When Rachel Hopkins was younger, she would help rescue frogs that had leaped into the neighborhood pool.
Now Rachel is working to save frogs on a larger scale by lobbying for a statewide Save the Frogs Day.
Last month, the Raleigh eighth-grader addressed the Wake County Board of Commissioners to share her vast knowledge about frogs and to put in a good word for proclaiming the last Saturday in April as Save the Frogs Day.
Impressed, the commissioners said they would take the issue to the governor, and the paperwork that would make Rachel's dream a reality is now making its way through the political pipeline.
Meanwhile, the frogs could use some help.
One-third of the world's amphibian species, including frogs, are threatened, Rachel said, and at least 200 species have already met with extinction since 1979.
"Frogs will not survive the 21st century if they continue declining at their current rate," she said.
If you happen to shrug, Rachel is quick to set you straight. She admits she fell in love with frogs initially because "they're just really, really cute - I love their little eyes" and "they have a lot of personality," but the more she learned, the more she came to love.
For one thing, she explains, frogs are bio-indicators, helping humans gauge the health of our environment. They're an important part of the food chain, up and down. The insects they eat can cause crop damage and spread disease. They also have proved extremely valuable in medical testing that has yielded important drugs and techniques for improving human health.
Her speech in front of the Wake commissioners last month gave her some butterflies, she said, but by now she's used to talking about frogs in front of an audience.
Last spring, she presented two exhibits at the N.C. Museum of Natural Science's Reptile and Amphibian Day. One booth presented information on frogs, including info cards from the website savethefrogs.com .
"We ran out of those before even half of our time there was up," Rachel said. "So I did a lot of talking there. I think I raised a lot of awareness."
Further proof of that came from her second booth, which allowed visitors to sign a petition in support of a state Save the Frogs Day. On that day alone, 3,000 people signed, and Rachel has been gathering signatures ever since.
In April, Rachel hosted a Save the Frogs Week at her school, The Ravenscroft School, to share her passion and to put her on the road to her Girl Scout Silver Award. She brought in guest speakers, spoke to hundreds of her peers, and held a drive to recycle batteries. Leaked toxins from discarded batteries are just one of many environmental threats to frogs, after all.
Rachel sees a lot of mixed reactions when she starts singing the praises of frogs.
"I see a lot of shock on people's faces when I tell them about how important frogs are because a lot of people have never considered frogs, they've always been a little animal in their backyard," she said. "A lot of them are surprised that frogs are just so environmentally friendly and that they are in so much trouble. ... I know a lot of my classmates, they were kind of iffy about the whole frog thing, but after Save the Frogs they were a lot more understanding and a lot more knowledgeable about the frogs, and I think that I won them over."
Now there's just one more person to win over: the governor.
The Wake board of commissioners has made its recommendation, and Rachel has submitted the necessary paperwork to get a Save the Frogs Day considered.
"We're still waiting," she said, but she's hopeful that her dream will make the leap to reality.