(Enlarge) Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano greets Girl Scouts Marisol Ramirez (right), Salina Sreeram and Trinity Soto (background) at Scotchtown Hills Elementary Sept. 8. (Staff photo by Sarah Nix)
Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stopped by Scotchtown Hills Elementary Sept. 8 to encourage young women to get involved in community preparedness and recognize a new partnership between the Girl Scouts and the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps, which is an affiliation of citizens and law enforcement and public safety services nationwide.
The Laurel visit was part of Napolitano’s effort to beef up citizen preparedness during September’s National Preparedness Month, and was also attended by Girl Scouts of the USA Chief Executive Officer Kathy Cloninger, Laurel Mayor Craig Moe and county public safety leaders.
“Preparedness means already having things to do. Have a plan,” Napolitano told the audience. “If you’re prepared you don’t have to be afraid,” she added.
A new preparedness patch can be earned by any member of the Girl Scouts by engaging in activities like planning an escape route for their house in case of a fire, putting together an emergency kit and meeting with police and fire officials, said Ashley Lusk, a Girl Scouts spokeswoman.
“(Preparedness) is about having courage and the confidence to identify what’s needed and to step up,” Cloninger said, noting that Napolitano was a famous member of the Girl Scouts herself. “We couldn’t be more proud to claim her as one of our Girl Scouts,” Cloninger said.
During her visit, Napolitano, Moe, Prince George’s County Fire Chief Eugene A. Jones and other public safety leaders participated in preparedness training activities with students, highlighting the importance of disaster preparedness, response and recovery, according to a press release from the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department.
While at the school, Napolitano also watched President Barack Obama’s televised remarks to school children across the nation.
Napolitano also met and mingled with Girl Scouts who had earned gold and silver awards, the highest awards for Girl Scouts to achieve, according to Husk.
Victoria Weiss, 18, a Girl Scout from La Plata, said the experience of meeting Napolitano was “kind of surreal.”
She said her award project was putting together the stories of people who had been affected by a tornado and said that the preparedness patch fitted with her project. “A lot of the people I talked to didn’t know the tornado was coming.”
Ashley Budd, 15, of Oxon Hill, who holds a silver award, said she found Napolitano’s visit inspiring because she saw that “she’s been through Girl Scouts; (it) shows that I might be there, too.”