High schoolers among first girls in US to earn Scouting’s highest rank
Two young women from northwest Ohio are among the nation’s inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts. The prestigious distinction of Eagle Scout was only available to boys until this year.
Cari Varner, a junior at Anthony Wayne High School, and Meg Bode, a sophomore at Ottawa Hills High School, were the first two girls from the four counties of northwest Ohio to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. These counties are part of Erie Shores Council of Boys Scouts of America. Varner is a member of Troop 219 in Perrysburg and Bode is part of Troop 197 in Ottawa Hills.
The girls are among hundreds in the nation to earn the rank of Eagle Scout this year. The program’s highest rank is only earned by about 6 percent of Scouts. Requirements include taking on leadership roles within their troop and their community; earning merit badges that cover a broad range of topics including first aid, safety, civics, business and the environment; and researching, organizing and completing a community service project.
Learning lifelong skills
The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) began welcoming girls into its Scouts BSA program for youth ages 11 to 17 in February 2019. Both Varner and Bode joined as soon as they were eligible.
“My brother was always a Scout, so I watched him have all these adventures and opportunities and I always thought that was really cool and I wanted to experience those things too,” explains Varner, whose older brother also earned the Eagle Scout rank.
Varner’s final project benefitted Sunshine Communities in Maumee, a nonprofit organization which supports people of all ages with developmental disabilities. Varner rehabilitated the gazebo on the campus to create a wheelchair-accessible “rabbit haven” where residents can easily enter and interact with the therapy animals. The project involved adding a plywood floor, removing benches, constructing a box for the rabbits that also serves as a bench, and installing screens and a new door.
Varner says she is honored to be in the first class of female Eagle Scouts. “I never thought I would have this opportunity, let alone be in the first class,” she says. “I’m really thankful for the people who were around me to help me get to Eagle.”
Girls can do ‘guy stuff’
Bode, too, followed in the footsteps of two older brothers who made Eagle Scout. She was aware of how much work goes into earning the rank, but says she also knew it would benefit her in the future. In addition to the skills gained, individuals who earn the esteemed Eagle Scout rank can reference it for academic, vocational and military recognition, including scholarships and advanced enlistment grades.
Bode has spent the past four summers working at Camp Miakonda. She plans to become an assistant Scoutmaster to help guide younger girls.
She says she knew she wanted to do something for wildlife for her final service project. After spending two months working through her village council and gathering signatures from neighbors to gain approval, Bode constructed and installed five elevated nesting boxes for wood ducks in a meadow along the Ottawa River off Brookside Drive.
“It’s an honor to be in the first female Eagle Scout class,” says Bode, adding that it shows the world that “girls can do ‘guy stuff.’”