- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 10, 2006

For tonight, Rebecca Bergey’s office is a grassy hill on which a young boy kicks a soccer ball, families eat hamburgers hot off the grill and the sounds of a Spanish radio station inspire feet to tap.

Ms. Bergey is one of three linguistic outreach specialists for the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital, which oversees 51,202 Girl Scouts between the ages of 5 and 17 in the District and parts of Maryland and Virginia.

Ms. Bergey doesn’t sit at in a cubicle all day. While there is office work, she also heads out to communities to recruit new Scouts.

On this night, she’s at the Langley Park Community Center, which is hosting the “National Night Out,” a time for communities to show their solidarity against crime.

Ms. Bergey shifts easily between English and Spanish when addressing girls and their mothers. Since March, Ms. Bergey has worked for the Girl Scouts, recruiting girls from Hispanic areas in Prince George’s County, Arlington County and Alexandria.

Tonight, Ms. Bergey and co-worker Alexa Thomas are seeking girls to join new troops that will be led by local college students as part of the Young Leaders Program. Ms. Thomas, senior specialist of the program, says Young Leaders began in the District because of a lack of troop leaders.

The two women stand at a display of bilingual brochures and photographs of Girl Scouts in action. There is not a steady flow of people to the table, so Ms. Bergey grabs some bright yellow fliers and sets off to talk to families waiting to purchase food.

“She’s willing to do anything,” Ms. Thomas says. “She’s a go-getter.”

The go-getter was raised in a small town in Pennsylvania, where she met people from different countries through her mother, who taught students for whom English was a second language.

“I got hooked into getting to know what drove people to come here and what their experiences were,” she says.

Ms. Bergey graduated in 2002 from Franklin & Marshall College, a liberal arts school in Lancaster, Pa., with a double major in American Studies and Spanish. She has studied and lived in Argentina and Mexico.

And her Spanish comes in handy here. When Ms. Bergey asks a woman if she prefers Spanish, she receives an enthusiastic “Si, si, si!”

A former Girl Scout herself, Ms. Bergey says she thought the 94-year-old organization “would be a good tool to integrate the local immigrant community and get them involved.”

She says her desire to learn people’s stories helps her identify how she can best pitch Scouting to them.

One family approaches with two daughters, ages 6 and 12. The younger girl is excited and asks her mother to sign her up. The older girl protests, however, until Ms. Bergey mentions that college students will be the leaders and will share with the girls their experiences. Both sisters sign up.

Ms. Bergey says recruiting is more difficult in the Hispanic community because Girl Scouting is not widely known.

She tells mothers about the free activities their daughters can take advantage of though this program, including science experiments and arts and crafts .

One mother, Alva Arrogo, signs up her 7- and 8-year-old daughters to distract them from television and to make sure they learn about the world.

No paperwork or documentation of citizenship is needed for membership, just an address. And financial aid is available — last year, the council provided $376,578 in aid to both girls and adults. She says citizenship status is not an issue, because Girl Scouting is a private organization that exists for the benefit of the girls and aims to be inclusive.

It’s time for another run through the crowd, this time with neon-colored pencils and fliers in hand. Girls accept the pencils with shy smiles and nod when Ms. Bergey tells them about the activities they can do if they join. “And it’s just for girls,” she says.

Angela Farrar of Silver Spring is a volunteer from Target at the concession stand. She takes a registration form for daughter.

“I want to get her into a good program and keep her active. She’s five, and she’s a very intelligent girl,” she says.

Between handing out pencils and fliers, Ms. Bergey pauses at a stage to watch people dancing to the Latin beats.

“It’s days like this I love my job,” she says.

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