Melek is ten-years-old. She wears binoculars around her neck throughout much of the summer and is fascinated by her neighbors. They are: a fox family, egrets, a bald eagle, herons, and ospreys, to name just a few.
You'll often find Melek on the pier at her grandparent's home in Sparrows Point. It juts out into Jones Creek. Melek caught her first sunfish off that pier when she was 18-months-old with a toy rod. These days she fishes and crabs with her grandfather, who also has taught her to hunt and shoot.
Melek's hands-on experiences on the Bay might partially explain her recent remarkable feat. She helped lead her Girl Scout troop into battle with 21 attorneys general around the country who want to stop the cleanup of the Bay.
Girl Scout Junior Troop 10324 from the Sparrows Point and Dundalk areas of Baltimore County was outraged that the attorney generals from states as far away as Alaska, Kansas, and Texas joined the American Farm Bureau Federation and the Fertilizer Institute to block the cleanup of the Chesapeake. So the girls decided to write each of the officials a letter of objection.
The girls had worked on various Bay restoration projects since they were Brownies. Like Melek, several of the girls grew up around the water. They believe their Girl Scout Promise compels them to work to preserve their treasured Chesapeake. But they became full-blown Bay advocates when they learned the attorneys general were joining the Farm Bureau's court battle.
Patricia George, Melek's grandmother and the scout troop leader, said people are astonished that these elementary school girls were able to research the whole issue and then took action with virtually no help from adults. The girls spent about 20 hours and four meetings and countless phone calls and e-mails to carefully draft the letters to the 21 attorneys general.
"What people don't understand is how 10-year-olds can do this," George said.
Girl Scout Clara interjected with an even better question: "If we get it, why don’t these politicians get it?"
The girls' efforts started an "avalanche," George said. Other girls now want to join the troop and the campaign. A steady stream of parents from local elementary schools have called George to ask how they and their children can get involved.
"We are just so grateful. You are an inspiration to those of us who work on this every day," Baker said.
Even Maryland Governor O'Malley wrote a letter to the troop: "Thank you for your interest in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. I am impressed by your activism and outreach efforts. The involvement of citizens like you is critical to the success of the Bay's restoration."
For Girl Scouts Melek, Megan, Clara, Alyssa, Ariyanna, Kaitlyn, Brianna, and Annabelle, the fight isn't over.
Already Melek has designed a Girl Scouts badge for each member of the troop with the words "Chesapeake Bay Restoration Advocate" and a picture of the Bay, a heron, and blue crab.
As Will Baker said to the girls that sunny Wednesday afternoon, "Don't ever lose your determination to make the world a better place." We couldn't agree more.
—Tom Zolper, CBF Maryland Communications Coordinator
Photos by Jen Wallace, Drew Robinson/CBF Staff.