Nearly 1,000 young women were recognized as part of the inaugural female Eagle Scout class, and 10 of them are members of Troop 19 in Ridgefield, Conn.
The troop, named in honor of the 19th Amendment, is an active troop, both in seeking adventures and recruiting Scouts. It began Feb. 1, 2019, with fewer than 15 Scouts — now, their roster has nearly doubled. Many have brothers — younger and older — who had already joined Scouting.
“I always wanted to join them, but I had to sit out,” says Maya Pereyra, 16. “Now, I can have the same experiences.”
Those experiences have included campouts, movie nights, National Youth Leadership Training, skiing, hiking parts of the Appalachian Trail, mentoring Cub Scouts and summer camp. When young women started joining Scouts BSA in 2019, detractors criticized the decision, and in the case for the Scouts in Troop 19, directly criticized the Scouts for being in the program, saying they don’t belong and will never earn the Eagle Scout rank.
“We’ve come so far in two years,” Maya says. “If you put in the effort, you can achieve the same thing. We can do anything if we put our mind to it.”
Maya, Katie Bitner, Sophie Desmarais, Gabriela Rogers, Jax Mantione, Della Fincham, Evia Rodriguez, Caroline Vilinskis, Jordan Mooney and Lisa Van Gompel all have earned the Eagle Scout rank.
Putting in the work
To earn the Eagle Scout rank, a Scout must plan, develop and lead a service project benefitting the community. Troop 19 Scouts improved local park campsites and trails, built bridges and preserved local history. For her project, Evia constructed an aquaponics system for a local nature center to help ecologists study how oxygen levels affect wildlife. Completing the project does so much more than help the beneficiary. It can inspire other Scouts to creatively think how they can serve their community.
“It was rewarding to prove how we can be role models for younger Scouts,” Evia, 16, says.
It’s also rewarding in that it pushes Scouts out of their comfort zones. By taking positions of responsibility within the troop, like as quartermaster or patrol leader, Scouts learn how to lead other youth. With an Eagle Scout service project, they often have to lead adults, too. They gain confidence in delegating tasks and discover how each volunteer might have a different yet valuable skill set to aid in working on the project.
“It’s not necessarily about age, but it’s about who is the most capable,” Jax, 16, says.
The Scouts had an extra challenge, like every Scout this past year, of navigating COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and guidelines to keep everyone safe while completing rank requirements.
“I had to redraw my plans,” says Senior Patrol Leader Sophie, 16, who built a trail bridge for her project. “But lots of people showed up. It was really cool to see something that had been on a piece of paper be something you could stand on.”
Completing their projects and the rest of the rigorous Eagle Scout requirements confirmed what these girls already knew.
“It proves the point that girls can do the same that boys can do,” Gabriela, 16, says. “It’s cool that we achieved it.”
Leading by example
Many of the girls were already friends when they joined Troop 19, but those who were new to the group were welcomed. The troop implemented a system where each older Scout individually mentored a younger Scout. This method encourages inclusion and unity.
“Every year, we get many from Cub Scouts; we mesh very well,” says Della, 17.
Lisa, 17, started Scouting when she lived in the Netherlands. Now, she serves as a den chief, and she saw how eager Cub Scouts are to join the ranks of Scouts BSA.
“They look up to us,” Lisa says. “They look up to me as a leader.”
Leadership has been just one benefit the Scouts have learned on their trails to the Eagle Scout rank. Jordan, 16, learned how to be better organized by serving as the troop’s quartermaster. Katie, 16, improved her communication skills by being a patrol leader. Della found out a lot more about her family by taking the Genealogy merit badge.
“I feel a lot more prepared for life with what I’ve learned,” Caroline, 17, says.