The race is on for the first girl in the USA to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
That possibility was made real this week when the National Boy Scouts of America leadership decided to open its ranks to allow girls to achieve that coveted rank of Eagle Scout, something that has been reserved for boys only for over 100 years.
Locally, we have had great success promoting leadership training with boys and girls. The national scouting program has a Venturing, Seamanship, Exploring and STEM program that includes girls, but it has always excluded girls from the traditional scouting program track that leads to the Eagle Rank.
To become an Eagle Scout a boy must provide himself a leader by achieving several ranks that are similar to those of U.S. Military from the rank of scout (Military Private) to Eagle (Military General). It’s a difficult task and usually only about one boy out of every 100 participants makes the rank.
Even though I’ve guided thousands of youth through the program since I became a leader in 1968, I never made the rank of Eagle Scout. I earned 32 merit badges (only 21 were required), but I procrastinated learning to dive off the high board to earn the swimming badge. By the time I mounted the courage to make the dive correctly on June 27, 1967. I was fighting the clock. I had only one day to get my paper work in and qualify before my 18th birthday on June 29. I didn’t make it.
The leaders at the time: Mr. Sam Jacobs, A.V. Turner and others said they could have helped me get my Eagle by arguing the point that I completed my project, and all merit badges before my birthday, but that would also teach me to expect someone to pull strings I mess up and to expect special favors. They taught me a lesson that I have never forgotten and gave me a testimony to share with every procrastinating boy I mentor.
It’s been a joy to serve as a Boy Scout leader for 48 years, but in 1998 we jumped into Exploring and Venturing, which included girls. That was a whole new ball game.
We learned instantly that the girls wanted to be scouts, and most of all they wanted to be Eagle Scouts; but there was a glass ceiling. They participated anyway, with hopes that one day that ceiling would change.
I have had the joy of working with many outstanding young ladies over the last two decades who proved that they had the right stuff to compete with and often excel over male members of the same organization. The girls didn’t want to sell cookies, they wanted to prove that their gender didn’t stop them from excelling. They camped, cooked, climbed walls, tied knots, camped in cold and rainy weather, hiked and did all of the adventurous and physically challenging things that the boys did; often they did it better.
I think of some these young ladies today and wonder what would have happened had they been allowed to be Eagle Scouts: Many of these ladies are now professionals and leading other children. Of the over 400 girls who have participated a few names stick out.
Natalie Williams Stevenson, today is highly credentialed educator locally, but she was a highly competitive Explorer as well.
Donecia Ratcliff and her Sister Jamiea were extremely competitive scouts who expressed frustration that they could not become Eagles.
Deeandriez Scott was one of the greatest youth organizers in the Time Travelers. She traveled the USA, went to medical school and is now happily married living in Shreveport.
Bridgett Hudson was one of the most competitive Time Travelers. As the leader of our girls unit, she led girls to win more competitions and badges than boys. She is now leading men in the United States Military.
Brea Joiner recently graduated for ULM and is pursuing a career in broadcasting. As a Time Traveler, she demonstrated maturity and excellence leadership skills that surpassed all of the boys in the unit.
Katrina Patterson was a great organizer and motivator. She did such a great job leading the 100 member Time Traveler unit that the boys voted for her to be their leader. She turned it down saying, she preferred for men to lead a men’s organization. Scott did the same.
What was frustrating for the girls in the Time Traveler program is that the organization provides a $6,000 scholarship to Eagle Scouts, but they couldn’t have a shot at earning the prize. The community helps raise the scholarship money by supporting annual drama each year at the Civic Center. While the girls worked just as hard as the boys, no girl has ever received the scholarship because it is only for Eagle Scouts.
Starting in 2019 girls will be allowed to become Eagles and get that coveted briefcase stuffed with 6000 one dollar bills.
Since the 1960’s, Troop 65 has produced 50 Eagle Scouts, all of whom are now men who are achieving their dreams.
The girls who are in our present program will probably join the race to make history, to become the first female in America to become an Eagle Scout. They have an advantage since the local program promotes female involvement and leadership already.
The race is on!