When people think of Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, many think of cookies and popcorn sold by young children in vests with colorful patches. However, scouts are not only those aged 5-12.
Junior Ashton Edmeades has been a scout since he was 6 years old and has enjoyed it ever since.
“I love rafting and climbing, and I love the camping trips we go on,” Edmeades said. “I’ve also learned how to cook, which is a cool skill. A lot of people think Boy Scouts are nerdy and lame and forced by parents to do outdoor activities, but really, it’s just a bunch of kids who want to do epic and high adventure things.”
While many younger scouts focus on cookie or popcorn sales, older scouts have a very different goal in mind. For boys, the goal is to become an Eagle Scout, the highest possible ranking. This ranking is only given to boy scouts who help their community in a substantial way and develop leadership skills while completing their tasks.
“My Eagle Scout project was painting a basketball court for the Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Midtown Atlanta,” senior Andrew Bradburn said. “I had heard about the school after my church volunteered there, and I saw that they had no field space and only a couple of basketball hoops. I wanted to give them an actual court to play on and a sense of identity for the school, so I painted the court with the school colors and added a school crest at half court.”
Bradburn completed his project in July of 2015, and the process took about three months. Many times, however, it takes much longer for scouts to complete their projects. There are many other qualifications the scout has to meet before getting approved to begin work on the Eagle Scout project.
“To do the project, I had to complete more than eight community service hours and earn 21 merit badges,” Edmeades said. “It took three months of planning and five months to complete all the paperwork. I ended up installing 10 birdhouses along the south fork in Peachtree Nature Preserve. I had worked with the South Fork Conservancy in the past planting trees, and I asked the person who ran it if I could help by putting birdhouses on the trail to make it better for people passing by.”
Although Girl Scouts are not eligible to become Eagle Scouts, there’s an equally renowned award, the Gold Award, which also requires community service. The scout must also be a Senior rank in Girl Scouts.
“I’m doing [my Gold Award] on something that involves photography and LGBTQ homelessness in Atlanta,” said junior Cali Chalfant, a Girl Scout of 11 years. “I’m still in the beginning stages, but I feel really passionate about the issue and want to contribute to it in any way I can.”
The worldwide percentage of Girl Scouts who achieve Gold Awards is about 5.4 percent. For Boy Scouts, the likelihood of becoming Eagle Scouts is even more slim; only 5 percent of Boy Scouts become Eagle Scouts.
“Becoming an Eagle Scout is a long and hard process,” said junior Robert Weimar who has been a Boy Scout for nine years. “I really just don’t have the time to put in the work for that massive of a project. I’m not alone in this either; often as you approach the Eagle Scout rank, you also become increasingly committed in many other areas.”
Regardless of the honors that come with the Gold Award or becoming an Eagle Scout, many Grady Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts find pride and accomplishment simply by wearing the scout’s vest.
“I like Girl Scouts because I get to connect with other girls in my troop that I never really get a chance to see,” Chalfant said. “I get to help others that are not as fortunate as me by volunteering with my troop at homeless shelters. We can see that that stuff makes a difference in people’s lives.”