Photography by AMY ORCHARD

Emma Duncan says she knew the minute she heard girls could become Eagle Scouts that Scouting was the right place for her. But if you count her old journal entry, she knew long before that.

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“I actually found just a few weeks ago, an old journal entry of mine from when I was really young about how I wanted to be an Eagle Scout,” says Duncan. “And so that was kind of cool, because I’d completely forgotten that.”

Duncan started her Eagle Scout journey when girls were allowed to join in 2019, a year after Boy Scouts of America allowed girls to become Cub Scouts. She had previously been part of Girl Scouts of the USA at a younger age but felt the group wasn’t quite right for her.

“My Girl Scout troop didn’t do a lot of camping, which is something I really wanted to do,” Duncan says.

Instead she and her father joined organizations like High Adventure Treks For Dads and Daughters and Sons to fulfil her outdoor adventuring side. When Duncan heard that the Eagle Scout program was available to girls, she was ready.

“It’s really neat to finally have that chance, because it wasn’t ever something that I thought of as a possibility,” she says.

Her dad worked with Duncan to create a new girl’s troop and helped lead the troop its first few years. That group is now 40 strong and made up of young girls working to become Eagle Scouts.

“Everyone gets along really, really well,” Duncan says. “There’s just such a culture of supporting each other, which is just so special.”

Duncan was among the first class of female Eagle Scouts in history. About 10 other girls joined her in a Dallas-Fort Worth Eagle Ceremony in February. Roughly 1,000 girls nationwide joined the ranks this year, too.

To reach Eagle Scout status, Duncan worked her way to 21 merit badges, seven ranks and completed an Eagle Project. The five-month project involved constructing educational display tables at the Trinity River Audubon Center with the help of about a dozen Scouts.

The project, along with the process of becoming an Eagle Scout, has taught Duncan a lot about leadership, she says. At Southwestern University in the fall, she’ll combine her new leadership skills with her love for music in pursuit of a music education degree.

“The whole point of the project isn’t necessarily to build something all by yourself,” says Duncan. “It was really good practice … I really feel like I achieved the spirit of the project, which is enabling others to succeed.”

Duncan spent a portion of this summer helping future Eagle Scouts at summer camp before heading to college.

“I find that it is pretty helpful to have someone who’s experienced that to be able to help them through it,” she says. “And to give perspective and tips and sort of mentor them through the process, because it’s something they haven’t experienced before.”

For Duncan and her fellow first female Eagle Scouts, there was no set standard for how long it takes to become an Eagle Scout, but their process was about two years faster than most boys reach the same rank, Duncan says.

“I’m really proud,” she says. “I wrote my college essay about the experience, and it sort of helped me realize how meaningful it was. It was really nice to sort of start the process together and end it as a group, too.”