She’s only 14 but Catherine Archer just may become one of Illinois’ first female Eagle Scouts.
If so, Archer will join a small group of females across the U.S. as part of the inaugural class of girl Eagle Scouts on Feb. 8, 2021.
Archer, a student at Plainfield South High School, is also involved in a local Girl Scout troop, she said. But she was always familiar with the activities of Boy Scout Troop 2561 because her brother, who earned his Eagle Scout rank in 2017, was a member.
"I grew up watching him do all these interesting activities and get to have these opportunities on learning how to be a leader,": Archer said. "That was something that was really interesting to me."
So when Boy Scouts of America changed its name in February 2019 to Scouts USA, Troop 2561 created a sister troop – Troop 2562 – and Archer joined it, she said.
Both scouting organizations emphasis leadership and life skills, Archer said,
"But they teach them in a different way,” Archer said.
Like Cub Scouts, Girl Scouting is very age dependent, whereas Boy Scouts focuses more on rank, Archer said.
“We progress on our journey at our own pace,” Archer said.
Qualifications for the Eagle Scout rank include actively serving a troop for at least six months, earning a minimum of 21 badges and completing a service project for a religious institution, school or the scou'ts community, according to the Scouts BSA website at scouting.org.
Archer has already completed her service project: a fundraiser for Bags of Hope, a nonprofit that provides bags of food to District 202 families in need.
That project is expected to go before a Scouts BSA review board between Oct. 1 and Jan. 21, 2021.
Archer's project, which she held Aug. 8, Aug. 9 and Aug. 11. had three parts.
The first was educating the community about food insecurities, which she did by creating a flyer about the food drive and inviting volunteers to help distribute them.
The second part was holding the actual food drive.
“Bags of Hope had recently, because of the covid experience, almost double the amount of people that need the food and they didn't quite have the resources to feed everyone," Archer said. "So they were gong to be running out of food soon.”
Archer said the project was “personal to her” because she has a few friends that directly benefit from that program. She’s thankful the community supported her efforts.
“We raised 8,000 pounds of food,” Archer said. “It was enough to feed about 2,000 kids.”
The third part was checking the food for safety (such as expiration dates), sorting it and then bagging some of it, she said
Archer said she plans to stay in Girl Scouts through high schools (grades nine and 10) and earn her Gold Award, which is the highest award for Girl Scouts.
And she’s planning to remain with Scouts BSA “beyond the youth side of things” after she turns 18.
“I can choose to become an assistant scout master and continue on from there,” Archer said.
She encouraged other girls to consider becoming involved with Sports BSA.
“It will change you as a person in an amazing way,” Archer said.