Jennifer Wood and Hannah Marik have skilled themselves in trades as disparate as basket weaving and painting. They’ve ridden horseback through the mountains of Yellowstone and gone wolf watching at 4 a.m. They’ve slogged their way through a 5-mile hike that had the mud suck the boots from their feet at mile 2. One of them is scuba-certified and one of them is master carpenter of her own woodshop.
All of it adds up. Both of these girls are now part of the Boy Scouts’ Inaugural Class of Female Eagles, a feat achieved in the two years since the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) first opened to girls Feb. 1, 2019.
It takes 21 merit badges to make an Eagle Scout, but the two girls didn’t stop there. Already, Jennifer has completed 38 (plus her Girl Scout Gold Award); Hannah has completed 40 merit badges and in the middle of her own Gold Award project.
Jennifer, a senior at Mound Westonka High School, closed out her Eagle journey with a service project at Minnetrista’s Gale Woods Farm, building a tyke-sized play kitchen for the farm’s teaching garden.
“I like to build things!” Jennifer said she spent the equivalent of a week’s worth of time on the project, spread out in her home woodshop. And the front yard. And the driveway.
For Hannah, a sophomore at Orono High School, a green thumb nurtured by summer work at a gardening company led her to help Westonka Food Shelf with some new landscaping, and she built a retaining wall and perennial garden beneath the food shelf’s sign.
Hannah and Jennifer are founding members of their BSA Troop 5571, chartered by Our Lady of The Lake Catholic Church in Mound and linked to brother Troop 5371. When they heard that BSA had opened to girls two years ago it was an easy decision: “Oh heck yes, sign me up!” Jennifer laughed. She had been tagging along on a few of her brother’s scout outings already.
Plus, “It was more of a challenge,” she said.
Jennifer had already been a Girl Scout since fourth grade (she’s now an Ambassador) and Hannah, now a Senior Girl Scout, joined while still in kindergarten. But both girls said the expanded variety in BSA merit badges and the extra leadership opportunities within the Boy Scouts were their cup of tea.
Jennifer compared the 12 badges offered her as a Girl Scout Ambassador to the 135 BSA badges that are offered to all scouts from 11 to 18 and that she could tailor to her age, skill and interest level. “And you learn something new with each one,” she said. “You think you know everything about said topic but no, you don’t. You really don’t.”
Added mom and scoutmaster Michelle Wood, “There’s a lot of opportunity if you have the time and the drive within Scouts BSA for leadership, growth and just adventures.”
Next month has the troop’s seven girls and troop treasurer (that’s Hannah’s mom, Wendy) road-tripping to the Everglades and Grand Tortugas for a marine study program.
“These two are definitely adventurers,” said Michelle.
Adventurers and leaders. Hannah is looking forward to a national youth leadership training camp this summer, and it was she who picked out that facet of the scouts as most rewarding
“They blossom into new skills and how you see that they might not be good at this thing but they’re amazing at something else,” added Jennifer.
Like the Girl Scouts, BSA is also a youth-led program. Zoom meetings or trips to Grand Teton (with the 4 a.m. wolves) are all decided by the scouts.
“The youth are leading the program, they’re choosing what activities to do,” said scoutmaster Michelle who said that her own role was just a guiding hand and encouragement to always “think bigger, think beyond” what the girls have already done.
That exposure to bigger and beyond has aided Jennifer, who already is set on working toward an animal science degree, pre-med and becoming a veterinarian for small animals and exotics. For Hannah, the next step is the Scouts’ Distinguished Conservation Service Award.