It took earning multiple merit badges, completing service projects and accomplishing difficult tasks to achieve the goal that only 5% to 6% of Boy Scouts achieve.
But following hard work and dedication, Madison Anne Shaw of Troop 369G has become Tyler’s first female Eagle Scout.
“(Being the first female Eagle Scout in Tyler) is surreal, honestly,” she said.“I’m not the first Eagle Scout that’s a female, but in Tyler I am. It’s still kind of barely hitting me that I’ve achieved the rank, but it’s a new feeling.”
Shaw will be counted in the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts across the country this year.
Before 2018, girls weren’t able to join the Boy Scouts of America. In 2018, a girls-only group was added to the program offerings, which gave junior and high school students the same opportunities as Boy Scouts.
Those opportunities for girls now include working toward the Boy Scouts of America’s highest rank achievement of Eagle Scout, which takes an average of five years to achieve.
Those interested in joining the Boy Scout program have an age limit of 18. Past this age, progression is no longer permitted. Shaw was 17 when she joined the newly formed Scouts BSA Troop 369G for girls.
Within a few months, she would turn 18, so the possibility of working toward becoming Eagle Scout was out of reach.
But to her surprise, in order to give all newly joining members a chance to earn the Eagle Scout rank, the Boy Scouts of America offered a 24-month extension to Scouts with an 18th birthday occurring before they had an opportunity to complete all training and requirements.
“It was a race to finish. Those first four ranks are very difficult to get through, just because of the amount of requirements that there are. To get star rank, it’s a four-month requirement. For life rank, it’s four months, and for Eagle it’s six months,” Shaw said. “Already, there’s over a year of required time, just for those three ranks. They gave you just exactly enough time that you were able to remain on task with your requirements.”
Within two years of joining the Boy Scout program, Shaw achieved Eagle Scout.
Shaw saw the time extension as her opportunity to take a chance and work to achieve her goal. She would have to work hard, compromise and make sacrifices to earn a minimum of 21 merit badges and plan, lead and complete a service project for Kimberland Baptist Camp in Lindale.
She said her friends at Kimberland were willing to help her come up with a project she could do for them. Because of COVID-19 regulations, the camp didn’t have campers last year and struggled with staffers and events.
“I wanted to be a help to them. I worked with them refurbishing some signs that they had and posting them at different camp sites. They needed to get that done, and they just didn’t have the people to help them with that,” Shaw said.
Previously, since age 14, she was a member of the co-ed BSA program, Venture BSA. Venturing usually consists of high adventure activities and is less focused on skillsets than scouting.
“For Girl Scouts, I saw it as more of a club, not as much giving the opportunity to travel and learn the types of skills that you learn in Venturing. Just the atmosphere is different, more of the atmosphere I wanted to be in rather than Girl Scouts,” Shaw said.
Shaw has three brothers, and two are also in the Boy Scouts and have achieved Eagle Scout, so she grew up seeing their commitment and dedication to the organization. Her father was also a Boy Scout.
As a senior high school student in Tyler Junior College’s dual-credit program, Shaw worked four part-time jobs at school and at church.
“I laid everything out and I looked at it and I was just so overwhelmed with everything I would have to do and how much time I would have to spend on it,” she said. “I didn’t panic, but I got very close. I was really nervous about it. At that point, I was like, ‘Man, why am I doing this? This is so much work.’ But I really wanted to get to that point to be able to get the rank.”
Shaw had to quit two of her part-time jobs to focus on the last six months of her journey to Eagle Scout because she still had school.
“I spend that extra time working on requirements. By Christmas break, I was able to put away school and really focus on Scouting and just be really diligent, so that when school started back in January, I would be able to finish everything,” Shaw said.
She said it was a challenge, but thankfully she had a lot of advisers and encouragement from her parents who were involved throughout her journey.
Shaw said that if she could, she would do it all over again.
“It’s hard, but what an opportunity. For so many years, boys have had that opportunity to grow as leaders and as good citizens within their community and their churches, so for girls to now be part of that group of people is incredible,” she said. “It’s a huge opportunity that I don’t think should be passed up. Now that we have this opportunity to keep growing as a community of girls within Scouting, it’s definitely worth it.”