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For most kids, the future is a blank canvas. All blue skies, with the most pressing questions of life being, “who am I inviting to my birthday?” and, “what do I want to be when I grow up?” In recent years, the answer to the latter of those has changed from “astronaut,” to “YouTube star,” but for the over 140,000 girls enrolled in Scouts BSA, one prospect remained elusive until now — the rank of Eagle Scout.

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America is estimated to have had about 110 million children participate in its programs. Scouts live according to Scout Law, which declares that, “A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent.” These values are reiterated in the group’s motto, “Be Prepared,” and slogan, “Do a good turn daily,” and Scouts embody this ethos by assisting in food drives, volunteering at animal shelters, and taking part in other community service projects. Rise in ranks and accolades are then showcased via uniforms and of course, merit badges.

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The group’s history is not without controversy related to inclusion. To remedy past issues, present-day Scout leaders have made a number of changes. For one, in January 2014, the BSA National Council removed the restriction that denied membership based on sexual orientation and in January 2017, a nine-year-old became the first openly transgender member. Later that same year it was announced that girls would be able to join the program in 2018, which officially changed its name to Scouts BSA in February 2019.

In Marin there are two girls troops, with Scoutmaster Lisa Linnenkohl leading the San Anselmo/Fairfax/San Rafael Troop. Linnenkohl, who climbed Mount Whitney at the age of six along with her parents, joined an offshoot of the Boy Scouts called Explorers when she was 14, and has been living a Scout-heavy life since. In 2016 she and two other volunteers chartered Venturing Crew 215 — another Scouting program that allows males and females ages 14 to 21 — a crew that is coed. The group backpacked at BSA High Adventure base Philmont in New Mexico sailed around the Florida Keys for six days at BSA’s Sea Base and completed an 80 mile canoe journey at Northern Tier High Adventure base among other activities.

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When girls were allowed into scouting in 2018, many of the female members of Crew 215 became founding members of the newly formed Troop 1015. But there was another issue. In spite of the fact that throughout the organization females would be able to become Eagle Scouts, the time window made the task impossible for many Scouts who would age out of the program before completing an extensive community service project and earning the required badges. One of the Marin Scouts, Jordan Locke, faced the problem head-on. Locke wrote a letter to the BSA Council in Marin saying that she — along with a handful of other girls — wanted to earn Eagle Scout, but needed an age extension. “This was in 2018 and while age extensions are granted for extenuating circumstances, the last big decree the organization made was in WWII when boys went to war,” says Linnenkohl.

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Locke’s letter was successful. Marin Council Executives took two resolutions to National later that year and National passed the resolutions for a two-year window, where the girls had to start from scratch in order to be considered for this class. In 2019, Troop 1015 went to summer camp for two weeks instead of one and earned about 18 merit badges each — 21 are required to reach the rank of Eagle Scout. And then Covid happened. Adapting like the rest of us, the Scouts got creative to hit their marks. Since holding a leadership position for six months is a requirement, Scout Bella Segovia led Zoom meetings. Campouts also went virtual and got closer to home, with gear checks, tent set-ups and morning breakfast cooked in the backyard being shared with the group thanks to Wi-Fi.

Marin’s Inaugural Class of Female Eagle Scouts

In the end, four young women from Marin Council Troop 1015 earned the distinction and are the Inaugural Class of Female Eagle Scouts. Learn more about them here.

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Stefanie Iojica

What sparked your interest in Scouting?

I wanted to join Scouting from the moment that I learned about it; I was 8 years old, on a trip with my family, and saw a Boy Scout troop camping. At that point I was very interested in wilderness survivalism — I had recently read Jean Craighead George’s My Side of the Mountain and became enamored with the idea of running off to live in the woods and surviving off of tree bark and wild mushrooms, and Scouting offered a community in which to learn those skills. Because of my inability to join at that point and lack of opportunities to explore those interests beyond Boy Scouts, I essentially wasn’t able to pursue these interests for several years. In early high school, I joined Venturing (the co-ed branch of Scouting) at the recommendation of my friend Gina Schneider. Shortly afterwards, the BSA announced that they would open up Scouting to girls. I practically immediately decided to join and pursue the rank of Eagle Scout, not only for my own interest in wilderness skills and leadership, but also because I saw a lot of 8-year-old me in the younger girls. I personally didn’t see many girls in leadership at their age, and definitely none in wilderness outdoorsmanship, and being able to look up to girls in those leadership positions at their age would’ve made me feel more confident in myself and my ability.

How has Scouting impacted your life?

