It’s been nearly two years since young women were invited to join Scouts BSA, the Boy Scouts of America‘s rebranded program for older youth. Scouts, especially those who were already close to their 18th birthday when they joined, have been working on merit badges and rank requirements, mastering Scouting skills and leading their fellow Scouts. Their trail to Eagle became even more difficult when the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to continue Scouting from home. But in the end, hundreds of young women earned the Eagle Scout rank (stay tuned for a statistical blog post on the class of 2020 Eagle Scouts).

You can celebrate the inaugural female Eagle class on Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. EST during a “Be the Change” live broadcast. RSVP on Facebook or YouTube. The event will feature Scouts’ stories, special guest messages and a look forward to this year’s “Summer of Service” campaign.

Though it was an unusual and difficult path, Scouting’s lessons made a lasting impact on this first class of female Eagles. Youth can learn so much whether they’re in Scouting for a couple of years or several years. And those who strive toward the Eagle Scout rank can glean a lot along the way.

Radha Carollo.

The difficult trail

Not considering a pandemic, it’s already a hard journey to earn the Eagle Scout Award. On any given year, between 4% and 8% of all Scouts earn it. With a pandemic, the journey looked even more daunting, especially for those who were trying to earn the rank under a temporary extension for the age requirements. Justine Cole, 18, of Troop 5074 in Livonia, N.Y., almost lost hope when pandemic restrictions affected everything.

“It seemed pointless to continue,” she says. “I had to learn to work through personal doubt.”

Like all the Scouts thrust into this new reality, she had to figure out how to continue working on the requirements as well as selecting an Eagle Scout service project that was safe for everyone to do. Deep down, she knew she could do it, just like her older brother, Trevor, did a few years ago and her uncle before him.

“I think I’m on my own path, but with his influence,” Justine says. “It’s inspiring, and I inspired myself.”

Before, Feb. 1, 2019, many girls saw family members before them earn Eagle, and many of them had to tag along — without the recognition — or just watch on the sidelines.

“I saw my brothers going on hiking trips and doing fun things,” says Amy Allinson, 17, of Troop 2019 in Whittier, Calif. “I wanted to also backpack, go whitewater-rafting and rock climbing with friends. Earning Eagle was the end goal, but I was also very focused on enjoying my Scouting journey.”

Like many girls who joined, Amy quickly learned outdoor skills, went on campouts and was the first in her troop to be elected senior patrol leader. Many Scouts can ease into roles of responsibility, especially in established troops. Young women aiming to be part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts couldn’t do that — many had to be troop leaders on Day 1.

“Earning Eagle has taught me a lot about leadership and initiative; it’s something I wish a lot of people my age knew more about,” Amy says.

Cassidy Christian.

Learning along the way

Scouting provides skills youth might not be exposed to elsewhere, and every program offers something enriching — Savannah Letson would know. The 19-year-old from Middleton, Colo., is a member of a Venturing crew, Sea Scout ship and a Scouts BSA troop. In her six years in Scouting, she has attended National Youth Leadership Training and gone on a Sea Base trip, but during the last two years as a member of Troop 444, she has learned a lot about her desired career as a veterinarian through animal-based merit badges.

Merit badges can introduce Scouts to future careers, hobbies and information to prepare them for adulthood. It was one of Jade Cale’s favorite parts of the Scouts BSA program.

“I appreciate the wide range of badges and activities offered; it makes me feel better prepared to face anything,” says the 17-year-old with Troop 6792 of Leawood, Kan. “Scouts has given me an expanded insight of the world around me. It has taught me survival skills, personal management, how to be environmentally conscious and much more.”

Another big takeaway was learning to be a leader, and not just a leader directing and delegating, but a leader who listens to her team and earns their respect. Morgan Lomax, 14, of Troop 19 in Short Hills, N.J., learned this lesson, as did her twin sister, Bridget.

“A servant leader exists to serve the people,” Morgan says. “I have incorporated aspects of being a servant leader into my daily practices. The results are clear: my voice is not only being heard, it is being followed.”

“I learned to consider others’ workloads and organize events to satisfy everyone in attendance,” Bridget says. “I learned that sometimes a leader has to be the troop’s cheerleader to keep up the spirit in tough situations. Most importantly, I learned how indelible training like I went through is.”

Scouts with Troop 19 of Short Hills, N.J. (Photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic)

What Eagle means

Earning the Eagle Scout rank is a great accomplishment, and those who did it in 2020 overcame a lot, so they have a great appreciation for the award and what it means.

“It carries the responsibility to carry forward what I learned throughout my Scouting journey into the rest of my life, setting a good example to my peers to help those who are less fortunate and live by a strong moral code,” says Radha Carollo, 18, of Troop 1667 in San Diego. “Eagle Scouts are leaders within Scouting, but also leaders of innovation and social justice within the wider community. I am proud to be an Eagle Scout and a mentor to younger girls who aspire to the same.”

“In Scouting and in life, it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey,” says Cassidy Christian, 18, of Troop 444, in Littleton, Colo. “I have camped more than 50 nights, discovered new interests through merit badges, learned leadership skills at NYLT, and have made memories that I will always remember. When I remind myself that I’m an Eagle Scout, I don’t think of the medal or badge, I think about all of the moments that created my experience.”

As all of the Eagle Scouts before this inaugural class know, the journey doesn’t end when they earn the award. You are an Eagle Scout always.

“Being an Eagle redefines your life because more is expected from me, and I am held to a higher standard,” says Juliana Hudry, 18, of Troop 7455 in Decatur, Ala. “People understand that the Eagle is earned, not given, and turn to me for solutions due to the skills and leadership learned through Scouting. The path to Eagle provided a set of guidelines to live my life by and will stay with me throughout my life.”

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