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Before she joined the Girl Scouts and started selling cookies, Azia Palmer was 9 years old and rather shy.

"I wasn't a person who was loud and danced and sang in front of other people," she said.

Girl Scouts changed that. Four years later, Palmer dons a Do-Si-Do cookie costume at cookie sale tables, wiggling and making noise to attract customers. Cookie sale time, from October to December, Palmer gets busy. She works about an hour a day, after doing her homework, she said, going door-to-door with her mother and father in their respective neighborhoods.

Last year, the 14-year-old from Amherst sold 2,000 boxes of cookies, raising money for her Troop 30610 and winning herself an iPad. Azia, who attends Amherst High School, said she wants to go into business and "own my own restaurant or bakery." Joining Girl Scouts, she said, was a good start.

>How do you get to 2,000?

"Every year I sell to the same people, and they all get a thank you. I do the booth sales, and I dance and sing. But I like to sell to the same people and get new people to buy."

>You wear your Scout vest shopping?

"When it's cookie season I wear my vest every day, everywhere. This one lady in the dollar store, she hadn't had people sell to her for years, and she saw me with my vest on. Every year now she comes to me, because there's nobody in her neighborhood who sells."

>I guess you can't afford to be shy.

"Selling cookies is competitive. You want to beat your old score, and you want to beat other people's highest scores. So then you get out of your comfort zone to sell more. It also helps your troop, with projects and going out of town and stuff like that."

>Like what?

"We use some of the money for service projects. Like Festival of Trees, and Adopt-A-Family for the holidays. During the holidays, around Christmas, we'll take some of the money that we earned and adopt a family and buy them Christmas presents for everyone in the family."

>What have you learned about customer service?

"That you never know who people are. That you have to be nice. And you can't judge people. Girl Scouts is a way to meet new people. It's just a great networking thing."

>Networking in Girl Scouts?

"It's a gateway to new things. It helps you with your people skills, and it helps you in business, because you're taking charge. You have the money involved, so it helps with school, too."

email: agalarneau@buffnews.com