Agenia Clark, CEO of Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, has been involved with scouting almost her entire life, as a favorite photograph in her office suggests. Pictured are two young girls, Agenia and her late sister Demetria, all smiles, happy to be together and to be wearing their Girl Scout uniforms. This photograph conveys the sense of specialness that she associated with being a Girl Scout and is what she strives to recreate in the experiences that every girl can still have today. Agenia is a woman of many talents and tremendous energy, and it’s a privilege to welcome her as our Face of Nashville this week.
Where did you grow up and what brought you to Nashville?
I’m a native of Mobile, Alabama. I came to Nashville with my husband. We were newlyweds, right out of graduate school, and he had been hired by Saturn.
What impact did the Girl Scouts have on you as young scout?
At our troop meetings, we had professional women who would come speak to us. My troop meetings exposed me to the idea of a “career.” To me, that was exciting and it was the foundation of my dreams.
How do you see the Girl Scouts having changed in the past generation?
Girl Scouts has changed significantly, especially since my childhood. Today, girls are exposed to entrepreneurship, financial literacy, careers, leadership opportunities and so much more. Girls are traveling, both domestically and internationally. We’re celebrating 100 years and we wouldn’t be here, if not for the contemporary and meaningful impact of our innovative program changes.
Has the emphasis on girls’ sports effected participation in Girl Scouts nationally?
The most significant impact on Girl Scout membership, both locally and nationally, is that girls can do anything — not just sports. With the advent of a girl’s ability to independently conduct community service projects and the advent of services and agencies to serve the interests of girls, there is a great deal of competition to get a girl’s attention. What’s wonderful about the Girl Scouts is that we are broad enough that we can meet a girl’s interests and have an established organizational brand to help her achieve her goals.
You recently hosted a luncheon celebrating 100 years of Girl Scouts in Middle Tennessee. Can you tell us any highlights that came from Jenna Bush Hager’s keynote speech?
Prior to the lunch, Jenna and I were chatting, and she spoke about how much she loved the Nashville area. Her comments about Nashville made me proud to be a resident. But, because Jenna is such a humanitarian, I enjoyed watching her after the lunch sit around a table with about 10 Girl Scouts and ask them about their aspirations. Her patience, kindness and sincerity were evident with the girls and with the audience at the luncheon. While these were not highlights from the speech, it highlighted why she was the speaker we sought. I’m still elated that she said “yes.”
What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?
There is no such thing as “perfect.” Once we can accept that, we can do the best that we can and seek out the best in others. While I’ve been given great advice from the many mentors I have in my life, this is one of the first that comes to mind.
As a mother of teenage children, do you have any advice for parents making the transition to teenagers?
Laugh and pray! Also, while it’s challenging, listen, ask lots of questions, then listen some more. Find time to talk to them, without any interruptions or distractions. Start fostering a relationship that will help you transition through these complicated times and hold you over into the next stage. Whew…I did say laugh and pray?
I read that you regularly cook family meals. Can you share any advice for busy women who want to cook more but find the time commitment hard to embrace?
I love the kitchen. And, I collect recipes and cookbooks. I have a few recipes that I can prepare in just minutes that are my family’s favorites. Whenever I prepare them, they know that it’s something special, just for them. With the ease of shortcuts, thanks to the many wonderful grocery stores we have in Middle Tennessee, there’s no excuse for not treating your family to a home-cooked meal. I have a stash of easy-to-prepare recipes I keep in the side-pocket of my car door. Like a Girl Scout, I try to “be prepared.” That’s what makes it easy.
Where is your favorite place to eat dinner as a family in Nashville? On date night?
Date night, Charles and I have always loved Café Nonna. With the family, it’s either Sunset Grill, Burger-Up, The Silly Goose and Jeni’s Ice Cream for dessert. But, without failure, it’s always at our dining room table.
What books can be found on your bedside table or Kindle?
Bowling Avenue by Ann Shayne. A bookclub selection, Mudbound by Hillary Jordan. Gen. Colin Powell’s It Worked for Me. And, several of Nikki Giovanni’s books of poetry. That’s just a start. I always have a collection of books nearby, and I do prefer the books over my Kindle. I only use the Kindle when I’m traveling. Reading is my favorite pastime.
If you could change one thing about Nashville, what would it be?
Access to Amtrak. There’s nothing like a great train ride! I love visiting cities with great public transportation. I can’t get from my house to work via the current public transportation services offered.
Is there a must-not-miss event on the calendar for you this fall here in Nashville?
Nashville is blessed to have such a broad range of entertainment. I’m the most fond of the arts, and while I don’t have one “must-not-miss” event on my list, I don’t miss taking in the opera, the symphony, a ballet or a tour of the Frist, and it’s always fun to visit Cheekwood. Last week, I was at the Franklin Theatre enjoying Melinda Doolittle and an amazing cast in a production of Smokey Joe’s Café. As good as Broadway. What a gem! This week, it’s the Nashville Opera’s Madame Butterfly. There’s always something.
What is the last movie you saw at the theater?
I’m watching more movies at home, thanks to the quick releases and the flexibility. At home, the documentary Miss Representation and the international film Skin. At the theater, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
If there is one place on this earth that you would suggest the everyone visit if they could, where would that be?
Nashville! I’m always telling my friends and people I meet, come to Nashville. It’s never what they think it is. It’s always better.
Name three things you can’t live without (besides God, family and friends!)
Books, CBS Sunday Morning and the wonderful team of folks I work with.
Thanks, Agenia! And thanks to our photographer Ashley Hylbert. For more information about Girl Scouts of Middle Tennessee, visit their website: http://gsmidtn.org. For more photos of Agenia, visit Ashley’s blog: here.