strat Farm, a full-service advertising agency with offices in New York City and Seattle. Ms. Rossi started Strat Farm in 2008 as the next move in an accomplished career marketing some of the best companies in the world. Ms. Rossi’s agency’s client roster includes AT&T Wireless, BrightStar Care, Capgemini, Enfamil, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Eisai Pharmaceuticals, and Weight Watchers. Laurel is currently Chairman of the Board of the ADVERTISING Club of New York and its foundation, which serves to attract, educate and retain young adults with diverse backgrounds with an emphasis on young women. She is also devoted to a number of other organizations where she volunteers her time and marketing expertise, including Berkshire Hills Music Academy, which provides post-secondary education for special needs individuals. Throughout Ms. Rossi’s life, strong women – including her aunts, grandmother, mother, business mentors, sorority sisters, and Girl Scout leaders – played a defining role in her desire to make this world a better place.

Cheryl L. Swiatkowski, Vice President of Jones Lang LaSalle’s Corporate Solutions Group. Ms. Swiatkowski develops and implements real estate solutions that include acquisitions, dispositions and general portfolio management for the firm’s corporate clients. An active member of GSGNY since 1980, Cheryl is a charter member of the Juliette Low Society as well as a founding member of the National Juliette Low Birthplace Circle of Friends. Cheryl is the Secretary of the Board of Directors for GSGNY. She has held and continues to hold many other volunteer positions with the Girl Scouts, including Troop Leader, Council Trainer, Camp Site Director, Council Delegate, National Delegate, Volunteer Recognition Committee Chair, and Queens Association Chair.

This year’s honorees will be recognized at a breakfast, The Next Century: Today’s Girls, Tomorrow’s Leaders, chaired by GSGNY board member Barbara J. Cooperman, to be held on October 29, 2013 at Cipriani 42nd Street. Tickets for the event are available on GSGNY’s website.

During the WOD breakfast, the Future Woman of Distinction Award will be presented to one extraordinary Girl Scout. The 2013-2014 Future Woman of Distinction, to be named in October, will not only represent the ideals inherent in Girl Scouting, but will also have earned the Gold Award, the Girl Scouts’ highest honor. More than 100 young women from New York City are expected to earn their Gold Award this year.

Last year’s Future Woman of Distinction, Asha Alexandria Wills, embodies the courage, confidence and character instilled in Girl Scouts. Asha - a Girl Scout since first grade - received the Gold Award for her project preparing young children in her Brooklyn community for higher education. This past spring, Asha graduated with honors from Poly Prep Country Day School, where she played the clarinet, participated in school sports, and was the editor of the school’s literary magazine. She is attending Dartmouth College this fall as a pre-med major.

About the Girl Scouts of Greater New York 

The Girl Scouts of Greater New York is New York City's largest girls-only leadership development program, reaching nearly 26,000 girls ages 5 to 17 in every zip code of the five boroughs. Girl Scouts enjoy programs that include college prep, career exploration, STEM, business and entrepreneurship, environmental leadership, take-action projects, and global citizenship. Today’s Girl Scouts learn to lead with courage, confidence, and character to make their communities and the world a better place. Visit to learn more.