WEST CHESTER, Ohio (FOX19) - Nearly 15,000 Greater Cincinnati boys have earned scouting’s highest honor over the past century. Now, there’s a girl among the ranks.
Renee Bauer is the first member from the Tri-State in the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts, accomplishing the rank just two years after she was allowed to join what was previously the Boy Scouts.
Bauer, like many female scouts, used to be a “scout sibling,” dragged along to the meetings of her brother, Aaron. She soon discovered she was interested in what he was learning and joined when the Boy Scouts made the change.
“It kind of felt nice to challenge myself,” said Renee. “It’s been really fun getting to know all the girls in my troop and going on campouts. I wanted to get experience in things I didn’t really have experience in.”
On Feb. 1, 2019, Renee and thousands of girls aged 11-17 across the country were admitted following a rebrand of the organization. The Boy Scouts program became Scouts BSA, reflecting its move to admit girls. However, the name of the national organization, Boy Scouts of America, is still the same.
“Scouting’s changes from how we deliver the program is all about meeting the changes in our society and meeting the demands that families have on their limited time,” said Andy Zahn, scout executive for the Dan Beard Council. “It’s providing a one-stop shop for busy families.”
However, finding that one-stop shop was tough at first for the Bauer family, who lives in Sunman, In. Under the rebrand, boys and girls were equal in scouts, but still kept in separate troops. Options were limited, and Renee says the best fit for her was an hour away, in West Chester.
“It was the first and the closest troop for girls that we could find,” said Renee. “My mom was like, ‘Are you sure you want to go with this troop? You don’t want to go closer if we can find one?’ I was like, ‘No, I want to go here. These guys are cool!’””
So every Thursday night, her parents drive the hour each way to take Renee and Aaron to meetings. Renee is part of Troop 1974 and Aaron is in Troop 974, both of which meet at West Chester Nazarene Church.
To become an Eagle Scout, someone has to progress through scouting’s seven ranks, earn at least 21 merit badges in a variety of topics, serve in leadership positions and plan the iconic Eagle Scout project. According to national data, only about 6 percent of those who join scouts ever become Eagle Scouts.
Renee achieved her rank in as little time as it takes, earning 51 merit badges. For her Eagle Scout project, she landscaped around the American Legion Post 464 in St. Leon.
“Honestly, I’m more surprised than proud,” said Renee. “I was just trying to get it done before I had school so I had it done. I wasn’t even aiming to be the first!”
“Renee has done it on her own,” said scoutmaster Ron Bacu. “She is an incredible young woman and incredibly driven.”
The move to admit girls into the Boy Scouts of America is not without controversy. The Girl Scouts first sued the Boy Scouts in February 2018 over a trademark infringement, saying the change caused public confusion. Then in December, the Girl Scouts again sued, claiming how the Boy Scouts recruited was “highly damaging” to its organization.
“Respectfully, I would disagree with them,” Bacu remarked when asked how he would respond to those who might say girls don’t belong in Boy Scouts. “The same opportunities to go camping, learn survival skills, wilderness skills, leadership skills that scouts presents should be available for both sexes.”
“It’s a character building organization,” Troop 1974 Committee Chair Tony Ferraro echoed. “Whether it’s male or female, we need that now more than ever. That’s why I believe in the program.”
The Dan Beard Council serves about 23,000 families in 12 Greater Cincinnati counties, with about 10 percent female membership. Renee is the first, but the council says it has about a dozen more girls just a few months away from earning the Eagle rank.
“We are so proud of Renee for being the first, of what we know will be many, female Eagle Scouts in Cincinnati,” said Zahn.
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