When his son Jack achieved Eagle Scout rank – the highest rank a scout can earn in Scouts BSA – John Embleton thought he was done with scouts for good. 

But that changed in 2017 when the Boy Scouts – now known as Scouts BSA – announced they would begin allowing girls to pursue the rank of Eagle Scout. John said when he told his daughter about the change, she jumped at the chance to join. 

“I got about half a sentence out and my daughter pipes in and says, ‘I want to be an Eagle Scout,’” John said. “I was like, ‘I thought I was retiring from all of this, but we’ll see what we can do.’” 

Zoe Embleton, now a 15-year-old sophomore at Mount Vernon School, had watched her brother go through scouts for years and said what drew her in was the opportunity to be in nature, build relationships, and work toward a goal outside of the realm of school.

“I was always pretty much interested,” she said. “I never really thought about me being in scouts. I did Girl Scouts for a few years, but it wasn’t really my thing.” 

Turns out, a number of other girls were also interested in joining up with Scouts BSA. On Feb. 1, 2019 – the date girls were officially allowed to join up – Zoe became one of the original members of Troop 160 out of Brookhaven’s St. Martin’s Episcopal Church. The troop, which now has about 12 members, was given the number 160 after female pilot Amelia Earhart’s airplane number, which was 16020. 

The girls of Scouts BSA Troop 160.

“We figured she was a woman pioneer, and these girls would be pioneers,” said John, who is the troop’s scoutmaster. “The first to pursue Eagle Scout.” 

Through the Scouts BSA program, the girls of Troop 160 are given the opportunity to do everything an all-boys troop would do – and in many cases, they do it much better, John said. Troop 160 has taken some amazing trips since its inception, including a trip to Charleston, S.C. where the girls were able to spend the night in an aircraft carrier. Over the next year or so, the troop will visit the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico – a hiking property that Scouts BSA owns – and will charter a 65-foot sailboat for a trip around The Bahamas. 

John said the troop took its first trip together the February when everything started. The troop went skiing in Maggie Valley, N.C., where the girls began work on earning their first merit badge. 

“It’s been amazing to watch these young ladies perform these tasks that are required for rank advancement and everything else,” John said. 

Katherine Davis, a 15-year-old scout who is a sophomore at Pace Academy, said her favorite trip so far has been the trip to Charleston and the stay in the aircraft carrier. Katherine – who is a Life Scout, just one rank away from Eagle – said she would encourage any girl on the fence to give scouts a shot.

“Go for it,” she said. “At least try. If you don’t think it will be your thing, you might be surprised.” 

Zoe agreed with Katherine. She said that while she knows being one of the first girls to be a scout is a big accomplishment, she sometimes forgets about it until someone else points it out. 

“When other people bring it up in conversation, they’re like, ‘You’re like a boy scout – you’re a girl that’s a boy scout,’” Zoe said. “It’s just something kind of cool to talk about.”

For John, the fact that these girls will be able to say they’re the first is the most exciting part. 

“I just can’t wait to see some of these young ladies tell stories about going into an interview, and they look at the resume and say, ‘This must be a mistake. It says here you’re an Eagle Scout,’” John said. “No, that’s not a mistake, I’m one of the very first women Eagle Scouts in the world.” 

Sammie Purcell

Sammie Purcell is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers.