PAGE -- Page High School student Diana Greymountain had the experience of a lifetime Tuesday, as she met President Obama in the White House.
Greymountain, 16, represented the late Girl Scouts founder Juliette Gordon Low, one of 13 recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in an afternoon ceremony at the White House. Low, who died in 1927, received the award posthumously. Greymountain is about to become the first Native American to receive the Girl Scouts' Gold Award.
"It was a really good experience," Greymountain said Tuesday night.
She had made the trip from her home in LeChee with her mother, Geraldine Calamity, and her brother, Aaron Greymountain.
"It was amazing ... I was so nervous, I couldn't breathe," she said.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest award bestowed on civilians. Low founded the Girl Scouts 100 years ago in Savannah, Ga. Greymountain was chosen to attend the ceremony with the Girl Scouts' CEO, Anna Maria Chavez, and three other Girl Scouts from councils across the country. Greymountain was escorted by her Gold Award sponsor and neighbor, Betsy Scroggs.
President Obama honored Low for making "an especially meritorious contribution to the security or national interests of the United States." The honorees also included John Glenn, Madeleine Albright and Bob Dylan.
Greymountain is earning her Gold Award for marking and refurbishing the Hanging Garden Hiking Trail on the edge of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area near Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell. The two-year, 100-hour community service project is nearly complete. She is a member of the Arizona Cactus-Pine Council.
"We are so proud that Diana has been chosen to represent our founder, Juliette Gordon Low, today at the White House," said Tamara Woodbury, CEO of Greymountain's council, in a news release. "Juliette was a visionary, whose legacy lives on in the 59 million American women who have been part of Girl Scouting at some point in their lives. She believed that all girls should be given the opportunity to develop physically, mentally and spiritually, and in founding the Girl Scouts in 1912, she made an indelible and enduring contribution to the lives of girls and to our nation.
"It is so fitting that on our 100th anniversary, she should be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom."
"I'm going because a few Girl Scouts from around the country were invited to attend and I was lucky enough to be one of them," Greymountain wrote in her blog at Huffington Post.com. "I am working toward my Gold Award, which is the highest honor in all of Girl Scouting. I am especially proud of that because I will be the first young woman of Navajo heritage to earn the award."
Greymountain has been a Girl Scout for 11 years, from her days as a Daisy Scout while in kindergarten. In her blog, she said she has enjoyed Girl Scouting because of the skills learned and confidence gained by being part of the organization.
"In a few years, my Girl Scouting days will come to a close," she wrote. "Yet I'll always be able to say I'm a Girl Scout, because once a Girl Scout, always a Girl Scout."
Greymountain attended Lake View Elementary School and Page Middle School and will start her junior year at PHS in August. She was sent off at Page Airport Monday, with the group including Lake View teacher Chuck Serventi, husband of Greymountain's troop leader, Melisa Serventi.
"All her teachers are proud of her for what she has accomplished," Chuck Serventi said Tuesday.
Only 5.4 percent of eligible Girl Scouts earn the Gold Award. It is the most prestigious award in Girl Scouting, equivalent to the Eagle Scout award for Boy Scouts. In her blog, published before her trip, Greymountain said attending the ceremony would be an honor because of Low's inspiration.
"It was amazing to think that she founded the Girl Scouts in a time when women were not well-represented in America," Greymountain wrote. "Now, there are millions of us all over the country. Everywhere I go in my life, I will always meet women who were once Girl Scouts."
Low, known by the nickname "Daisy," was inspired by a Girl Guiding movement in England. She organized a troop in Scotland and two in London before deciding to bring the Girl Guides movement to the U.S. on her next visit home to Savannah.
On returning to America in 1912, Juliette placed a telephone call to her cousin, Nina Anderson Pape: "Come right over! I've got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all the world, and we're going to start it tonight!" Her cousin was the founder of the Pape School in Savannah.
They recruited girls and leaders throughout Savannah--from the Female Orphan Asylum to Synagogue Mickve Israel, to the steps of Christ Church, and the daughters of the powerful and influential families. On March 12, 1912, Low gathered 18 girls to register the first troop of American Girl Guides. Margaret "Daisy Doots" Gordon, her niece and namesake, became the first registered member.
"Tomorrow is definitely going to be a big day for Girl Scouting and for me," Greymountain wrote. "I admire President Obama and being able to meet him is a great honor. It's also really great that I will share the experience with family and friends, as Betsy and my brother will be with my Mom and me in Washington. So ahéhee' (thank you) to Girl Scouts because my Girl Scouting life has given me the chance to say yá'át'ééh (hello) to the President of the United States."
Asked about her friends' reaction to her trip, Greymountain said, "They told me that I'm lucky."
Also receiving the Medal of Freedom were John Doar, assistant attorney general in charge of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice during the 1960s; William Foege, a leader in the successful campaign to eradicate smallpox in the 1970s; Gordon Hirabayashi, a leader in the opposition to forced internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II; Dolores Huerta, a co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association with Cesar Chavez; Jan Karski, an officer in the Polish underground during World War II; Toni Morrison, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist; Shimon Peres, president of Israel; John Paul Stevens, retired associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and Pat Summitt, former head coach of the University of Tennessee women's basketball team.