Boy Scouts celebrate the first group of female Eagle Scouts

  • This Oct. 1 photo shows Isabella Tunney, center, with Bev Verweg, her scoutmaster, and Brian Reiners, the scoutmaster of the corresponding linked boy troop, in Edina, Minn. (Edmund Tunney via AP)

Growing up in Minneapolis, Isabella Tunney followed the progress of her older brother with admiration and occasional envy as he worked toward earning the Boy Scouts’ prestigious rank of Eagle Scout.

This weekend, at age 16, Tunney will be one of nearly 1,000 girls and young women honored by the Boy Scouts in a virtual celebration of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. It’s a major milestone, given the hallowed stature of a rank that has been attained over more than a century by astronauts, admirals, U.S. senators and other luminaries.

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Only in 2018 did the Boy Scouts start accepting girls as Cub Scouts; older girls were admitted into the flagship scouting program in 2019. Overall, more than 140,000 girls have joined.

Tunney, like many of the girls attaining Eagle rank, worked intensively to amass the needed merit badges within two years. A minimum of 21 badges are required to attain Eagle; Tunney earned all 137, in subjects ranging from welding to white-water rafting to coin collection.

“The quarantine helped a lot,” she said, referring to the lockdown ordered due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “I had a lot of time to spare.”

For her Eagle Scout public service project, she organized a drive to collect essentials for families being assisted by a homeless shelter.

Tunney is a junior at St. Paul Academy and Summit School in St. Paul, Minnesota, and she is interested in a career related to the STEM disciplines — science, technology, engineering and math.

As a child, she loved tagging along with her older brother, Eugene, but was sad when he and their father would go off on weekend camping trips with the Scouts.

“I was very envious of all those,” she said. “When the Boy Scouts opened up to girls, I was so excited to get the opportunity to participate myself.”

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Like Tunney, new Eagle Scout Sydney Ireland also was drawn to the Boy Scouts due to participation of an older brother. She became an unofficial member of his New York City unit at age 4 and over the ensuing years was outspoken in urging the Boy Scouts to officially admit girls. Ireland, 19, is now a sophomore at Amherst College.

“Scouting has influenced my life in nearly every facet,” she said via email, crediting the leadership skills she learned in the Scouts for giving her the confidence to run for Amherst’s student Senate.

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