Local Girl Scouts Learn about Environment on PSO-Sponsored Trip to Belize

For more than 90 years, appreciation and care of one´s natural surroundings has been at the core of the Girl Scout experience. This summer ten Girl Scouts learned about the importance of protecting the environment while on a nine-day expedition to the tropical forests of Belize, Mexico. Now they will share what they learned about ecosystems and archeology with younger Girl Scouts in Oklahoma.

Stephanie Fowlkes, Jackie Metcalf, Anna Munkholm, Shelby Moore, and Molly O’Connor of Tulsa; Ann Gregory, and Julie Wright of Stillwater; Erika Webb of Broken Bow; Shelley Kmetz of Sapulpa; and Lena Tilton of Wagoner were selected by Girl Scouts – Magic Empire Council in Tulsa.  They are the first Oklahoma Girl Scouts to take part in the Environmental Learning and Adventure in Belize (E-LAB) program created and funded entirely by Public Service Company of Oklahoma’s parent company, American Electric Power. Each Girl Scout paid for her own passport and travel immunizations, with all other costs funded by AEP.

The Girl Scouts, along with Mickie Taylor, PSO regional environmental coordinator; Sherri Monteith, AEP senior policy analyst; and Kim Harley a representative from Magic Empire Council, spent nine days in Belize at three field research stations. While there, they learned the concepts of carbon sequestration as a means of controlling the worldwide impacts of carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. They also learned about the delicate balance of rainforest ecosystems, ancient Maya culture, current Belizean culture; and they snorkeled the Western Hemisphere’s longest coral reef while spending two days on a tiny island 14 miles off the Caribbean cost of Belize.

During the trip, the group learned about the inter-relationships between energy, the economy and the environment.  They studied environmental issues such as climate change, tropical rain forest ecology and biodiversity, as well as local culture.  They also learned how local residents are now learning to earn a living without cutting down the rain forest. They met with a bush doctor, ate tamales served by a local women’s organization at a cinder block community center, and were taught traditional dances by village children.  

“It was the trip of a lifetime,” said Mickie Taylor PSO Regional Environmental Coordinator.  “The nice thing about E-LAB is it’s a commitment not only to the environment, but also to the Belizean people.”

AEP conducts E-LAB in partnership with the Programme for Belize, an educational and eco-tourism subdivision of The Nature Conservancy. Local experts worked with the girls as guides, teachers and staff in each of the field stations. Girl Scouts who participate in the trip then return to their home councils and present what they’ve learned to large groups of younger Girl Scouts in an AEP-created and funded program, Rainforest Day.
“The best part of the trip was being able to watch the girls.  They loved it,” said Taylor. “They were like sponges and soaked up so much of everything around them. It gives you such a good feeling to know you helped provide something like that. It changes the way they look at things and changes the way they think forever.”

Without Girl Scouts and AEP, the girls would never have been able to watch howler monkeys play in the crown of kapok tree jungles, or swim among brain coral peppered with manta rays or climb 100 feet to the top of ancient Mayan ruins.

PSO, a unit of American Electric Power, is an electric utility company serving more than 505,000 customers in eastern and southwestern Oklahoma.  Based in Tulsa, PSO has more than 4,000 megawatts of generating capacity and offers some of the lowest energy prices in the United States.

PSO’s parent company, American Electric Power (NYSE: AEP), owns more than 36,000 megawatts of generating capacity in the United States and is the nation´s largest electricity generator.  AEP is also one of the largest electric utilities in the United States, with more than 5 million customers linked to AEP’s 11-state electricity transmission and distribution grid.  The company is based in Columbus, Ohio.
Note to Editors:
PSO can provide you with the phone numbers of some of the girls, if you would like to schedule interviews.  

Amber McNeil
Communications Consultant

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