When I first became interested in Scouting and up until I actually joined, I saw leadership in a much more individualistic sense — both my interest in survivalism and my initial interest in pursuing Eagle Scout somewhat came from a desire to prove myself to others. Scouting really isn’t about that though, and that’s probably the single biggest thing that I’ve learned from the program- the importance of working with others. Sure, it’s cool that we’re among the first female Eagle Scouts in the country, but what is truly important about that distinction and what makes me most excited is really not the clout — it’s knowing that we were able to set a path for many more generations of female Eagle Scouts that will serve and lead in their communities. Beyond that, the hundreds (thousands?) of hours we spent camping and hiking imparted a deep appreciation for the natural world that has led me to pursuing a career in environmental law. Just as our work as female Eagle Scouts will hopefully lead to generations of leaders, I’m following the footsteps of activists and conservationists that have allowed for me to benefit from the natural world.

Why should girls get involved in Scouting?

In my opinion, all young people should be involved in some sort of civic organization or intentional work to benefit their communities — if nothing else, everyone should grow up with an appreciation for their communities and wish to better their environment. For me, Scouting perfectly fits my interests in service, leadership, and outdoorsmanship — for others, another organization may fit their interests better.

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Gina Schneider

What sparked your interest in Scouting?

My brother was in Cub Scouts so I tagged along to all the meetings and all the trips. When he bridged over into Boy Scouts I was no longer allowed to go on the trips but sometimes I would stop by at the meetings and that was when his Scoutmaster told me about a Venture crew I could join when I turned 14 which was in 2016.

How has Scouting impacted your life?

Scouting helped me find my passion for teaching and working with kids and allowed me to gain leadership skills such as communication, delegation, public speaking and collaboration.

Why should girls get involved in scouts?

Everybody deserves the opportunity to join an organization that gives you useful skills life, like communication, collaboration, outdoors knowledge and skills, first aid certification, leadership training and many more.

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Jordan Locke

What sparked your interest in Scouting?

The chance to have an outlet for spending time in the outdoors with friends who treasured our natural environment as much as I do was incredibly appealing, and so I joined to have that opportunity.

How has Scouting impacted your life?

Scouting has changed my life in a lot of ways, but mostly it has given me a chance to grow into myself in an environment where I can trust everyone around me and have fun while doing it. It has given me chances over and over again to meet other people, go on crazy awesome trips, figure out what exactly leadership means to me, learn new skills in all sorts of fields, and most of all help me understand what impact I want to make on the world.

Why should girls get involved in Scouting?

I think the bigger question is, why shouldn’t girls get involved with Scouting? No matter what you get out of it, I guarantee Scouting will change your life for the better. Joining scouts means joining a community that will embrace and guide you through the process of getting in touch with your own personal values and identity. Scouts go through so many experiences that ultimately help us all grow as people and give us skills that will benefit us for the rest of our lives.

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Bella Segovia

What sparked your interest in Scouting?

My interest in Scouting was sparked by my older brother. He has been in Scouting since elementary school and I always found what he did to be exciting and impressive. I saw him go away to summer camp every year and watched him earn each rank and merit badge up to the Eagle rank. When Scouts BSA began to open up to girls, he challenged me at his Eagle Court of Honor to earn the same rank. I was interested in Scouting because of all the ways I saw my brother make friends, learn outdoor skills, and grow as a person and I wanted a similar experience. The newly forming girls Troop 1015 quickly welcomed me and made me feel not alone in my Scouting ambitions. They have consistently supported me into achieving the Eagle rank in two years and kept me interested through my Junior and Senior year.

How has Scouting impacted your life?

Scouting has impacted my life in many great ways. I have met some of the kindest people in Scouting. I love the other three girls so much and feel so lucky to have been able to meet them. I’ve made amazing memories with them over the last two years. The Scouting experience has allowed me to mature and grow into a more confident and capable person. I’ve learned a lot of survival skills and safe camping practices. Each merit badge has diversified my knowledge and allowed me to dive deeper into skills and topics. I’ve watched leaders in my troop and have improved as a leader in the many leadership roles I’ve had. I’ve gained confidence in my abilities and was able to organize and carry out my Eagle Project in a pandemic.

Why should girls get involved in Scouting?

Girls should get involved because the Scouting experience is quite unique. The scout led troop dynamic instills leadership skills and responsibility in a natural and progressive way. We’ve gone to interesting places like Death Valley and our troop regularly goes to the High Adventure camps which offer such a special camping experience. Most importantly, are the friendships made in Scouting. I was able to meet kids that didn’t go to my school and of different ages and be able to work together on service projects and at campouts. Any girl that is interested in learning outdoor skills, merit badges, or the Eagle Rank should try out Scouting.

Scouting Facts

· BSA Scouting programs are available throughout Marin to boys and girls, young men and women, from kindergarten to age 20.

· There are a total of 135 merit badges. Some are more common — fishing, climbing, camping — and others are more obscure — dentistry, bugling, fingerprinting, truck transportation.

· Honolulu Boy Scouts helped after the attack on Pearl Harbor and rushed to the aid of those who had been affected, administering first aid to those injured and relaying messages by foot and by bike.

· 11 of the 12 men who walked on the moon were Scouts and more than two-thirds of all current and former astronauts have been involved in Scouting.

This article was written by Kasia Pawlowska and originally published by Marin Magazine.