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1st Female Members Fulfill Requirements For Eagle Scout


It's been just over two years since girls were first allowed to join Scouts BSA, formerly known as the Boy Scouts. And now some have fulfilled all the requirements needed to reach the prestigious Eagle Scout rank. Delaware Public Media's Sophia Schmidt went to see one girl accept the Eagle Scout challenge.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You ready? I, Scarlett Helmecki...

SCARLETT HELMECKI: I, Scarlett Helmecki...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: ...Thoughtfully recognize and take upon myself...

HELMECKI: ...I thoughtfully recognize and take upon myself...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: ...The obligations and responsibilities of the rank of Eagle Scout...

HELMECKI: ...The obligation and responsibilities of the rank of Eagle Scout.

SOPHIA SCHMIDT, BYLINE: Fourteen-year-old Scarlett Helmecki repeats the Eagle Scouts' pledge read by an alumnus of the program. Scarlett's family and fellow troop members are here for her court of honor and to celebrate her place in history as one of the first girls to achieve the rank. As the sun shines and cake waits to be eaten on a nearby table, she tells the audience about her journey.

HELMECKI: It was a lot to earn Eagle. And I know that I can help younger scouts also achieve this rank. I'm proud to join many Eagles in this special group.

SCHMIDT: Scarlett is one of about 1,000 girls nationwide who are in the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. It scouts BSA's highest rank. And only about 6% of scouts achieve it. To get it, scouts need to earn 21 merit badges, which require mastering basic skills on topics such as first aid and environmental science. Scarlett says that on occasion, she and other female scouts have endured teasing and belittling comments from people outside her troop. She says that's one reason her troop leaders didn't cut her any slack.

HELMECKI: They always pushed me because they knew people would say, hey, like, you didn't really earn this. They were just giving it to you. No, I earned this.

SCHMIDT: For her required community service project, Scarlett helped rebuild an old footbridge over a stream, coordinating a team of 20 volunteers. And she says she learned some valuable lessons.

HELMECKI: Just be patient, rely on your team. They're here to help you.

PATRICK KASER: Good afternoon. And thank you all for coming. I get the fun part because Scarlett didn't get to see this part of the script ahead of time where I get to talk a little bit about her scouting journey.

SCHMIDT: Patrick Kaser is the scout master of Scarlett's troop, No. 1923. It was the first Scouts BSA troop for girls in Delaware. Kaser works in the financial services industry, where he's noticed women leaders are underrepresented. He thinks scouting is a great place for girls to build leadership skills.

KASER: I love scouting. I love the program. I love being outdoors. It's a natural extension to continuing to provide - you know, if there's a shortage or historical obstacles to young women being leaders, this is a great program for leadership development.

OLIVIA JORDAN: A scout is loyal. Show that you care about your family, friends, scouters, school and country.

SCHMIDT: Ninth grader Olivia Jordan (ph) recites the scout law during Scarlett's court of honor ceremony. She tells me she joined Scouts BSA to become a better leader and also wants to be an Eagle Scout.

JORDAN: So I was actually a Girl Scout for multiple years when I was younger. And it's just - it's not as organized and have, like, a concrete leadership positions there. It's very adult driven. So I thought it was more fulfilling to be able to lead my own troop.

SCHMIDT: At the end of the ceremony, Scarlett thanks those who helped her become an Eagle Scout.

HELMECKI: Thank you, especially, to Erica (ph), Rob (ph), Seth (ph), Sam (ph) and countless merit badge counselors who have assisted me in many ways.

SCHMIDT: And, she says, she wants to help other girls, like Olivia, follow in her footsteps. Her advice for them, rely on your team.

HELMECKI: Just ask for help sometimes. It's the best thing to do.

SCHMIDT: Pretty good advice for anyone, scout or not.

For NPR News, I'm Sophia Schmidt in Pike Creek, Del.

(SOUNDBITE OF GIANTS' "ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.