Nearly 1,000 young women from across the country are taking their place in history as the first female Eagle Scouts after collectively earning more than 30,000 merit badges and providing an estimated 130,000 hours of community service, most notably during the challenges of the pandemic.
According to Jack Sears, Boy Scouts of America North Florida Council’s Scout Executive and CEO, local and national award winners are among the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. The commemoration of young women and their achievements is a call to action for all young people to continue working to make a positive impact on their communities and the nation. The trailblazing young women come from Anchorage to Miami, Honolulu to Boston, and parts of Asia and Europe where the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) serves American families living abroad.
“The hard working, dedicated, service-oriented women joined Scouting for a variety of reasons from embarking on once-in-a-lifetime adventures, to fulfilling a childhood dream, or paving the way for future generations,” said Sears. “As a diverse group, these women are united forever by a rank that is synonymous with leadership, service, and excellence. Also, during Women’s History Month in March, we are pleased to recognize our local youth,” he said.
In the North Florida Council, there are 13 female Eagle Scouts who are part of the inaugural class. Notably, Jessica Parker from St. Johns, Fla. is a 19-year-old Bartram Trail High School 2020 graduate and currently a freshman at the University of North Florida at the Hicks Honors College. She became a founding member of Scouts BSA Troop 291 in Ponte Vedra, Florida on February 1, 2019 and completed her Eagle Board of Review on October 9, 2020.
She has earned 76 merit badges and been a member of the Order of the Arrow since 2019 where she now serves as the Inductions Chairman for the service Lodge. She was a Senior Patrol Leader for her Troop in Ponte Vedra and a Troop Guide for Troop 101 in Jacksonville. Parker has served on staff for the National Youth Leadership Training five times and on staff for both the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico as well as the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia. Jessica’s Eagle project included 184 hours of volunteer service in her community by leading her fellow Scouts and adult leaders to construct five bee boxes for the St. Johns County Beekeepers Association. The bee boxes have been strategically placed around the historic city of St. Augustine, Fla. Parker is also a Summit Award recipient through Venturing BSA, which is similar to an Eagle Scout award and a rare achievement. Her future aspiration is to become a Physical Therapist.
“I am most proud of my overall accomplishments and mentoring work for many young women in the Scouts. One of the highlights of my Scouting experience is the award I obtained through Venturing, called the Summit. This is equivalent to the Eagle Scout rank in the specific program designed for co-eds from 14 to 20 years of age,” said Parker. “The program is for those who want to explore through adventure like rappelling a cliff, perfecting your marksmanship, designing a robot, kayaking into the sunset, exploring your faith, and volunteering at an animal shelter, among others,” she said. “These activities provide an opportunity for Scouts to shine and learn more about themselves and the world around them. Venturing is youth-led and youth-inspired to acquire life skills and gain experiences that prove to be valuable regardless of where your future takes you, all while having a blast in leadership, event-planning, organization, communication, responsibility, and the list goes on.”
Local Eagle Scouts also named include Grace Bunch from Interlachen, Fla.; Olivia Foli from Gainesville, Fla.; Taryn Hoffman-Rocha from Hawthorne, Fla.; Courtney Laird from Orange Park, Fla.; Kelly Myers from Interlachen, Fla.; Olivia Pottenburgh from Jacksonville, Fla.; Samantha Surratt from Hawthorne, Fla.; Dianna McNair from Tampa, Fla.; Linda Mentz from Gainesville, Fla.; Marina Mitchell from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., and Eve Waskevich from Interlachen, Fla.
“Eagle Scout is a designation widely valued by universities, employers, and other respected institutions around the world, and we are honored to celebrate these incredible young women who represent a truly historic class of recipients,” said Roger Mosby, president and CEO of the Boy Scouts of America. “In earning this rank, young people gain new skills, learn to overcome obstacles, and demonstrate leadership among their peers and in their communities. Scouting’s benefits are invaluable, and we are elated that the opportunity to become an Eagle Scout is now available to even more youth with young men and young women alike.”
Only about six percent of Scouts on average attain Scouting’s highest rank, which requires individuals to 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 research, organize and complete a large community service project.
“This is a powerful moment for all Eagle Scouts,” said Sears. “Eagle Scouts as individuals are of the highest caliber. For the first time, the title is not limited by gender. The expanded opportunity will empower generations of young people as they see both young men and women earn this rank and become leaders in their communities, in business, and our country.”
Men and women 18 years of age and older and properly approved by the Council Executive Board may attain the honor of becoming an Eagle Scout and may register beyond the age of eligibility for the honored ranking. More than two million youth have risen to the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of America, Eagle Scout. For more information, visit the website at www.nfcscouting.org and www.facebook.com/bsanfc.
The Boy Scouts of America, North Florida Council was founded in 1911 and is located at Thompson S. Baker Scout Service Center, 521 S. Edgewood Avenue in Jacksonville, Florida. The Scout Service Center is the catalyst for policy, planning, information, and most significantly, the stimulation and inspiration that mobilizes the nonprofit, volunteer organization. The Scout Service Center enables key volunteer leadership and community resources to promote and enrich the Scouting program for thousands of youth and adult members in our seventeen counties of service.
The North Florida Council encompasses the 17 counties of northeast Florida: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Duval, Gilchrist, Hamilton, Lafayette, Levy, Marion, Nassau, Putnam, St. John’s, Suwannee, and Union. Through almost 2,995 volunteers the Council serves more than 7,146 youth in over 327 units.
The North Florida Council owns, maintains and operates two camps: Camp Shands in Hawthorne, FL and St. Johns River Base at Echockotee, home of Aquatics Camp in Orange Park, FL.
The Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, provides the nation’s foremost youth programs of character development and values-based leadership training, which helps young people be “Prepared. For Life.®” For more information on the Boy Scouts of America, visit www.Scouting.org.