Rochester may see first female Eagle Scout
ROCHESTER — For a Boy Scout, reaching the rank of Eagle Scout is the ultimate goal, the culmination of years of diligent hard work and a badge of honor that is held for life. Now, two years after the organization opened its doors to girls, the first female Eagle Scouts are being awarded the same honor.
Audrey Blanchard of Rochester has always wanted to be an Eagle Scout, since long before the Boy Scouts of America rebranded themselves the Scouts BSA and welcomed her to their ranks in 2019.
Audrey’s father, Michael Blanchard, is her scoutmaster for the Boy Scouts. Her mother is her troop leader for the Girl Scouts. Her brother became an Eagle Scout in 2016. In short, Audrey was born into scouting, but that’s not to say that the challenge of reaching Eagle was an easy one.
“It’s a lot of work for these kids,” said Michael, “an awful lot of work.”
On Saturday, July 17, Audrey completed her last major requirement for the ranking, putting her on the precipice of becoming the first female Eagle Scout in the entire South East service area of Narragansett Council.
To reach the rank of Eagle Scout, a scout has to earn 21 merit badges, hold the rank of Life Scout for at least six months, serve in a leadership role in the scouts, provide character references, and, crucially, complete a service project benefiting the community.
“Being able to achieve Eagle is a big accomplishment because of all the hard work it takes,” Audrey said.
For her project, Audrey decided to build picnic tables for the YMCA campsite, where the scouts often meet, and clear away the underbrush around the water pump and tomahawk throwing areas of the camp.
Audrey said that she was inspired to do a hands-on, building project by her brother, who built a boat ramp at Mary’s Pond for his own service project when he was working to become an Eagle Scout.
“A lot of my motivation and inspiration came from my brother,” she said, adding that the boat ramp was something he could look at and be proud of. “I’ve always liked crafting so this is kind of like a big craft project.”
Audrey said that Lowe’s in Wareham donated about $350 worth of picnic table kits and stain for the project, after Audrey talked them out of donating premade tables.
“I wanted to build them myself instead of getting them pre-built,” she said.
Normally, a Boy Scout has from the time that they join scouts at 10 or 11, until they turn 18 to complete the requirements for becoming an Eagle Scout. Even with over seven years to make it happen, only about 6% of scouts actually achieve the rank, with many of them working up until their birthdays to get everything done, according to Michael.
If Audrey is approved for the rank, she will have done it in less than three years and will join the ranks of just over 1,000 other female Eagle Scouts.
“I’ve known for a while that if I got the chance, I’d be an Eagle,” she said, adding that from early on, she and her dad knew that she would have to pace herself and would set deadlines for certain requirements that they called “drop dead days.”
Now, all that’s left to do is to finish the paperwork and submit it for approval, which usually takes a couple months, according to Michael.
“It’s a proud moment, not only as a scoutmaster but as a father,” said Michael. “I’ve been a scoutmaster since 2003 and I’ve had a lot of Eagle Scouts, but it’s always a really special thing when it’s one of your own.”
Audrey, who graduated from Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School in the computer aided design, or CAD, program this year, is planning to attend Bridgewater State University in the fall with a major in Biology.
She wants to go into forensic science, a field she discovered while earning her fingerprinting merit badge with a family friend who works as a State Trooper and forensic investigator.
Regardless of where life takes her, Audrey says her time with the scouts has made her a more well rounded person and prepared her for whatever comes next.
“I feel prepared for the real world knowing how to keep myself safe during an emergency or how to do my taxes,” she said. “I feel like I’ll be taken seriously.”