Taking flight

Two University of Missouri freshmen among inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.

March 10, 2021
Contact: Sara Diedrich, diedrichs@missouri.edu, 573-882-3243

Sophie Froese, an MU freshman, is among the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.

Sophie Froese, an MU freshman majoring in art and psychology, is among the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.

MU freshmen Sophie Froese and Emily Schmidt have made history.

The 19-year-olds are among the inaugural class of less than 500 females across the United States who earned the rank of Eagle Scouts last month with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) – no small feat to reach in the two years since the program began accepting young women. The rank requires 21 merit badges and a community service project, accomplishments that can take some Scouts up to eight years to achieve.

For Froese and Schmidt, the once-in-a-lifetime milestone was more about seizing an opportunity for personal growth and having fun than earning a place in history. Still, they’re proud to be trailblazers.

“Earning the Eagle Scout rank helped me become more independent,” said Froese, who grew up in Columbia and is double majoring in art and psychology. “Going through this whole process has really shown me that I have the ability to lead others and myself.

“Until I joined Scouts, no one had ever called me a leader,” she added. “I was never picked first to be in charge of anything or anyone. I’ve become more confident. I’ve proven I can set goals for myself and achieve them.”

Froese, who is a member of Troop 242, earned 32 merit badges; her community service project was painting a mural of a world map at the City of Refuge, a local nonprofit that helps resettle refugees. Refugee families can mark on the mural map where they are from originally.

“I learned it’s OK to dream big and to bite off more than you can chew sometimes,” Froese said.

Aaro Froese, who also is an Eagle Scout and a district executive with BSA, encouraged his daughter to join the Scouts when the organization began accepting young women.

“Scouting is all youth run,” he said. “We have the safety net of adult leaders, but it’s the youth who are making decisions. Sophie really took to the leadership like nobody’s business.”

MU Freshman Emily Schmidt is among the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.

MU Freshman Emily Schmidt, a film production major, is among the first 500 young women to become Eagle Scouts.

Like Sophie Froese, Schmidt, a film production major from Clever, Missouri, near Springfield, had a family legacy with scouting. Her dad, uncle and brother are all Eagle Scouts, and she longed to carry on the family tradition.

“I pretty much grew up in the BSA program,” said Schmidt, who was a Girl Scout before co-founding a Scouting Venturing Crew at 14 with her brother. Venturing is a co-ed opportunity for young people ages 14 to 21 to participate in outdoor activities, such as canoeing and hiking. Besides being an Eagle Scout, Schmidt is among a few young women nationwide who have earned the Brotherhood level of the Order of the Arrow, BSA’s honor program.

“Becoming an Eagle Scout allowed me to grow more as a leader,” Schmidt said. “I became more of a role model for the younger girls in my troop. I had more experience in the Scouting program and was able to grow and learn and pass those skills on to the younger girls I interacted with.”

Schmidt, who is a member of Troop 208, came down with COVID-19 in the fall and was quarantining in Columbia when it came time to do her community service project. With approval to run her leadership via Zoom, Schmidt was able to virtually oversee the painting of 24 fire hydrants on the main roadways in her hometown.

“My troop leader carried me around on a tablet, and I checked in on everybody as they were painting,” she said. “It pretty much went off without a hitch.”

Not long ago, her Scout training came in handy when a student fainted in her residence hall, and she rushed to help. Schmidt knew immediately to lay the student on the ground face up and raise both feet above the individual’s heart. The student recovered.

“I went right into Scout mode and knew exactly what to do,” she said.

John Fabsits, a Scout executive with the Great River Council in Columbia, said about 50,000 Scouts achieve the rank of Eagle Scout each year. While what a person achieves as a teenager often loses its significance on a resume, earning the rank of Eagle Scout holds its value over time.

“It sticks with a person long after they achieve it,” he said. “When someone says, ‘Hey, I am an Eagle Scout,’ you think, ‘There’s an upstanding person, a person who overcame obstacles, a self-starter. We could use a few more Eagle Scouts.”

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