Melissa Morgan gets As and Bs. She's in gymnastics. She loves the band Paramore.
But what she's really good at — better than anyone else her age in the Tampa Bay area — is selling cookies.
She's the Girl Scout cookie queen.
And she plans on it keeping it that way.
• • •
Three years ago, Melissa knew little of this cookie business.
A member of the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida, she's one of about 30,000 girls who pitch cookies.
Most people know the drill: Girls wearing brown or greenish-blue sashes stand outside grocery stores. They give their parents order sheets to take to work. They bug relatives and friends.
Melissa did all of that, plus a little extra.
It paid off. She was invited to a banquet for the top sellers.
As she sat with other families, the announcer listed the sellers, from least to most. Melissa expected she would be near the bottom.
She was wrong.
She was in the top 10. Melissa sold 1,250 boxes of cookies that year. First place sold 2,407.
Wow, she thought. I should try for first place next year.
• • •
Her sales attempts in 2008 were a little more aggressive. On weekends, she spent nearly eight hours outside Publix supermarkets.
She went door-to-door on weekdays, begging friends, seeking favors from family, pursuing schoolmates, teachers, parents and their co-workers.
Melissa sold 2,539 boxes that year.
That was more than enough.
With a victory in hand at the banquet, she claimed the prize for the biggest cookie seller in her region: a big stuffed dog.
And a sense of pride.
But she wasn't done.
• • •
Melissa kept it up in 2009. She heard someone sold 800 boxes early in the season, so she went into warp speed. The proverbial gloves — or, perhaps, sash — were off.
She sold boxes in Orlando. She went to supermarkets other girls deemed too slow. She hit neighborhoods other girls had not.
"You try to be fair," she said, "but it's a free-for-all."
Her grandfather committed a cookie sin and bought from another Girl Scout. It took a while, but he's been forgiven.
By March, the end of selling season came. She had sold 2,400 boxes, not as many as her previous year.
Was that enough?
At the awards banquet, many girls tried to get sneak peeks at prizes to see who was top seller.
They couldn't tell. They would have to wait.
In a scene now familiar to Melissa, names and numbers were ticked off from bottom to top. At last, they called out a girl who sold 1,895 packages. That was second place.
Melissa's name was announced. No. 1 again. She walked up to receive her prize: this time a stuffed elephant.
• • •
Last week, Melissa sat with her mother, Michele, as she talked about her achievements.
She wore a Girl Scouts shirt. A sash filled with achievement badges lay on the table.
Melissa, a 14-year-old now in eighth grade at LCC Day School in St. Petersburg, doesn't plan on going into sales. She likes fashion design and sewing, skills she picked up through a Girl Scouts camp.
And she would prefer a career in either over cookie sales, she joked.
But Melissa doesn't plan on giving up her top spot.
Will she try again this year?
"Oh yes," she said. "Of course."
"You are?" her mother asked, shocked at her daughter's reply.
"Yeah," she replied. "I worked hard to get where I am."
Andy Boyle can be reached at (727) 893-8087 or email@example.com.