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The Virginian-Pilot & The Ledger-Star

Ocean View Leader Teaching Traditional Scouting Values, With A Cultural Twist


June 3, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Mothers smiled and spoke with gratitude as they described Carmen Narvaez as a compassionate and creative role model, the right type of person to lead Junior Girl Scout Troop 88 in the Ocean View area.

Narvaez, 29, not only exemplifies traditional Girl Scout values - such good citizenship, honesty and respecting oneself and others - she also instills the growing importance of cultural diversity in modern communities.

The dozen girls in her Troop 88 like to learn about other cultures and share customs, such as different ways of celebrating Christmas, said Narvaez, a native of Cabo Rogo, Puerto Rico. They also learn to speak Spanish, she said.

And all that fits perfectly with the Hispanic Outreach effort of the Girl Scout Council of the Colonial Coast.

The outreach effort began in 2001 as part of the "Every Girl, Everywhere" national initiative that strives to have scouting reflect the face of America, said Marcy Germanotta, communications director of the Colonial Coast council. Nationwide, there were 223,269 Girl Scouts of Hispanic descent in 2003 among the more than 2.5 million registered Girl Scouts, according to a study by the Girl Scouts of America.

"We would love more Hispanics to know about it," said Angelina Lopez, the Hispanic membership and marketing specialist for the Colonial Coast council and the mother of a Girl Scout. "We participate with the Hispanic Community Dialogue in Virginia Beach and the Tidewater Hispanic newspaper to spread word about what the girls are doing."

Lopez added: "We are visiting Mexican restaurants and churches to raise awareness. Not pushing, just being there."

And relying on the talents of an emerging generation of leaders like Narvaez.

Mayra Valentin can vouch for Narvaez's leadership.

"She's a good leader and a good friend," said Valentin, whose 11- year-old daughter Alejandra Otero is a member of Narvaez's troop.

To Valentin, Narvaez's value to the community goes well beyond her considerable skills as a Girl Scout leader.

Valentin was not fluent in English when she moved to the Ocean View area from Ponce, Puerto Rico, last year. But she needed help communicating the health needs of another daughter, 7-year-old Angelica Delgado, to school teachers and nurses.

Narvaez stepped in to explain that the school needed to be aware that Angelica had open-heart surgery several years ago. "She helped me," Valentin said. "To this day, I cry and cry and cry."

Narvaez became involved in scouting to spend more time with her 10-year-old daughter, Aurimar, who belongs to Troop 88. She also has a nine-year-old son, Matthew, who is with Boy Scout Troop 188.

Her troop, though, should not be mistaken as solely for Hispanic girls. One member is from India and another from Africa.

Narvaez, who came to Hampton Roads in 1998 with her husband, Benjamin, a petty officer in the Navy, also is diverse in her community involvement. Her activities include being vice president of the PTA at Oceanair Elementary School, where Troop 88 meets and recently held its Investiture and Court of Awards Ceremony for the girls.

"We need more women like her," said Brenda Kuhlman, whose 10- year-old daughter, Jessica, is a member of Troop 88. "She exemplifies everything we want our girls to be."

Kuhlman said her daughter has changed since joining Narvaez's troop. "She's more conscious of other people and more conscious of herself," Kuhlman said.

And as Angelina Lopez said of Narvaez: "Carmen is very creative, very responsible and strong. She can transmit a lot of good values to the girls."

Caption: Fact Box and Color Photo more info For information about the Hispanic Outreach effort of the Girl Scout Council of the Colonial Coast, call 547-4405, ext. 287. marcy germanotta Carmen Narvaez, a native of Cabo Rogo, Puerto Rico, brings a needed perspective to Colonial Coast's Hispanic Outreach program.

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