Allison Aucoin, 15, challenged the girls and young women of BSA Scouts in Acadiana after becoming the first woman Scout from the Evangeline Regional Council to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
Aucoin joined Scouts BSA in 2019 after opening the program to girls. The teenager said she has aspired to join her since the age of 5 and has been on family adventures with her older brother’s Cub Scout troop, enjoying canoeing, shooting bow and woodworking crafts. After joining Troop 247, an all-female troop, Aucoin set off to make up for lost time.
The teenager and her fellow troopers started working to learn the basics of scouting and fulfill the conditions to pass the seven grades: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle, Troop 247 Scoutmaster Billy McCarthy said. The troop currently has 10 registered scouts, he said.
Aucoin’s pursuit of its goal has seen its ups and downs. There was the joy of exploring new interests and skills, like basketry and first aid, and the stress of balancing scouting with schoolwork at Acadiana Episcopal School, cheerleading, acting and d other commitments, she said.
McCarthy recalled one of those balancing acts, where Aucoin cheered at a night-time basketball game, then asked her dad to drive her at 10 p.m. to meet the troupe for a weekend of camping.
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“There were many times that I was about to quit… But I kept thinking about my end goal and how many times I was having fun, and how good the good times are there. outweighed the bad. I kept thinking, “I’m almost there. I’m almost at my next goal. I can do it. I’ve done this before and really stayed in the fight, which is an ESA elementary school motto that has helped me through the tough times, ”Aucoin said.
An atypical challenge was the COVID-19 pandemic, which changed the experience of Scouting.
McCarthy said that initially the troop was forced to switch to all virtual meetings, then over time adapted to masked and distant gatherings. To keep the progress on the badges, McCarthy, a real estate agent, even allowed Boy Scouts to sit at his open house and work on their projects, he said. Camping continued, but scouts were limited to one person per tent.
“I’m very proud of her knowing what she’s overcome to get there with the COVID year and the challenges of starting from scratch as a founding troop,” he said.
An important part of achieving Eagle Scout rank is a Scout’s service project. For her, Aucoin built a paved alley at the Episcopal School of Acadiana. The open area was often flooded and became a mud pit during storms, hampering teachers and creating danger for students crossing campus, the 15-year-old said.
Aucoin designed the walkway, calculated the amount of materials needed and the associated costs, obtained project approvals, raised funds and, on April 18, installed the walkway with the help of his troop and family. Having friends and teachers using and enjoying her catwalk has been heartwarming, she said.
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“I really love going to ESA and the whole school gave me so much that I knew I wanted to give it back somehow,” the teenager said.
Aucoin’s Eagle Scout pursuit was crowned by her Eagle Scout review panel, where the teenager sat down before a panel of local adult leaders in scouting and was asked about her work and experience in Scouting. She said the nerves beforehand were similar to a theater audition or an exam.
Once stepped forward, Aucoin said she felt grateful for the support of her Scout leaders and her troop, who “always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself.” Eagle Scout is the highest rank in BSA Scouts, and Aucoin said she looks forward to relaxing and enjoying the rest of what Scouting has to offer until she is 18.
McCarthy said that while Aucoin was his first female Eagle Scout, she wouldn’t be her last. Two of his peers are closely in their process and hopefully will progress soon. The Scoutmaster said he had been involved in Scouting since the age of 5 and had been extremely impressed with the girls in Troop 247.
They are energetic, focused, collaborative, hardworking and eager to learn. They’re just as invested as any boy troupe McCarthy has led, he said.
“The girls are fantastic and surprise me every day. They’ve actually, to a certain extent, rekindled a lot of what I think about Scouting because they’re awesome, ”said McCarthy.
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Aucoin said she hopes her accomplishment will inspire more girls to explore scouting and pursue their goals.
“I hope I can inspire young girls to perhaps join [Scouts BSA] or just do something that they may be a little hesitant to do. I hope to inspire them to do something that they are proud of and something that they can enjoy and something that they can bring with them all their lives, ”Aucoin said.