Eagle Scout shares why she continues to serve Scouting both at home and abroad

Selby Chipman has accomplished a lot in the world of Scouting.

She was a member of the BSA’s inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. Shortly after, she was a recipient of the Lawrence S. and Mabel Cooke Scholarship, offered by the National Eagle Scout Association. She’s still an active Venturer and Sea Scout. Now, as a college student studying biomedical engineering at the University of Missouri, she’s plenty busy with her current day-to-day tasks.

And still, she makes time for Scouting.

“When I was going through Scouts, there weren’t any role models that were women who were Eagle Scouts,” Chipman says. “I really want to take what I learned from Scouting and mentor all of the younger girls who might not have someone to look up to.”

Chipman, 20, still serves as an assistant Scoutmaster for her home unit, Troop 219 in Oak Ridge, North Carolina.

“A great benefit of Selby remaining in Troop 219 in the capacity of assistant Scoutmaster is that the Scouts see an example of how the program prepares young women for lives of impact and purpose,” says Troop 219 Scoutmaster Mike Matzinger.

But Chipman’s involvement in Scouting extends even beyond the shores of our country. She has spent portions of the last two summers at Camp Alpine in Switzerland, the Transatlantic Council’s summer camp experience at Kandersteg International Scout Centre.

Selby with her brother, fellow Eagle Scout Stewart Chipman

Summers in Switzerland

Chipman says she has always felt at home in nature.

“I love hiking,” she says. “I love being outdoors.”

She’s a certified open-water scuba diver and BSA lifeguard. She worked part of one summer at the Old North State Council’s Cherokee Scout Reservation.

When Matzinger told her he had heard that Camp Alpine was in search of staffers to work in their aquatics area, she jumped at the opportunity.

An entire month, living in a tent in the middle of the Swiss Alps … what’s not to like?

“The camp hosts people from all over the world,” Chipman says. “There were a lot of people from different backgrounds, which I enjoyed because you can learn all these new things from them.

“And it was really great because all of these young girls were there, and they all had different ideas about what they wanted to get out of Scouting.”

That was something Chipman could relate to. She says she didn’t join Scouting for the sole purpose of earning the rank of Eagle. Instead, it was something that happened naturally as she pursued different merit badges and the wide variety of activities offered in Scouting.

“I was in Scouting because I wanted to do high ropes courses, hike and be outside,” she says. “Eventually, I found that earning Eagle Scout was the way I wanted to accomplish those things.”

Visitors from Ukraine

Her first summer at Camp Alpine, Chipman taught Lifesaving and Swimming merit badge classes and also worked as a lifeguard in the swimming area.

Her second summer, she took on more responsibility, helping prepare lessons, cultivating different ideas for activities and assisting with alternative plans when the weather didn’t cooperate — which, in Switzerland, she learned, happens a lot.

Then, something remarkable happened. Chipman was assigned to lead a group of Scouts from Ukraine.

Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine had begun, Transatlantic Council (TAC) units began initiating support projects for Ukrainian refugees. In late 2022, the TAC decided to create a specific task force to support Ukrainian Scouts. Named Aquile Randagie in memory of a group of Italian Scouts that kept to their Scouting values and activities in opposition to the Mussolini dictatorship, the task force promptly identified several projects to help.

One such project was enabling a group of Ukrainian Scouts in exile in Poland to travel to Switzerland and participate for a week at Camp Alpine. Coincidentally, Chipman’s home troop in North Carolina was one of the many USA-based units that conducted fundraisers to help bring those same Ukrainian Scouts to Camp Alpine.

Late one evening, around 30 Ukrainian Scouts who spoke very little English arrived at Camp Alpine, and Chipman was assigned to be their troop guide.

Chipman with her special guests at Camp Alpine

Breaking down barriers

The language barrier was significant. Chipman and other Camp Alpine staffers had to improvise.

“Google Translate really came in handy a lot at the time,” she says.

There are lots of tasks to be done when Scouts first arrive at Camp Alpine. Chipman made sure the group had all the right equipment, knew where to go and what to do at all times, and otherwise made sure they were all comfortable and safe.

“We had little cards that we made with simple greetings in Ukrainian that we learned so we could like say hi to them in their language because they were trying so hard to learn ours,” she says.

In no time, the Ukrainian Scouts made themselves at home, diving into the Camp Alpine experience like any other Scout from any other country would.

“They were probably the happiest people at camp,” she says. “It was really fun to watch them. Most of them had never been away from home, so this was an all-new experience for them.

“They were just excited to be invited. They wanted to know everything and anything about where we were and what we were doing. They asked more questions than I could have ever anticipated or imagined.”

Scouts from Ukraine at Camp Alpine, with Chipman (front row, center) as their guide

An unexpected friendship

Two Scouts from Russia were at Camp Alpine at the same time. They befriended several of the Ukrainian Scouts and eventually became tentmates.

“They were just like best friends,” Chipman says. “You wouldn’t have known anything different.”

Eventually, though, all summers come to an end, and this one did, too.

Chipman says one of her favorite things about Scouting – both as a youth and now as an adult – is the friends she’s made along the way. From her home troop, from Camp Alpine, from the Women of Character event at the 2023 National Scout Jamboree, and from every other time she’s gathered together with likeminded boys and girls and women and men, it’s what keeps her coming back.

This summer, she’ll participate in the National Institutes of Health summer internship program as a biomedical engineering intern. It will cause her to miss Troop 219’s trip to Philmont, but it won’t stop her from being involved with Scouting for the long term. She’ll be speaking at the BSA’s National Annual Meeting next month in Orlando, Florida.

“I have really deep-rooted friendships with everyone that I’ve met in Scouting,” she says. “It’s the best friends and also the best mentors you’ll ever find.”

Chipman (right) with fellow Eagle Scouts from Troop 219. All photos courtesy of Selby Chipman

About Aaron Derr 454 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.