It’s not just for boys anymore.
Two years after girls were first allowed into the Boy Scouts of America , almost 1,000 of them have earned the title of Eagle Scout, including 18-year-old Finksburg resident Kayla Kelly, the first female in Carroll County to rise to the rank.
“I’m very excited and grateful” to become the first in the county, Kelly said last week, as she’ll be paving the way for her three younger sisters and a number of other girls in Carroll who have been running toward the same goal.
She officially became an Eagle Scout during her Eagle Court of Honor ceremony Sunday afternoon.
The process of becoming an Eagle Scout is rigorous, as candidates must earn 21 merit badges varying in subject from first-aid to business, assume leadership roles and execute a large community service project, all before turning 18. About 6% of scouts achieve the rank on average.
Kelly, who graduated from Westminster High School last week, rose to the challenge. She worked to earn about 150 merit badges total, her favorite being the leather working badge.
“That was the first one I earned and now I teach leather working at the Boy Scout camp,” Kelly said.
Her service project was a collection for The Shepherd’s Staff Blessings Closet, which provides free assistance with non-food essentials for household, hygiene, and personal care, helping families, seniors, disabled persons, veterans, working families, single parents, homeless adults and out-of-work individuals.
Kelly reached out to several local churches, asking to hold collection days or if she could leave a collection box on their premises. She then posted the details on Facebook so people in the community knew how and where to drop off items to donate.
Karen Rau, a volunteer coordinator for The Shepherd’s Staff, shared on Tuesday that Kelly was able to collect seven “good-sized boxes” filled with supplies such as paper towels, toilet paper, cleaning products, shampoo and soap.
“We’re honored she chose Shepherd’s Staff to be part of her Eagle project,” she said. “We always have that need … and that need was even greater during the [COVID-19] pandemic.”
Rau said it was a “very proud moment” when Kelly dropped off her collection in the beginning of February, especially since it was the move that allowed her to become the county’s first female Eagle Scout.
When asked what led her to pursue scouting, she said her biggest inspiration was her mom, Colleen Kelly, who worked at a Boy Scouts camp herself when she was younger.
She mentioned that her mom didn’t have the opportunity to “do anything with her brother’s troop.”
“It’s neat the girls are finally able to [be involved],” Colleen said.
Colleen remembered, as a kid, when her brother would go off to scout camp and participate in fun activities and she would often be stuck “sitting around in the hot sun.”
She said she met her husband, Kayla’s dad, at Broad Creek Memorial Scout Reservation in Harford County.
“Her uncle and her father are Eagle Scouts,” Colleen said. “Scouts are in our blood.”
Being a scoutmaster for 18 months and now the assistant scoutmaster of Kayla’s current troop, Troop 829, Colleen said she likes the fact that she can see “how it works from the inside.”
“I see the hard work and dedication,” she said. “The scouts don’t realize how much they are learning but I do. … It’s a big deal.”
Young women have been participating in scouting for decades through the Boy Scouts of America’s co-ed programs including Venturing, Sea Scouts, Exploring, and STEM Scouts, according to a Boy Scouts of America representative.
The BSA further expanded opportunities in recent years by welcoming girls into Cub Scouts in 2018 and young women into Scouts BSA in 2019.
More than 140,000 girls and young women nationwide have joined Cub Scouts or Scouts BSA since.
Sam DiStefano, marketing and communications executive for the BSA’s Baltimore Area Council said they have 20 female Eagle Scouts in the region so far.
And now Carroll has its first one.
Kayla said her favorite thing about the program is developing so many different skills, especially those not taught elsewhere, like in school.
“Everything we learn can be used in any future career,” such as the ability to lead and plan efficiently, she said. “I absolutely recommend it to others … if you don’t enjoy the outdoors, you don’t have to go camping but there are plenty of valuable skills to learn during meeting times.”
Kayla gave a special thanks to Bob Betz, vice chair for marketing for the Boy Scouts’ Carroll District, for driving to the council organization in Baltimore through a blizzard on the first day girls were admitted into the organization to turn in the paperwork which would allow her troop to officially become a Scout troop.
Jennifer Swift, scoutmaster of Troop 829, said Kayla has held several leadership roles including senior patrol leader and webmaster, on top of having “an active role in helping guide new scouts coming in.”
“I’m very proud of Kayla’s achievements,” Swift said. “She has true ambitions and wants to really help and lead.”