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Nearly 1,000 girls earn elite rank of Eagle Scout for the first time, make history

Boy Scouts of America allowed girls into their fold only recently and this year marked the first bath of them who earned the highest rank.

Nearly 1,000 girls earn elite rank of Eagle Scout for the first time, make history
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Boy scouts opened its doors to girls in 2019 but they weren't allowed to earn badges to earn the highest rank — Eagle Scout. After BSA opened up the honor to girls, nearly 1,000 women made history by earning their highest rank in February. Boy scouts, as its name suggests, have always been about boys but that has been changing. "In earning the rank of Eagle Scout, young people gain new skills, learn to overcome obstacles, and demonstrate leadership among their peers and in their communities," read a statement by Boy Scouts of America, according to CNN. "These benefits are invaluable, and we are elated that they are now available to both young men and young women."


For a Boy scout to become an Eagle Scout is no easy task. They need to earn 21 merit badges in various subjects ranging from first aid to business. They also need to take up leadership roles and execute a large community service project. Not to mention, the 21 badges need to be earned before turning 18, which has proved to be a great challenge over the last year given the Coronavirus pandemic. The rigorous selection process has caused only 6% of total Boy Scouts to become Eagle Scouts, said Boy Scouts of America. For many girls, it was a dream to join the organization having watched their siblings participate in the activities, or hearing stories about it from their Dad or uncle. There are currently 140, 000 girls in Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA, said BSA. 


Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has held an inauguration ceremony for the women who reached this prestigious rank of Eagle Scout on February 8, during the organization's 111th anniversary. Valerie Johnston was one among 1,000 women who were part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts in February. While she got special permission to get an official uniform and joined the co-ed group Venturing at 14, she wasn't eligible to earn badges to secure the honor of becoming an Eagle scout until now. "I always wanted to be able to earn everything that my brother and all his friends were earning," said Johnston. "I had my own book, and I would check off the requirements and everything, so I would wonder like, 'Well why can't I earn these?'"

The Boy Scouts of America also had to make changes to ensure the teenagers got time to earn their badges. Girls who were 16 and 17, at the time of joining, in 2019, were given an additional 24 months to complete Eagle Scout requirements. They were also given extensions to make up for the time lost due to the pandemic. Earning badges were particularly limited due to Coronavirus restrictions implemented across the country. Some are improvising to help their community during the pandemic, including organizing food and donation drives. "I was trying to just make sure that I'm doing my part to help keep the community safe," said Ysa Duenas, a 17-year-old from Chesapeake, Virginia.


Girls being a part of Boy Scouts of America isn't popular and has faced strong opposition from different quarters. Ysa Duenas said she felt excluded by the boys. "It was a little heartbreaking, but it really fueled me because I was like, 'Well, if you don't want me here, that's fine, but I'm going to do the same thing you're doing but better,'" said Duenas. "Being able to have that community of, you know, strong independent women who were able to drive themselves empowered me."


The Boy Scouts has become more inclusive over the past few years. It has also lifted the ban on trans kids, reported NBC News. “We will accept and register youth in the Cub and Boy Scout programs based on the gender identity indicated on the application. Our organization’s local councils will help find units that can provide for the best interest of the child,” read a statement on the organization’s website in 2017. This came after a lawsuit was filed in New Jersey for kicking out 8-year-old Joe Maldonado, a transgender boy.

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