Brooker selected to national Girl Scout delegation

Published 11:56 pm Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When Demopolis teenager Olivia Brooker returned from the National Girl Scout Convention in Indianapolis, Ind., last week, she brought with her not only the tales of fun experiences and sights she saw. She came back with a better understanding of the phrase many of us take for granted: “Every vote counts.”

Olivia and her mother, Chrissy Brooker, were selected as part of a 12-member delegation to represent the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama Council at the convention, which was held Oct. 29-Nov. 1. More than 8,000 girls and leaders gathered to debate and vote on various issues critical to the Girl Scout movement.

The North-Central Alabama Council comprises 34 counties.

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The girls age 14 to 18 voted on issues such as raising dues and changing the number of delegates a state can send to the convention, which is held every three years. They also elected a national board of directors.

“I just think it’s cool to see how many people are so involved with Girl Scouts,” Olivia said. “It was incredible to see so many people in one place.”

An odd series of small events led Olivia to realize just how much her vote counted. On the first day of debating and voting at the convention, she stepped away from her chair in the convention hall for a few minutes to use the restroom. When she returned, the electronic gadget she had to push to register her vote had slipped beneath her seat.

“They were in the middle of calling for a vote on an issue that had just been debated, so I reached down to cast mine, but could not find my voting control,” said Olivia. “I was flipping out because I thought it was lost, when the lady behind me saw it under my seat. I grabbed it and quickly pushed the ‘Yes’ button just as the voting came to a close.”

The measure passed by only three votes with Olivia casting one of the deciding ballots.

Olivia, who turned 16 while at the convention, has been a Girl Scout for 10 years and applied to be a delegate.

She was delighted to be accepted.

“For me, [the best part] is getting to see how everything works,” Olivia said. “It’s amazing to see how we can have a voice in what happens.

“It really showed me how every vote does count,” she said. “If you just cast your vote you can change the outcome.”

Two hot topics debated at the convention was raising the fee for a girl or adult to join Girl Scouts from $10 to $12, and reducing the number of delegates a council can have at the conventions.

Girls and leaders were encouraged to voice their opinions for and against the proposed changes in parliamentary fashion.

“I was really pleased to see so many girls get up on stage and say what they thought about the issues,” said Chrissy. “”These young women [had] the opportunity to make their voices heard on a national scale and [served] as examples of young female leaders. They can take this experience with them into whatever they decide to do later.”

The measure to raise the fee passed after very significant discussion, but reducing the number delegates failed.

“We were making decisions that are going to change girl scouting for the next three years for the three million members,” said Olivia. “It’s mind-boggling.”

It wasn’t all business though. The four days were filled with fun activities for the Girl Scouts attending the convention and several celebrity speakers like Geena Davis.

“The one that struck me the most was Paralympics Athlete Tatyana McFadden, said Olivia.

At the 2004 Olympics in Athens, Tatyana became the youngest member of the U.S. Paralympics track and field team to win two medals, a silver medal in the 100-meter race and a bronze medal in the 200-meter competition. She returned home from the 2008 Paralympics in Beijing with silver medals in the 200-meter, 400-meter and 800-meter races and a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 relay. Tatyana currently holds the U.S. record in the 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 800- meter events.

Olivia is a sophomore at Demopolis High School. In 2007, she was the recipient of the Young Women of Excellence Award through the Tombigbee Girl Scout Council.