Five girls in Anderson County will soon accomplish an honor that other women and girls have never attained — the Eagle Scout Award, the highest achievement in scouting.
Reagan Sokolowski, Haleigh Chapin, Sydney Veneris, Aven Alexander, and Shian Trible are part of the Inaugural Class of Female Eagle Scouts, who will simultaneously receive their honors in February of 2021.
The widely recognized award has been earned by 2.25 million boys since the founding of BSA in 1912, but not one girl. Scouts who earn the highest rank are eligible for scholarships and other opportunities.
When Troop 101 formed in early in 2019, all five girls had their minds set on becoming Eagle Scouts. As concurrent members of Palestine’s Sea Scout Ship 1 Unique, all five are completing requirements for both organizations.
Debra Veneris took on the role of scoutmaster, and has seen the troop grow to 12 girls — all of whom want to earn the Eagle Scout rank. To earn it, scouts must complete a series of requirements and merit badges, propose and complete a service project, and pass a board of review.
Thursday was the first day girls could sit for the review across the United States, and Reagan Sokolowski, 16, wanted to be part of that special day. She made earning the rank Oct. 1 a priority because her father, Stanley Sokolowski, and his two brothers are Eagle Scouts.
For her service project, Sokolowski wanted to honor auxiliary employees of Palestine Independent School District who cooked and delivered meals to students during the COVID-19 shutdown from mid-March through April and May.
Sokolowski and about 20 volunteers prepared and served lunch to 120 cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and custodial staff in the Palestine High School cafeteria on May 20. She says earning the Eagle Scout Award will pay off in the future.
“It will definitely give me more scholarship opportunities and will allow me to be accepted to different colleges,” Sokolowski said.
Haleigh Chapin, 17, of Elkhart, also completed a service project and is now waiting on a board of review to approve it. With money she raised, Chapin purchased supplies to sew 50 teddy bears to comfort children hospitalized at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas because they could only have one visitor during the pandemic. Chapin sewed some of the bears herself, but also organized volunteers to help with her project.
Sydney Veneris 16, is also working on her Eagle Scout project. A member of the varsity golf team at PHS, Veneris noticed the driving range at Wildcat Golf Course does not have golf bag stands. She recruited about 15 volunteers to help build four of the stands.
Veneris says that being in scouts is helping her grow.
“I’ve learned how to be more confident,” she said. “I’m able to get out my comfort zone when talking to people.”
Aven Alexander, 17, is raising money for a new sign with school lyrics inside the high school gym. She said most students do not know the song’s lyrics when it’s played, so she decided making the sign is something she can do for her school.
“It would encourage the aspect of community in our students,” Alexander said.
Shian Trible, 18, is planning to prepare gift bags for residents at Palestine Healthcare Center. The bags will contain lap blankets, socks, lotion, and large print crossword puzzle books.
Instead of raising money, Trible will ask people to donate the items to the project, which she will organize, package, and deliver to the center’s 62 residents, whom she wants to encourage.
“With COVID, they don’t get many gifts or visitors, so I wanted to give them a gift bag to make them feel they’re not forgotten,” Trible says.