LITTLETON, Colo. (CBS4) – Feb. 8 is National Boy Scouts Day, the anniversary of the establishment of the Boy Scouts of America. This year, Feb. 8 was a monumental day for BSA's female scouts too. It's the day young women, who completed their requirements, were awarded the rank of Eagle – the organization's highest honor.
Several Coloradans are among the group.
In 2019, the Boy Scouts became known as Scouts BSA. It's a symbol of inclusivity after the organization began allowing girls to join. Charlotte Beatson, a member of the inaugural female Eagle Scouts class, never let gender norms stand in her way.
"I spent a lot of time researching what troops were open for girls and who was interested in having girls in their troops. After I found a couple that were interested, I went and asked my female friends if they were interested in joining. Three were interested and two of them are now Eagles with me," said Beatson, a junior at Heritage High School.
Earning the rank of Eagle is not an easy task.
In 2019, 8% of all Scouts BSA completed the requirements to become Eagle Scouts. Mark Truax, chairman of the Denver Alumni Chapter of the National Eagle Scout Association, says there are 15 young women in the inaugural class of female Eagles Scouts in the Denver area.
"We still have a long way to go. There's a lot of people who still believe that we have Girl Scouts, and then we have Boy Scouts. There's a lot of politics behind it, but for an organization to continue to survive, it has to evolve. Boy Scouts has been around for 111 years," said Truax, who also earned the rank of Eagle.
Beatson proved everyone who said she didn't belong in BSA wrong, and then some.
"I was talking to a lot of my male friends about it and three of them actually told me I shouldn't join because it's not for girls. I did it anyway," said Beatson. "There's so much that Scouts does to give back to other people. There's no point in not letting everybody join."
Beatson used to be a Girl Scout, but the program was cancelled at her school because there weren't enough girls involved. During that time, Beatson already had her heart set on being a Cub. Her younger brother, Alex, was her first glimpse into the organization she knew she belonged in.
"I used to follow him around to all of his activities. That's where I started just doing everything he did. What drew me into it was all the exciting activities Cub Scouts do. The outdoors is for everybody," said Beatson.
Beatson's younger brother reached the rank of Eagle before her, but he also got a head start. Truax says the average age a boy reaches Eagle is around 17. Beatson completed the requirements to reach Eagle at 16, with a fraction of the time often needed to do it.
"The nice thing about scouting is you do it at your own pace. She didn't get to start at 11 or 12. This is a great thing scouting movement. It allows girls the same opportunities that other Eagles are afforded and the leadership skills that go along with it," said Truax.
Truax says the inclusion of girls is a benefit to local communities and the country. Beatson is proof. For her Eagle Scout project, she designed and built a greenhouse at St. Mary's Parish and School that also serves as a learning lab. The food grown there is given to people in need.
"I started a food drive when I was five years old. I heard there was an earthquake in Haiti and I wanted to give people food. With this little project, I wanted to provide a way for people to have access to fresh produce. We're growing produce in there for the homeless," said Beatson.
She says her biggest takeaway from scouts has been the lessons in leadership, but Beatson was a leader long before she received the rank of Eagle. While she was busy earning badges, she was paving the way for young girls to come.
Beatson could tell you a story behind every badge on her sash. She has a lot to be proud of and a lot to elaborate on, but when asked if being a girl ever made her feel limited, Beatson simply said, "Never."
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