Blaine High School senior Maren Johnson, 17, is one of several local girls in the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts who were recognized Feb. 8.
Johnson is a member of the Circle Pines Troop 5065 of Scouts BSA, also known as Boy Scouts of America until 2019.
On Oct. 11, 2017, Scouts BSA announced girls would be allowed to join Cub Scouts the following year. Existing Scouts BSA troops were encouraged to form their own separate troops for girls.
In early February 2019, girls’ ages 11-17 were allowed to join the upper ranks of Boy Scouts, putting them on a path to becoming Eagle Scouts, the highest rank attainable in the program.
Dozens of young women from across Anoka County joined the Scouts BSA program with a handful of new troops for girls being formed to serve them.
Johnson, who’s from Blaine, is one of three girls in Circle Pines Troop 5065 honored with the rank of Eagle Scout on Feb. 8, along with fellow Troop 5065 Scouts Elisabeth Bley and Anna Peterson.
“I wanted Eagle Scout because I wanted to prove to myself I could do it,” Johnson said. “The first time girls were allowed into Boy Scouts, it was a huge deal. I was 16 years old when I joined, and I didn’t think I’d have enough time to get to Eagle Scout, but I really wanted to prove to myself I could ... and I wanted to show the boys and my brothers I could do it faster than they could.”
Currently, only 8% of Scouts earn the rank after a lengthy review process. Requirements to achieve the rank include being active in your troop for at least six months as a Life Scout, demonstrating “Scout Spirit” by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law, submitting recommendation on your behalf, earning a total of 21 merit badges and completing an Eagle Scout Service Project.
All requirements for the Eagle Scout project needed to be complete by the end of January 2021.
Johnson’s service project was expanding an existing narrow cage at the Wildlife Science Center in the town of Stacy by 12 feet in width for two foxes, Dmitri and Annie, so they’d have more living space.
The Wildlife Science Center is home to Minnesota’s largest wolf pack, and its mission is, “sharing the wild science of saving lives through education, training and conservation.”
“I knew I wanted to do an outside project that involved animals because I love animals and I’m very passionate about them,” Johnson said, about why she chose her service project. “We went to this place [Wildlife Science Center] with another Scout group of mine from Venturing, and we went on a tour there to look at the wolves and see them howl, so I knew I liked that place and I liked what they did. I emailed them, and a person took me on a tour of the whole place saying I could this, this or this — and I chose the fox cage.”
Johnson planned the project for six months, and construction took place over four days in late October 2020. She received help with the construction from her grandfather, uncle and a team of other volunteers made up of Scouts and family members.
“It feels really nice to help the foxes,” Johnson said. “It also felt really good that it was a project that the center didn’t have to pay for ... It made me really happy to do something I love.”
Johnson worked more than 200 hours on her Eagle Scout Service Project. She had to raise funds and submit three booklets of paperwork on the project.
“It was amazing watching how hard she worked [for Eagle Scout],” said Troop 65 Scoutmaster Terri Johnson, Maren’s mother. “She really focused and her drive and determination was incredible. The skills she developed are very cool.”
Joining Scouts BSA
Johnson joined Scouts BSA Feb. 1, 2019.
She and a handful of other girls joined the all-female Troop 5065 in Circle Pines. They meet separately from their neighboring boys troop but participate in the same activities together.
“It felt weird at first,” Johnson said. “It didn’t hit me that we were actually allowed to do this, but it felt really nice to be finally able what I wanted to do for so long.”
Johnson joined Scouts BSA after participating in Cub Scouts unofficially with her four brothers, two of whom are Eagle Scouts, before girls were allowed to join Cub Scouts. While she was not allowed to earn patches Johnson helped out with a number of service projects and participated in the Pinewood Derby, a racing event for unpowered, unmanned miniature cars.
“I did all the activities with them when they were in Cub Scouts, so it’s nice to officially be recognized equally now,” Johnson told ABC Newspapers during her first month as a member of Scouts BSA.
“The girls have been doing so many of the same activities their brothers have, and it’s great they can finally get the credit and the recognition for what they’re doing,” Terri Johnson said.
Maren Johnson was inspired to join Scouts BSA after her brothers told her stories about all their wilderness adventures they did while in the program. “They told me all these amazing stories ... and it sounded like so much fun,” she said.
Maren Johnson was previously in the Girl Scouts of America, where she achieved the rank of junior, but felt the program didn’t provide the wilderness activities she wanted.
“Girl Scouts is a really great program, and it’s really amazing, but I feel like the Boy Scouts puts a stronger emphasis on the wilderness training, which is something I’m really interested in,” she said. “Girl Scouts does teach some of that wilderness training, but the Boy Scouts is more focused on that training, and it really teaches girls how to survive on their own.”
As a Scout, Johnson learned skills for camping, survival, cooking, first aid, backpacking, hiking and knotting, and she went on wilderness adventures, attended meetings, did service projects and learned other life skills.
“[Scouts BSA] has taught me a lot about communication skills and leadership,” Johnson said. “It has taught me a lot of life skills that I’m going to need.”
Johnson will continue being part of Scouts BSA Venture programs, which are for Scouts ages 14-21. She currently participates in a Native American dancing Venture program along with service projects, high adventure and camping programs.
Johnson will continue as a member of the Order of the Arrow, where Scouts who best exemplify the Scout oath and law in their daily lives are recognized by their fellow Scouts. Members maintain camping traditions and spirit, promoting year-round and long-term resident camping, and providing cheerful service to others. Johnson is a part of the Order of the Arrow Ceremony Team.
In fall 2021 Johnson will study biology at Winona State University. She said she’d like to become a zookeeper or work for the Department of Natural Resources.
“[Scouts] was a whole lot of fun, and I’m always going to remember it for the rest of my life, and I’m probably going to carry all the friends I made,” Johnson said. “There are no words. It was just so incredible for me.”