Girl Scout VP says PBSC provided her with a solid foundation
Elle Harrigan’s career began as a certified pharmacy technician and trainer for Walgreens which led her to earn a Bachelor of Science in Molecular Biotechnology at Palm Beach Atlantic University.
Fueled by this scientific foundation, she thought she would pursue a career in research. However, life had different plans for Harrigan, now the vice president of advancement at Girl Scouts of Southeast Florida.
While she was at PBAU, she started volunteering at Urban Youth Impact (UYI), where she says she found her passion.
“While I was great at my job at Walgreens, it did not fill me up like nonprofit work did,” said Harrigan. “It was about something much bigger than myself, and the people who we get to interact with are amazing. There is the possibility of building real relationships with so many people on different walks of life. That really appealed to me, and still does.
After graduating, she accepted a position at UYI and co-founded the SMART (Science Meets ART) Program with another graduate of PBAU.
After teaching inner-city youth who were often going through so many family and environment challenges, she recognized the need to further her understanding of youth development and enrolled at Palm Beach State College to complete Youth Development Certificate courses and then Director’s Credential courses to be fully certified with the Department of Children and Families.
This educational journey not only broadened her perspective on best practices for working with children but also set the stage for her evolving role in philanthropy.
Today, she focuses on cultivating relationships to ensure all girls have equal opportunities within the community. This involves strategic partnerships, philanthropy and advocating for collaborative community development.
“Philanthropy remains a cornerstone of my endeavors, and I am actively involved through Impact of the Palm Beaches,” said Harrigan. “This year, my husband Bernard and I initiated the Harrigan Scholarship for Palm Beach State College students, a testament to our commitment to fostering education and opportunities for the next generation. ”
Outside her role at Girl Scouts, she is a member of the Palm Beach North Chamber of Commerce, serving on both the Ambassador Committee and Women In Business Council. She is also a member of the Forum Club, Executive Women of Palm Beach County, American Fundraising Professionals and a ArtiGras Fine Arts Festival co-chair for artist relations.
Simultaneously, her academic journey reached a milestone when she earned a Master of Nonprofit Management from the University of Central Florida. This academic pursuit, combined with her recent entry into the Educational Leadership and Policy doctorate program at Florida State University, she says solidifies her commitment to dismantling systemic barriers.
Harrigan sat down to answer a few more questions about her time at PBSC, what makes the College special, and the advice she would give to others.
How did earning a degree or credential from PBSC set you apart?
PBSC provided me with hands-on experiences, field trips, and a solid theoretical foundation through the Director’s Credentials program. This unique combination equipped me with the skills needed to navigate the challenges of working with children and to later lead transformative initiatives.
What is your fondest memory from your time as a PBSC student?
Not as a student, but now as a professional, partnering with PBSC has been wonderful. I am so thankful for how interwoven PBSC is with our community and involved in so many ways. From Susan del Portal being part of my Girl Scouts Emerald Awards Palm Beach committee, to Dr. Nika Coleman-Ferrell being part of our board of directors. We all genuinely want to advance the mission of female leadership for the next generation.
Which PBSC professor or instructor made a lasting impact or impression on you, and why?
Nika has been my constant mentor. She encourages me, my husband, and even my little toddler to be our best selves and push for more to be done for our community. She was my first ask to write a letter of recommendation for my doctorate program, and just the epitome of an empowered woman who empowers women. I serve as a co-chair for the Women in Business Mentorship Academy, which partners mentees and mentors for six months to build up women to executive leadership roles. Dr. Nika was a mentor for the program this year, and seeing the way she confidently breathes life into women is so refreshing.
What advice do you have for today’s PBSC students?
Embrace change, stay resilient, and keep moving forward. Your journey may surprise you, and every experience contributes to your growth. I am always inspired by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: If you can’t flu then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.
What advice do you have for recent PBSC graduates entering your field?
Network actively, seek mentorship, and remember that each connection and experience contribute to your professional journey. Be adaptable and stay committed to the values that drive your work.