It’s been just two years since girls were allowed into Scouts BSA — formerly known as Boy Scouts.
But in that time one Delaware girl has worked all the way through the scouting ranks, to the top rank of Eagle Scout.
Delaware Public Media’s Sophia Schmidt has her story.
A lot of people would find camping 37 nights outside over two years hard. But not 14-year-old Scarlett Helmecki.
“By the end of the night. I kind of just want to set up a sleeping bag on a picnic bench or platform or even make a homemade shelter,” Scarlett said. “Definitely fun on my part, but a lot of the other girls call me crazy.”
Scarlett is one of nearly 1,000 girls from across the country in the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. These are the first girls in the more than 100-year history of Scouts BSA—formerly Boy Scouts—to reach the program’s highest rank. They’ve had just two years since Boy Scouts became Scouts BSA, and started accepting girls, to do it.
Only about 6% of scouts overall make it to the rank of Eagle. A scout must finish 21 merit badges covering a range of topics, from first aid to civics. They must also take on a leadership role in their troop and community. And they need to finish a large community service project, which they research and organize themself.
Scarlett’s project was replacing an old telephone pole bridge at her school in Hockessin.
“We got brand-new telephone poles that were donated in, and then we laid new decking,” she said. “It was a lot of fun. It took us a couple days to do. I think we had about 20 plus volunteers.”
Scarlett was part of Delaware’s first all-girls troop—number 1923, named after the year that Delaware belatedly ratified the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
“A lot of other people in my family were scouts and grew up around hunting and doing all of those outdoorsy things,” Scarlett told Delaware Public Media in 2019. “So it would be cool to know that yeah, our grandparents did this. But now we get to do this for the first time. And just leave behind a good legacy.”
In the two years since, Scarlett and the other girls in her troop have faced teasing from male scouts — and even some comments from adults, like when the girls would go on trips and stop at rest stops.
“And there would be older people there,” Scarlett said. “A couple of them were super cool. And they started talking to us about our ranks and our journeys, and how they were Boy Scouts, and how they think it’s amazing. But then you also have people in line like, Boy Scouts is just for boys, or, well then why can't boys be in Girl Scouts, and, you already have Girl Scouts.”
But Scarlett doesn’t let it get to her.
“I don't think anyone means so much harm,” she said. “But it's just hard for people to change. And there's a lot of change.”
So what was the hardest part of becoming an Eagle Scout?
“I really hate paperwork,” Scarlett said. “I am not good at the paperwork.”
Scarlett’s mom, Shannon Helmecki, says she saw her daughter grow and mature through the process.
“Rather than saying that she could do everything by herself, she really did rely on others and reach out for help, which was a huge stretch for her,” Shannon said. “She's typically one that will just take on a challenge all by herself and not ask for help.”
These skills will likely help Scarlett in the future.
“As an employer, if I see Eagle Scout on the resume, that matters a lot,” said Patrick Kaser, scoutmaster of Troop 1923. “But it's not so much the, oh, this person's an Eagle Scout, they've got the title. It's the skills that come with it, and the confidence that comes with it.”
Kaser sees the historical significance of Scarlett’s accomplishments.
“When we hear from women involved in scouting, just the fact that this is possible means a lot,” he said. “There have definitely been some tears in eyes to see the first in a Delaware troop, the first in our council, to cross that final milestone.”
Kaser says the speed at which Scarlett and the rest of the inaugural female class achieved Eagle Scout is unusual. He credits this to their sense of purpose.
“This first group of pioneers nationally, it's a different motivation behind it,” he said. “That's unique for the young women who earned Eagle nationally in this first inaugural class. The common thread really is, can you for two years straight keep focused, keep motivated, keep the drive going?”
And in that same two years, Troop 1923 has nearly quadrupled in size. Kaser says most of the growth has been friends inviting friends.
“The kids are having a great time,” he said. “And they're inviting their friends along to come join us.”
As for Scarlett, she plans to keep building her skills through the Scouts’ Venturing program—and help other girls along the way.
“Right now, I'm leading a bunch of the younger girls in getting more rank advancement and kind of teaching them what Boy Scouts— or Scouts—is all about,” she said.
Scarlett adds that being the one that other girls can look up to, feels “really amazing.”