Last summer, as Preston Tyrrell was picking up his car from D’Avico’s Auto Repair in Wayne, Pa., he and the mechanic started talking.
“The topic of Scouts came up,” Tyrrell says. “I think her brother was a Scout years ago.”
Tyrrell is always on the lookout for merit badge counselors — especially counselors for merit badges that teach important life skills, like how to check a car’s oil, interpret a check engine light or change a tire.
So he asked his mechanic, Ashley D’Avico, whether she’d be interested in helping the girls in Troop 284 earn the Automotive Maintenance merit badge.
“She said, ‘Sure,'” Tyrrell says.
After that initial conversation, getting everyone’s schedules to align took about six months. But it was worth the wait. In December, 18 of the 22 girls in Troop 284 showed up at D’Avico’s to work on the merit badge in a real garage.
“I signed up because I wanted to learn more about cars and how they work,” says First Class Scout Anna Latchford. “I know that in my life, there will be times where my car will break down or I’ll have a flat tire or low tire pressure, and I want to be the one who changes it herself.”
Yes, she can
Tyrrell says he wasn’t looking for a female mechanic to serve as merit badge counselor for the girls in Troop 284. But “it just kind of worked out and made it a neat thing,” he says.
“I think everyone needs a positive role model,” Tyrrell says. “As a parent of a daughter, I think it’s important that she know she can do anything she wants and to not let society’s norms or preconceived stereotypes limit her.”
His daughter, Life Scout Avery Tyrrell, says it was refreshing to have a female mechanic show them the inner workings of cars. But mostly, she was just happy to have such an immersive experience.
“I thought we were going to sit in a conference room and watch a PowerPoint presentation,” Avery says. “I was pleasantly surprised when I found out it was all hands-on.”
‘My full respect’
Tenderfoot Scout Judy Horn says she “loves knowledge” — especially knowledge that could help her out of a tough situation. She would’ve learned about cars whether her merit badge counselor was a man or a woman.
But earning the badge from D’Avico made the experience more than just educational. It made it inspirational, too.
“It was really inspiring,” Judy says. “Any woman that can make it in a male-dominant field has my full respect. It’s hard to make it to the top when you’re several paces behind your competition. They really had to work twice as hard to get to where they are, and it’s amazing to meet someone who’s done it themselves. It makes me feel as though I could be as successful as they were, no matter who dominates the field I aim for.”
‘Whatever field we want’
As they filled tires with air, checked engine oil and inspected the underside of a car on a lift, the Scouts of Troop 284 got to know D’Avico.
“As she was teaching, she connected with us as girls,” says Life Scout Kate Latchford. “She encouraged us to pursue whatever field we wanted to, regardless of what the gender majority is.”
Kate says D’Avico answered questions and used the EDGE method when imparting a new skill — explain, demonstrate, guide, enable.
“Cars can definitely be intimidating,” D’Avico told Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV. “If you understand how it works and what it does, you feel good about doing it.”
The girls even got to examine a Tesla and compare its inner workings to those of a gas-powered car.
“Underneath a Tesla, there is nothing but a giant battery,” Kate says. “That doesn’t surprise me, but it was really cool to get to see for myself.”
First Class Scout Danby Morrison says she was impressed by the technology packed inside a Tesla, too. But even as she learned useful skills about cars from an inspiring instructor, Danby still made sure to have fun with her friends.
After all, that’s part of earning a merit badge, too.
“We are a kind of talkative bunch, and we’ve been on a lot of camping trips together,” Danby says. “So we joke and laugh a lot. Like, a lot.”
Watch your mailbox!
Be on the lookout for a story about Troop 284’s Adirondacks adventure in the April issue of Scout Life magazine.