Raegen Schwarz of Appleton grew up watching her brother earn the prestigious rank of Eagle Scout, the highest achievement in boy scouting.
Why aren’t girls offered the same opportunity, Raegen thought, as she tagged along to his scouting programs where boys got to do cool stuff like winter camping and backpacking in the great outdoors.
On Feb. 21 the 15-year-old Appleton North High School freshman was among the historic inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts from across Wisconsin who were honored in an online ceremony as they spread their new wings.
Two years after girls were first allowed into Scout BSA, a rebranded Boy Scout program for older youth, almost 1,000 across the U.S. rose to the top rank of Eagle Scout, including 15 young women from the Bay-Lakes Council in Northeast Wisconsin.
And, in true Scout spirit, they completed this monumental accomplishment amidst a worldwide pandemic.
“I do feel I’ve achieved something big, not only with what I’ve done to help other people, but now I can lead younger girls in my troop to become Eagle Scouts as well,” Raegan said. “It would be nice if girl scouts had a lot more of the opportunities boys scouts offers.”
Only 6% of Scouts on average ever become Eagle Scouts. To earn the title, an individual must take on leadership roles within their troop and their community; earn a minimum of 21 merit badges that cover a broad range of topics including first aid and safety, civics, business and the environment; and they must research, organize and complete a large community service project.
For her Eagle Scout project, Raegan — a member of Troop 6177, Gathering Waters District — built a 4-foot-tall wooden blessing box for First United Methodist Church in her hometown. The outdoor box contains nonperishable food items, blankets and sleeping pads, hats and mittens, school supplies, and is always open, both for those in need and to accept donations.
Fond du Lac’s Tessa Ross of Troop 6712 in the Ledge to Lakes District first joined Sea Scouts, where she learned how to sail on Lake Winnebago.
“My ship, as they call it, was connected with a boy scout troop so I spent a lot of time doing boy scout activities and I loved it,” she said.
When she found out she had the chance to earn an Eagle Scout rank, she switched to an all-female Scout BSA troop to meet her goal.
“It was really hard to leave the Sea Scouts, but sometimes you have to do things that scare you, and I am not really a fan of change,” said Tessa, a high school junior who is currently homeschooled.
Her Eagle Scout project created a walking path that gives the public access to a new playground at her church, Lighthouse Christian. The 120-foot path took 400 hours to complete and includes a welcoming bench under a shade tree.
Tessa said she and her mom both cried during the ceremony.
“Everyone is watching and it’s a lot of responsibility to be among the first women in history to become Eagle Scouts,” Tessa said. “It’s a legacy and it’s encouraging other girls to challenge themselves.”
Her scoutmaster, the Rev. Margaret Richardson Zaden, watched the young women in her troop tackle head-on the multitude of tasks required to complete badges.
Cub scouts and boy scout troops are divided into dens, and this gives them time to work their way through all the ranks and earn the required 21 merit badges prior to the final Eagle Scout project.
“The two girls in my troop who were working toward Eagle Scout did in three months a program that is designed to take a year,” Zaden said. “It’s the only way they could do it because they age out of the program when they are 18.”
Zaden, 68, is a lifelong Girl Scout and remembers crying when she found out her Brownie uniform was a dull brown and her brother’s scouting uniform was a bright blue. She herself achieved the highest rank in girl scouts, the Girl Scout Golden Award.
“I wanted to be involved in everything my brothers were involved in and didn’t understand, as a young child, why it was different for me,” she said. “So I get why girls today want and value this opportunity.”
Aubree Kubicki, a 14-year-old at Bay Port High School in Suamico, and member of Troop 76093 Voyageur District, ended up dropping out of girl scouts because her troop wasn’t very active.
She joined the Boy Scouts in February, 2019, as soon as the organization opened up to girls.
For her Eagle Scout project, she built a ramp and storage bench for Misfit Mutts Dog Rescue in her community.
“Before I joined scouts I was shy and timid about talking to people I didn’t know,” Aubree said. “Being an Eagle Scout has taught me how to express myself, and that more is expected from me, as far as how I live my life and service to my community.”
New Eagle Scout Tiffany Girard, a student at Plymouth High School, constructed a set of colorfully painted birds houses for REINS, Inc., a local organization offering equine-assisted therapy.
She describes herself as a hands-on type of girl, who grew up learning a variety of skills on her grandparents’ farm.
“Honestly, this is a big deal for me, being a part of making history,” Tiffany said. “Girls can now take chances they never had before and learn skills that will stay with them for life.”
Her mother, Tracy Makowski, said she couldn’t be more proud to have both a son and a daughter who are Eagle Scouts.
“It’s an amazing honor, and girls are discovering talents they never thought possible,” she said. “It’s about becoming fully become self-sufficient, and confident in the person you are.”
Since 2019, the Bay-Lakes Council welcomed 176 young women into 25 new Scouts BSA troops. The council consists of 35 counties in Northeast Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, serving over 12,000 youth in over 400 scouting units.
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These young women from the area also earned the rank of Eagle Scout
- Teresa Dold, Menasha, organized file cabinets of music at Xavier High School and created an online log of all the music.
- Nicole Kannass, Juneau, fabricated masks for nursing homes residence at Clearview Nursing Home.
- Kaylee Kosik, Kimberly, assembled feminine hygiene care packs for the homeless.
- Ava Van Strater, De Pere, wrote a book for the Cassandra Voss Centers Empathy Initiatives. Over 2,500 have been distributed.
- Elizabeth Fogarty, Beaver Dam, created 40 picture frames for residents at Hillside Manor to connect to loved ones who could not visit them in person.
- Katherine Fogarty, Beaver Dam, built a Gaga Ball Pit for St. Katharine Drexel School.
- Jennette Fredrickson, Greenville, built and filled garden boxes for the YMCA 4K classroom in her community.
- Ella Kikkert, Beaver Dam, created educational playground equipment for children at Kids Care Childcare Center.
- Caleigh Rose, Greenville, built shelves to hold art supplies and baby care supplies at the Harbor House
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