Sydney participates officially, and remotely, in Scouts Canada.
Sydney participates officially, and remotely, in Scouts Canada. (photo: Yasmeen Khan/WNYC)
Indefinitely Wild

I’m a Woman and I Want to Be an Eagle Scout

If the BSA wants to welcome female Scouts, it needs to start now—not next February

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Sydney Ireland

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I am a 17-year-old woman from New York who has been lobbying to join the Boy Scouts of America for seven years. I have been told that my efforts are partly responsible for the most historic changes in the organization's 108-year history—to allow girls to join the Boy Scouts, as well as to change its name to gender-neutral Scouts BSA

I did all that because I want to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout and I support other young women to do the same. But because Scouts has imposed a February 2019 start date for its official acceptance of female Scouts, I will age out of the program before I am eligible. I am calling on the organization to accept female members immediately, so that I and other activists won’t be frozen out of benefiting from the changes we helped to bring about. 

Last month, I spent two weeks at Camp Keowa, a Boy Scout camp on a river about 100 miles north of New York City. It was the first time I’d been camping with my troop since I was elected Senior Patrol Leader (unofficially, of course). We hiked, fished, tackled the one-mile swim, and shot arrows, rifles, and shotguns. Afterwards, I was invited to stay on as a volunteer staff member. 

Before I left for camp, I did what thousands of Scouts have done before me—I submitted my project proposal for the Eagle rank. That service project is the culmination of a Scout’s career, bringing together everything we’ve learned in aid of our local community. It's the last hurdle to clear before earning the organization’s highest rank. For my project, I’m proposing an event that will connect veterans with dogs who need adoption, along with volunteers who can help train service and therapy animals. The only problem is that the BSA will not consider that proposal because I am a girl. 

I believe that I am the first girl trying to earn the Eagle rank, just as I was one of the first girls elected to the position of Senior Patrol Leader. I have advanced through the ranks of Scouting with only unofficial acceptance and done that with no guarantee that my years of work would ever culminate in the Eagle Scout award. 

I have shown through my persistence, honorable work, and service to others that I, and my Eagle project, deserve to be recognized and acknowledged. Not only will my project work to benefit our most honored citizens—a key mission of the BSA—but given the BSA’s decision to admit young women, my hard work should no longer be rejected, nor my rank postponed simply based on my gender. 

If the BSA wants to welcome female Scouts, it needs to start now—not next February. Our work to advocate for female admission has created unprecedented change in the organization, but also new challenges. I and the other activists who brought about that change are uniquely positioned to help tackle those challenges. As a change-maker for the BSA, I am confident that I will be supported as a loyal and brave advocate for positive change. 

That’s why I’m calling on the BSA to immediately begin allowing young women to join. All I want is to be able to continue to help make Scouting the best leadership program for all our youth.  

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