Chandler Girl Scout, 6, hikes her way to badges SanTan Sun News

Chandler Girl Scout, 6, hikes her way to badges

Chandler Girl Scout, 6, hikes her way to badges
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By Annelise Krafft

Guest Writer

 

For Srija Potharaju, a Chandler Girl Scout from Troop 3786, life is about the climb — the 14-mile climb.

Along with her family, Srija takes on an annual five-day hiking and camping adventure in Bryce and Zion National Parks — this year hiking 14 miles across the scenic landscape.

“It’s impressive for anyone to hike that far, but it’s even more amazing because Srija is only 6 years old,”  said mom Padmaja Potharaju. “She’s so determined and has always loved the outdoors. We took her on her first camping trip when she was only 2!”

From a young age, Srija was impossible to keep inside, always wanting to explore and adventure in nature. 

Finding inspiration from her older brother, 12-year-old Boy Scout Srikar, Srija joined Girl Scouts in 2017 and just finished up the Daisy program, bridging to her next Girl Scout level, Brownies, before the summer.

“Srikar has always showed Srija the way, but now she shows him right back,” said Padmaja. “Girl Scouts has taken her from a shy little girl to a courageous and confident firecracker.” 

Thanks to Girl Scouts–Arizona Cactus-Pine Council, Srija was also motivated to take on a new challenge during this year’s hike: earning her Junior Ranger Badge from Zion National Park.

“Girl Scouts has pushed Srija to take initiative and develop a stronger sense of self,” said Padmaja, adding:

 “During our trip this year, she was eager to attempt Zion’s Junior Ranger program and spent three entire days dedicated to earning her badge.” 

In order to become a junior ranger, Srija needed to meet a variety of goals and objectives set forth by the national park, including completing a self-guided activity booklet to be reviewed by an in-park ranger. Activities included attending park events, asking and answering questions, learning how to keep the parks clean and making an oath to nature to “leave no trace.”

“It was a big undertaking in such a short amount of time, and something Srija never would have done before joining Girl Scouts,” said Padmaja. 

“Now, she’s even taking initiative within her own troop and sharing her love of hiking by encouraging her troop to go on hikes together.”

Thanks to Srija, Troop 3786 has gone on four hikes locally on South Mountain, exploring the world around them and getting their hands dirty. In addition to the hikes, Girl Scout Cookie season is another one of Srija’s favorite memories with her troop.

“She really looked forward to going out and selling cookies every week, always bugging me to take her around the neighborhood to try and sell them to neighbors,” her mom said Padmaja, explaining: 

“It helped her in more ways than I expected, letting her build skills in math and communication and inspiring her to put herself out there.”

But for Padmaja, Girl Scouts has done more than inspire her daughter: it has also inspired her.

“I grew up in India, where I didn’t have a close relationship with nature,” she said. “I knew nothing about camping and was never encouraged to explore the outdoors as a child. 

“Seeing the amazing impact Girl Scouts has had on my daughter makes me wish I had a similar program available to me while I was growing up and it makes me so proud to be on this journey with her. It has made all the difference.”

And when asked what she would say about Girl Scouts, Srija’s answer was clear:

“Girl Scouts makes the world a better place.”

To learn more about joining Girl Scouts visit girlscoutsaz.org/join. 

Annelise Krafft is a spokeswoman for the Girl Scouts—Arizona Cactus-Pine Council.

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