At Diné Bi Olta, Girl Scouting is a hit

By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
Navajo Times

FORT DEFIANCE, Feb. 16,2012

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(Courtesy photo - Amber Crotty)

Brownies Tiajia Gamble and Alena Crotty sell Girl Scouts cookies with handmade posters for Tséhootsoí Diné bi'Olta Troop No. 3053 on Feb. 11 at the Basha's grocery store in Window Rock.

W hen Amber Crotty decided to establish a Brownie troop at Tséhootsooí Diné Bi Olta, little did she foresee the response: Over 50 girls - about 20 percent of the student body - signed up to become members of the newly formed Arizona Cactus Pine Troop No. 3053.

They ran the gamut from Daisies (grades K-1) to Cadettes (grades 6-8), as the ages are grouped in Girl Scout parlance.


Diné Girl Scouts: Completing the circle

"I really didn't need to advertise, obviously. 'If you build, they will come,'" Crotty said during a Feb. 9 troop meeting, while simultaneously teaching a group of Daisies and Brownies how to sell cookies for the year's big fundraiser.

"Girl Scouts, the ones that everyone should be cutting out - if you have a pair of scissors - are the cookies we will be selling. Put them each in a pile and take out the cookies we are not selling. Does anyone see a cookie we are not selling?" asked Crotty.

"I can see the lemon ones we're not selling," shouts one Brownie.

"What do we do next?" asked a Daisy.

Crotty, who together with co-leader Nikki Alex started organizing the troop in November, said the strong response indicates a need for after-school programs not just at the Navajo language immersion school, but in most other schools as well.

"If anything, this demonstrates the lack of programs available, not just to girls but to kids after school," she said. "For the most part, they wanted something to do after school."

Before the DBI Girl Scout troop was organized, most of the girls said they either went home after school or to the local Boy's and Girl's Club, where they only did homework.

"I wanted to learn more things about nature," said Eriona Tapahe, 11f, a cadette. "I was excited because I haven't been in the Girl Scouts before, and wanted to try it."

Cadette Leila Yazzie, 11, said she would likely not have learned about survival skills if it were not for her Girl Scout troop.

"We're learning the First Aid badge," said Yazzie, who is Tó áhání (Near to Water Clan), born for áshiihí (Salt Clan). "The badges represent what we accomplish and what we can do."

This is not the first time a Girl Scout troop has been launched at the school, but Tapahe said, "Our last troop leader left us. We didn't get a sash or badges."

"Amber supports us and encourages us to do this," added Yazzie. "It feels a lot better because she didn't abandon us and leave us out in the cold."

Although the current Girl School uniform policy calls for vests, the girls in this troop decided to stick with sashes instead, Crotty said.

Crotty also said the troop has been lucky this year to get support from the Navajo United Way and other sponsors, which helped finance uniforms for the troop.

One Scout who is off to a running start on the annual cookie fundraiser is Brownie Megan Sells, who sold 150 boxes during the preorder period.

Sells said she enjoys the range of activities scouting offers such as arts and crafts and singing.

"I'm learning you have to respect yourself and others, and to help people, not just yourself," she said.

Over at the other end of the school cafeteria Alex sat with a group of Juniors (grades 4-5), who were quietly focused on making flower headbands.

"I help with all the activities and mainly help Amber, the leader," Alex said. "We have a large troop. Most troops only have one age group, but we have K through eighth."

As a community organizer specializing in environmental issues, Alex said she likes the Girl Scouts' emphasis on teaching young girls how to become leaders and stewards of Níhima (Mother Earth).

"We try to keep it Navajo," Alex said. "Within the curriculum they have badges on water conservation. They have to learn water conservation and taking care of the environment."

According to Alex, the girls are in the self-discovery phase of the curriculum.

"Once they go through the self discovery part of it, then they start talking about their community and the issues in the community and start working on community projects," she said. "So, a lot of it is instilling leadership skills."

Shenoah Cleveland, 10, a Junior Scout, knows her goals, to develop leadership skills and raise enough money to attend a horse camp over the summer.

"So far I sold 140 boxes of cookies," Cleveland said. "The money we raise is going to horse camp or other camps. I want to go to horse camp. Some money we can donate to charity."

Cleveland said being part of the troop "feels like you're part of a family, with all the girls around you."

Because of the large troop size, Crotty said, the goal is to sell about 4,000 boxes of cookies, which include top sellers Thin Mints, Samoas and Tagalongs.

The girls plan to use of their earnings to attend horse and art camps this summer, and some to buy gloves and scarves for local elders next winter.

Over the weekend, the troop set up booths at the local Bashas' and Lowe's grocery stories and sold about 130 boxes of cookies at $4 each.

"We sold out on Saturday," Crotty said, adding that the fundraiser is going well. "We are at 45 percent of our goal."

The troop will also have cookie booths this Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 18-19, and at other areas throughout the rest of February.

"These girls are our future business entrepreneurs," Crotty said. "This cookie sale is planting the seed and your support has strengthened their confidence to dream big, plan goals, market a product and money management."

Information: Amber Crotty, 505-567-0069, or Nikke Alex, 505-399-8650.