Cecilia Sanchez never imagined she could lead a Girl Scout troop.
After all, Girl Scouts aren't common in her native Mexico — most troops there are in large cities and thought to be only for the well-to-do.
Plus, wouldn't she have to speak English? Sanchez, a farmworker who lives in Ceres, speaks only Spanish.
But, when her daughter came home from school with a note that said the Girl Scouts were looking for mothers to lead troops, Sanchez volunteered. She's now one of some 40 Spanish-speaking mothers who head Girl Scout troops in the region.
"At first, I was nervous," Sanchez said in Spanish. "It's a big responsibility. But my daughter begged me to do it."
The troops - there are 16 in Stanislaus, Merced and San Joaquin counties - conduct meetings in Spanish. Sure, they sell cookies and make crafts. But they also learn about Latino culture through art, music, dance and the like. They perform community service and earn patches on educational topics such as asthma and H1N1 flu prevention.
It's part of what's called the Hispanic-Latino Initiative, a project launched three years ago by the local Girl Scout council, Girl Scouts Heart of Central California.
The idea, explained Girl Scout officials, is to attract more Spanish-speaking girls and adult volunteers.
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