Two young women from Virginia make history by becoming Eagle Scouts

WAYNESBORO, Va. (AP) – The Boy Scouts of America were changed forever in February 2019, when girls were allowed to enter for the first time in the history of the program.

Additionally, the girls were also officially allowed to join Eagle Scouts for the first time. Eagle Scout is the highest achievable rank in the Boy Scouts of America.

A month later, Troop 142 was born.

The all-female troop includes eight scouts, but two in particular have caught the community’s attention. Emmeline Soyars, 18, of Waynesboro, and Lindsey Reno, 17, of Fishersville, are the first two female Eagle Scouts in the Valley Scout District.

“I grew up watching my brother become an Eagle Scout and I always wanted to be a Scout too,” said Reno, who was a Lone Scout before joining Troop 142 in March 2019.

Growing up camping with his dad on his brother’s Boy Scout trips, Reno jumped at the chance to join us.

Soyars did the same.

“I’ve always had an interest in camping and the outdoors, so I totally agreed,” Soyars said. “Girls are still not allowed to be in a troop with boys, so we had to create our own troop. “

As is the story of change, not everyone was in favor of Boy Scouts no longer being just for boys. But with the overtime, Soyars says things have… well, changed.

“There were definitely some people who weren’t fans of it, like a lot of people in my classes, especially boys who were already in Boy Scouts,” Soyars said. “Some people were mean about it, saying ‘they’re boy scouts and it should have stayed that way. “”

While that was the message from some in 2019 that Soyars described as “upsetting,” she said just two years later, the attitude is different. In fact, both wholeheartedly support seeing more girls trying out Boy Scouts and said the opportunity is greater than any potential adversity that anyone who disagrees can present.

“Anyone who wants to join, whether it’s a boy (or) a girl, they’ll learn a lot in Boy Scouts if they apply,” Reno said. “They will have lots of fun experiences, make lots of friendships and have great relationships with their fellow Scouts. It is a very good program.

For the two Eagle Scouts, two of their most recent experiences include their latest Eagle projects, which have helped support two local establishments in the community.

For their project, Soyars made travel bags for foster children with Bridge Christian Church and their Foster Care Ministry.

“I had a list of items for each age group,” Soyars said. “There were 0-18 months, 2-11 years, then 12-18 years and each section had different things that these age groups would need.”

She managed to collect the necessary items for the various bags for three weeks before gathering volunteers for a night to collect all the bags for the foster children.

“When I started my Scouting trip, I spoke to a social worker who mainly focused on the foster care sector,” she said. “To incorporate that into my Eagle project regarding foster care, that’s pretty cool.”

Elsewhere, Reno’s Eagle Project consisted of designing, creating and installing two benches at Camp Light for youth and adults with special needs. The plan was to create an outdoor classroom for those at the camp, but parts of the project didn’t quite come to fruition due to COVID.

“The classroom is for nature journaling, nature learning, (and) it’s right by the pond over there,” Reno said. “It’s a place for them to reflect on nature, which is related to Boy Scouts because we are in nature all the time and we all want to enjoy it.”

Her previous engineering background helped her create the benches, on which she received additional help from her father and grandfather before the troop proceeded to install.

While both ladies made great contributions, they didn’t do it alone. Liz Harman, Unit Leader for Troop 142 and District Commissioner for the Valley Scout District, is proud of the two young women.

“I shouted it from every rooftop I can climb, ‘Look at my two female Eagle Scouts.’” Harman said proudly. “Emmy – fantastic knot, you need something tied up, you’re going to see her. You want a fire quick, go get Lindsey. Your tent is not going to fly away with the two of them.

Harman further encourages children and youth of all ages in the valley to join their local Boy Scout troop and considers Soyars and Reno to be great examples of local youth getting involved in their community.

“I’m just glad the path to Eagle is now widened,” Harman said. “It’s big enough that any youngster who wants to join can take this trip. These are lifelong skills that you won’t regret learning.

Plus, achieving the rank of Eagle Scout is a celebrated achievement and certainly not an easy one. In just over two years of service, the Troop 142 already has two.

As Soyars recalls, “only one in a hundred scouts becomes an eagle scout – only one percent. “

Both have made great strides in Troop 142, but will soon be “aging” Scouts before the fall, where both will move on to begin their college careers.

Soyars will go to VCU in Richmond to study costume design while Reno will go to James Madison University in Harrisonburg, where she plans to major in nursing.

Soyars and Reno both hope that the lessons learned from the past will help them in the future.

“I learned to stick with something,” Reno said. “This is the only program I have kept and managed to reach the top. “

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