It’s been just two years since the Boy Scouts of America–now colloquially known as the more inclusive “Scouts BSA”–announced it would begin admitting female scouts into its highest rank: Eagle. This year, the first young women are achieving that rank, and one of them lives right here in Westchester County.
Rebecca Gilder, a high school senior from White Plains, will become the county’s very first female Eagle Scout, after earning her minimum 21 merit badges and completing her Eagle community service project.
“I joined the Girl Scouts in sixth grade. When I turned 14, my troop switched over into a Venturing Crew,” Gilder says, referring to the more physically active coed groups for 14- to 21-year-olds. Scouts BSA began admitting girls in 2019. “I joined Troop 613 in the Summer of 2019, and I have been striving for Eagle Scout ever since.”
The final step in that long journey is an Eagle Scout Service Project, a noncommercial community betterment effort that does not benefit the BSA or its associated groups, but rather endeavors to aid the community at large. Projects can take hundreds of hours, from written proposal to final unveiling.
For her project, Gilder built a Little Free Library–you may have seen them around, especially in Westchester’s more urban corners: small, brightly colored, weather-proof cabinets full of children’s books free to take or add to.
“My grandparents live a mile away from me and, every Saturday, my family would walk to and from their house for lunch. Recently, a neighbor of theirs had set up a Little Free Library book exchange, and I stopped there every time,” says Gilder. “I love reading. When I’m in school, I can usually go through one book a week.”
Gilder invited local children to help decorate their new library, and sure enough it was well within use within only a few hours. Not surprisingly for an Eagle Scout, Gilder is awfully modest about her historic moment.
“I know Eagle Scout is a really big accomplishment, but my brother became an Eagle Scout and I have been surrounded by scouting for years,” she says. “Eagle Scout feels like it is just the next step in the program.” One small step for a woman, but one giant leap for women like her.