Nearly 1000 Girls Create History By Earning The Eagle Scout Badge On International Women's Day

Nearly 1000 Girls Create History By Earning The Eagle Scout Badge On International Women's Day

After overcoming several hurdles and smashing gender norms, these girls formed the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts last month.

TACOMA, WA - FEBRUARY 08: Nine young women from the region were recognized at the ceremony, which was held on the 111th anniversary of the founding of the Boy Scouts of America. (Photo by David Ryder/Getty Images)

Nearly 1,000 girls fulfilled their dream of becoming Eagle Scouts on International Women's Day, March 8. "Why not?" they'd wonder at a young age, having grown up with brothers who went on to earn the prestigious badge. Since the highest Boy Scout honor was only offered to boys, many girls, now in their late teens, had to challenge the system before they could get what they wanted. "I always wanted to be able to earn everything that my brother and all his friends were earning," Valeria Johnston told CNN. "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?'" Johnson wanted to be a Boy Scout since she was 6 after attending growing fascinated with the idea of attending meetings with her brother and learning life skills and fraternizing with peers.



When she was eight, she received special permission to wear the official uniform before joining Venturing, a co-ed group at the age of 14. All her efforts, however, seemed like a farce as she wasn't allowed to earn badges to become an Eagle Scout—solely because she wasn't a boy. Now at 19 and a college student at St. Michael's College in Vermont, Johnston became one of over 1,000 across the country to join the inaugural batch of female Eagle Scouts in February. Boy Scouts of America (BSA) held a ceremony to recognize the women and bestow upon them the prestigious rank on February 8. "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," the organization told CNN in a statement. "These benefits are invaluable, and we are elated that they are now available to both young men and young women."



But, for Johnston and thousands of female Eagle Scout aspirants, the journey was as punishing as it could get, not solely because of the physical exertion but because they were fighting the notion that getting the highest BSA honor was men's thing. Unfazed by it, they pushed forward. To become an Eagle Scout a candidate should earn 21 merit badges ranging from various activities such as business to first aid, hold leadership roles and execute community projects at a large scale. The worse part is, they had to do it all before turning 18 years of age. This stipulation is too hard for most male candidates as well evidenced by the fact that only 6% of Boy Scouts end up becoming Eagle Scouts, per BSA.  Also, girls were only allowed to join the BSA in February 2019, which meant many who were 17 or 18 had very little time to complete the requirements like Mia Dawbin from Maine.



Luckily, the BSA issued time extensions in 2019 and gave newly admitted girls 24 months to meet the Eagle Scout requirements. Plus, delays caused by the pandemic meant the extension was furthered. Being in the BSA was "kind of in the family", Dawbin shared her story. Her grandfather was a scoutmaster, her dad and uncles were Eagle Scouts, and her siblings were also in the BSA. None of that guaranteed her the highly coveted badge and she had to "have a plan" to finish quickly as possible. Just when the hurdles were out their way, came the damning questions: why did they want to Boy Scouts? After completing difficult tasks to earn their badges, the girls had to get past this major barrier. Lauren Krimm, a 19-year-old from Maryland, says she received backlash from peers, girls included, because she wanted to join BSA as a girl.



"I had to forge the path, I had to clear the way and prove that we can do it and that we are going, they, no matter how hard others push back, we're gonna keep moving forward," she told CNN. "Of all the people who I thought would have given me backlash, that was the last group of people I expected." When they were in, they wanted to gel with the boys but were told they were appreciated, so they came together with other girls in their troops. Ysa Duenas, 17, from Chesapeake, Virginia recalled: "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,'" Duenas said. "Being able to have that community of, you know, strong independent women who were able to drive themselves empowered me." By seemingly adhering to this year's theme "Choose to Challenge", all the new girl Eagle Scouts have proven yet again that they can hold their own in a man's world.


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