Marching with Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts of the Council in the District, incorporation with the Young Leaders Program, marched in blooming pink and white flowers at this year’s Annual National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade.

Girl Scouts from Charles R. Drew Elementary on Eads St., Northeast and Raymond Elementary on Spring St., Northwest marched past thousands of visitors lined along Constitution Avenue, Northwest.

As the girls marched with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), they displayed courage, confidence, and character in which Girl Scouts work to instill in all of their ladies, according to their website.

Parading around in Girl Scout t-shirts, the girls had the opportunity to take part in an annual two-week event that celebrates springtime in D.C. and the gift of 3000 cherry blossom trees from Japan to United States.

The sunny yet windy parade took place between 7th St. and 17th St., Northwest. The parade featured colorful floats, marching bands, and dance troops.

Young Leaders’ Senior Specialist Renia Parker said the real stars of the parade were the Girl Scouts.

“Our girl scouts shined because of our diversity,” she said. “Often Girl Scouts is looked at as an organization that only impacts Caucasians or white Americans, but marching in the parade this weekend with our girls showcased that this organization can positively affect girl leadership skills for all races.”

Young Leaders was established in 2002 through Girl Scouts to recruit collegiate women from the surrounding universities such as Howard University, Georgetown University, American University, Trinity College, and University of Maryland.

The program’s main initiative is for young women to make a difference in young girl’s lives through Girl Scouting. It also connects college students with girls from impoverished communities who attend schools within the District.

“The Girl Scouts Young Leader’s Program is important to the DC community because it give the girls in this community mentors who are close to their age, who look like them, and ignite inspiration, and the ability to challenge and empower the girls in the community with just a little time and attention,” Parker said.

“Many of the girls in the program don’t have examples of young women who are in college or college bound,” she also said. “Since the Young Leaders in the program are in college, the girls can then seek to reach the goals of going to college just like their mentors.”

Taking part in the program is Howard University sophomore computer science major Blaire Barlow. Barlow, who is one of the troop leaders at Mildred Green Elementary School on Mississippi Avenue SE, has been a member of the program since last semester. She said she is motivating young girls to reach their full potential.

“I join YLP because I wanted to get involved in the community, especially in the D.C. community,” Barlow said. “My main goal was to help the children in one of the crime-infested cities in the country.”

Barlow plans to continue working within the community in order to change many of the problems in the school system.

“I want to inspire these young girls to stay in school and to do great things with their lives,” she said. “I want them to know that they do not have to become negative products of their environments but positive ones that will shine.”

Another troop leader making a difference in these young girls’ lives is Trinity University senior elementary education major Maria Mendez. Mendez, who conducts troop meetings, said she joined the Young Leaders Program to gain hands-on experience with children, especially since she wants to work in the teaching field.

“Though many of them are quite young, you just see a change in them in every meeting,” Mendez said. “They start to work out their problems together and they become more independent.” Along with Barlow and Mendez, Trinity junior criminal justice major DeAnica Cole also said she loves helping young girls.

Cole, a troop leader at Eagle Academy Public Charter School on M St. Southeast, said her main reason for joining the program was to make a difference in at least one girl’s life.

“I want to be an example for the girls,” Cole said. “I want to show them that anything and everything is possible if you put your mind to it.”

Among the Girl Scouts who are inspired by their troop leaders is 8-year-old Destinae Charten, As a Brownie, a troop rank that consists of second and third graders at Drew Elementary School, Charten is known for telling everyone how much she loves Girl Scouts.

“I love everything that we learn in Girl Scouts,” Charten said. “We get to get badges and do other fun stuff that we don’t do in school.”

Charten has participated in all Girl Scouting events and activities Young Leaders has offered. She plans to continue in the program as long as her parents allow her.

“I want to do good things, learn more things,” she said. “And I want to keep being a sister to every Girl Scout.”