Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Troop 5161 Celebrates Black History Month

Troop 5161 members Ebonie, left, and Shaniyah with
Elizabeth Barber Walker.
In celebration of Black History Month, the members of Girl Scout Troop 5161 welcomed a special guest speaker to their troop meeting on February 22. Elizabeth Barber Walker, who was the first African American student to attend and graduate from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, came to share her story of courage and perseverance with the Girl Scouts.

After starting the meeting by reciting the Girl Scout Promise with Troop 5161, Walker had the girls arrange their chairs in a line and pretend that they were on a school bus. Through her storytelling, she brought them back to her high school days in Baltimore, Md., when she was the only African American member of her school’s basketball team. She had the girls simulate getting on and off the school bus over and over again, just like Walker and her team did, looking for restaurants to stop at that would accept an African American customer while traveling to and from games.

Walker asked the girls how that experience would make them feel. The girls talked about how it was disrespectful for people to treat each other differently because of the color of their skin.

Walker went on to share that it had always been a dream of hers to go to college, but as the oldest of six children, her parents would not be able to send her away for more schooling. Walker had a teacher who told her about St. Mary’s College of Maryland. Up until that time, Walker’s family did not know that St. Mary’s was a public university, one that the taxes her family paid help to fund. At the time, however, African American students were not admitted to the school.

Even so, Walker filled out an application with the help of her teacher. But, she left the boxes empty in the section where she was supposed to indicate her race, and she did not send in a photo of herself, as the application requested. Much to her surprise, she was accepted!

Walker went on to share her experiences in college, including the shock among students and faculty when she arrived on her first day. She also talked about the range emotions that came along with being the first African American student at her school— from loneliness to pride.

After college, Walker became a teacher. For a time, she was a Girl Scout leader, who worked with Girl Scouts with special needs in the Ocean View section of Norfolk.

For the members of Troop 5161, hearing Walker’s firsthand account was an eye-opening experience. After hearing her story, the girls enjoyed the opportunity to speak with a woman who they could look up to as a role model, a risk-taker and a leader.

Historically, Girl Scouts has blazed the trail for inclusion and diversity. The organization is committed to empowering every girl to grow as a leader and make the world a better place.