SPRINGFIELD — In a historic first, three young women in the Tecumseh Council of Scouts BSA joined their male peers and nearly a thousand girls across the country who joined the ranks of Eagle Scouts this past Sunday. The young women, part of the inaugural class of girls in Boy Scouts of America, have contributed to their communities with projects that exemplify not only the leadership of their new scouting rank but the humility that comes with the organization’s distinction.
A total of 67 scouts were in the 2021 Tecumseh Council Eagle Scout class, 37 of whom are from Greene County. The Tecumseh Council, which serves kids in Champaign, Logan, Clark, Greene and Clinton counties, recognized its newest class of Eagle Scouts Sunday.
The guest of honor for the day was Brig. Gen. Rebecca O’Connor, Ohio Air National Guard chief of staff. O’Connor is the first female brigadier general in the Air National Guard in Ohio, currently commanding Ohio’s first mass vaccination clinic in Cleveland.
O’Connor’s message for the scouts, both young men and women, was twofold: she congratulated them on their accomplishment but reminded them that their work has only just begun.
“They may be the first, but they will not be the last,” O’Connor said of the three. “They are going to be those role models that those younger female scouts are looking up to. It’s a heavy responsibility, but I think it’s something that they will embrace and cherish. They made it, now let’s get some more coming.”
For some of these girls, being able to join scouts is an opportunity to officially be a part of something they’ve been tangentially participating in for much of their lives. Emily Smith grew up doing Boy Scout activities with her brother, Bennett, through the Venturing program.
“When I was in Cub Scouts, she came to every camp out,” Bennett said. “Boy Scouts was where she wasn’t able to come with. She participated in everything same as I did, I just got credit for it.”
When scouting became open to both boys and girls in 2017, Emily, a year and a half older than Bennett, would have just missed the opportunity to obtain scouting’s highest rank. Fortunately for her, the scouts granted an extension, allowing girls the opportunity to earn their eagle rank even though they normally would have aged out. Emily, now 19, was elated.
“I was over the moon,” she said. “I was like, oh my gosh, this is my chance, I can do it.”
Her Eagle Scout project was replacing benches in Beavercreek Community Park. The existing benches, made of composite boards, were starting to wear down. Emily removed and replaced all the boards, painted them and made them look nice and new. Similarly, Bennett’s project was creating five benches out of reclaimed materials from a tornado came through Russ Nature Center, using fallen trees and telephone poles. Between finding shady spots to place them, and getting all the preparatory work done ahead of time, Bennett and 20 volunteers were able to make all five benches in four hours.
The two had their dual court of honor together a week prior.
“That’s one of the most fun things, getting it with him,” Emily said. “We were able to do the whole pinning ceremony, the walk-up. It felt very fitting, because we’ve done it together for so long, to finally say we’ve reached this point together. I’m really glad we were able to share that; I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
Kylee Dutenhaber, a Cedarville native, spent 135 service hours photographing and documenting 6,000 headstones for the BillionGraves project. BillionGraves is a searchable database of GPS cemetery data, which helps people doing genealogy projects connect with their ancestors’ gravesites. Despite the whopping number of headstones she has indexed, spanning three different cemeteries, Dutenhaber is humble about her project.
For Dutenhaber, her place in the inaugural class of female scouts is also an opportunity to help others coming after her.
“I met a couple of Girl Scouts who were like, ‘if I had a chance to join Boy Scouts, I would.’ So when I heard about being in the novel class, I wanted to be there to show that I can be there, and I hope other kids can do the same.”
She originally got into scouting as part of a competition with her older brother.
“My brother was an Eagle Scout,” she said. “He got all his merit badges before he aged out, so I’m trying to do the exact same thing.”
Sam Meyer, an Urbana native, joked that she hardly had a choice in the matter when she joined Boy Scouts. Every summer, she joined her dad and her older brother at summer camp. Her Eagle Scout project was to create a climbing wall for Camp Shiffer in Champaign County, giving back to the camp where she grew up.
“I started out emailing them and asking ‘What needs to be done out there?’ They gave me a list of 20 things and I thought, ‘A rock wall would be really cool.’ ”
The females join their male peers in paving the way for future scouts, as well as giving back to their communities in ways that will last. City leaders in attendance commended the scouts for their service to the community.
“They are examples of leaders, but they are leaders who are servants,” Xenia Mayor Sarah Mays said. “They have achieved something that is to be highly respected, but they do it in a way that’s all about service, and that’s a character quality that deserves to be highlighted.
“The projects that they pick, they aren’t flashy. It isn’t ‘Look what I did,’ it’s ‘What needs to get done?’ That humility, I think, is such an admirable and worthwhile character quality, and that’s the kind of people we need in our communities.”
Daniel Paul Cobb of Fairborn spent his Eagle Scout project documenting the stories of Fairborn veterans. Cobb interviewed 13 people — veterans and the family members of veterans — spanning World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. The videos of his interviews are part of the city’s Veterans’ Memorial project.
“These Scouts are our future leaders,” Fairborn Mayor Paul Keller said. “Becoming an Eagle Scout is not an easy task. Picking a project and getting it funded and getting it accomplished is a major, major accomplishment.”
Alex Arehart, who earned the 2020 Glenn A. and Melinda W. Adams National Eagle Scout service project of the year award, is one scout who wanted to build something to last. Arehart attends the Dayton Regional STEM School, and at the time, outdoor lessons at the STEM School required students to sit on the ground. As he approached the milestone of his Eagle Scout project, Arehart wanted to do something ambitious. Using the skills he learned in school, he designed a multi-level outdoor seating unit, raised $8,200 and then brought it to life with the help of his peers in scouts and more than 40 volunteers.
Arehart, now 16, completed his project his sophomore year of high school.
“It was an iterative design process,” Arehart said. “The final project, the final design was the result of many drafts and meetings with school administration to find out what designs they would like best.”
Arehart received this distinction in June 2020, after that year’s luncheon, and during the coronavirus pandemic. Having completed his project more than a year ago, Sunday was his first opportunity to be formally recognized. Despite this, Arehart gave the credit to the other scouts being celebrated that day.
“The recognition is nice, but it’s more about seeing the impact of all these different Eagle Scout projects in the community,” he said.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.