1st BI girl earns BSA Eagle Scout rank

Avery Emerson’s dad, brother and uncle were Eagle Scouts.

So, when the Boy Scouts of America opened its doors to girls, Avery signed up the first day. “I was waiting to file the paperwork.” She recently became the first girl ever from Bainbridge Island to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

Avery was in Girl Scouts when she was younger, but said they were mostly into arts and crafts. She always enjoyed the outdoor events better that she got to go on with her brother. “I grew up in a Scouting family. That heavily influenced me wanting to join.” She also heard his stories of backpacking, rock climbing and whitewater rafting. “I’m very outdoorsy.”

In middle school, she joined Venturing, a coed BSA program, but it did not allow them to advance to Eagle. So, she and about four other girls joined Boy Scouts and started their own troop. They share materials with a local boys troop, but, “We’re separate for the most part; do our own things.”

Avery said she didn’t feel the same gender discrimination that she’s heard about in other parts of the country. “Within our own troop, we had equal opportunities.” Even at larger camps in summer, she didn’t have issues. “It is very weird, especially the first year, camping with so many boys.” She said she did hear locally that some boys quit Scouts when girls were allowed in. She also said some local people were very vocal about not wanting girls to join.

Avery, a senior at Bainbridge High School, said girls who like the outdoors should join BSA. “You get a lot of adventures you wouldn’t normally get to do.” She said her favorite experience was a weeklong backpacking trip in New Mexico. “I love being out in nature. It’s very refreshing for me.” They climbed Mount Baldy, “which was really hard, but very rewarding. The view was amazing.”

She said they went over 50 miles, and it wasn’t always fun. “We butted heads,” and thought, “I cannot take another step,” along with getting caught in the middle of thunderstorms. But near the end, they hiked a peak and looked a long way away at Mount Baldy and realized just how far they had gone. “Going into it you don’t think you can do it.”

Avery, who is in Running Start online with Olympic College, said many people have misconceptions about Scouting. She did even though she was always so close to it. She said some troops may be strict and regimental, but hers was laid back. She said her leaders would also do whatever is needed to help you reach your goals. “There’s so many opportunities.”

Avery said the toughest thing about being a Scout is reaching Eagle. “There’s a reason it’s so hard to get Eagle,” she said, adding there are a lot of skill requirements. “It takes a lot of dedication. It’s the most difficult, but most rewarding.”

She was the only one out of the five founding troop members to earn Scout’s highest honor. She said that’s because they were all involved with sports, so they missed a number of the weekend outings needed. COVID-19 restrictions also limited some of their participation. They just “aged out” before they could get it all done.

As for her Eagle Scout project, she wanted to do something for Helpline House, where she had volunteered for years. Her mom was food bank manager during the pandemic, and they would put together grocery bags of food for people in need to pick up each week. Avery also helped run the food pantry and project backpack for kids.

Next year, she will be going to the University of Washington, majoring in environmental studies. So her project was related to that.

Food that Helpline House can’t give out for whatever reason is given to a local farmer who uses it to feed his animals and for fertilizer. She said food waste is a big problem at all food banks, so she wanted to help. So she, with the help of friends and other Scouts, built a food shelter to protect that food from the elements.

“I could keep helping them even when I wasn’t there personally in the future,” she said.

Other Eagle Scouts

Almost as historic as her accomplishment, all of the Scouts in the BHS class of 2022 will obtain their Eagle Scout ranking by graduation in June.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is extremely rare. Each year, fewer than 7 percent of all Scouts attain that rank, Dan Miller of Seattle Boy Scouts of America says in an email.

Locals who did it include:

Girls Troop 1804 American Legion Hall

• Avery Emerson: Built storage system for food project with surplus vegetables at Helpline House.

Troop 1564 American Legion Hall

• Eli Hutt: Built a trail with stairs and handrails, removed ivy and removed trash at St. Cecelia Parish.

Troop 1496 BI Masonic Center

• Ryan Alsberg: Created bike racks at Grace Church.

• Brenden Hungerford: Built swinging porch chair for Cave Park historical building.

• AJ Jensen Lopez: Built picnic table at Bainbridge High School.

• Mace Korytko: Built stairs and restored meditation trail at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.

• Justin Martin: Created accessible picnic table for Stevens House.

• Max Strom: Built six cedar benches at Moritani Preserve.

• Dylan Tyler: Made wooden structure for Bainbridge Youth Services’ annual “Hope Glows” event.

• Levi Field-Bennett (Eagle Harbor High): Built tiny food bank kiosk at Safeway.

Troop 1565 Bethany Lutheran Church

• Derek Church and James Dagal: Built information kiosk, did trail maintenance and removed invasive species at Cougar Creek Preserve.

• Ben Meier: Landscaped newly renovated Fort Ward Community Hall.

• Josh Miller: Built bathroom shelter at new Agate Pass Preserve.

• Mitchell Teresi: Installed new fence, posts and gate at Bainbridge Island Saddle Club.

• Lucien Willey: Built information kiosk, removed invasive species at Quitslund Family Farm.

• Evan Yeung: Built information kiosk at Sakai Park.

Miller says the Scouts took different paths in obtaining the rank of Eagle.

Such as, the 2009-10 kindergarten class at The Island School had just nine boys in it, three of whom joined Cub Scouts in different packs. All three — Alsberg, Field-Bennett and Miller — became Eagle Scouts, as did Korytko, who came to The Island School in 2012. Three Scouts — Miller, Teresi and Yeung — started in Cub Scout Pack 4496, chartered by Rolling Bay Presbyterian Church, when they were 6-years old. They have stayed together in the same Scouting units ever since.

There are four Scout BSA Troops on BI and multiple Cub Scout Packs, as well as opportunities for Venturing and Sea Scouts, all under the Scouting umbrella. Cub Scouting is for girls and boys in kindergarten through fifth grade, or ages 5 to 10. Kids who are older than 10 or who have completed the fifth grade are eligible to join BSA.

For more go to seattlebsa.org.