- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 29, 2020

RIGBY, Idaho (AP) - When then-14-year-old Alexis Sharp went to Scout Camp in Island Park in July 2019, it was the first year girls were able to attend. Of the more than 400 people there, approximately 12 of the Scouts were girls.

One scoutmaster announced there would be a mile swim at the end of the week for anyone who wanted to make the attempt. Henry’s Lake was frigid. Those wanting to do it would have to train each morning leading up to it, the Post Register reported. Alexis overheard someone say he didn’t think it was possible for girls to swim a mile.

Alexis turned to her mother. “Mom, do you think I can do it?”

“Oh yeah,” replied Jenny Sharp, Alexis’ mother and scoutmaster.

When the day finally came for the mile swim, two boy Scouts and three adult scoutmasters had decided to attempt it. And so did Alexis, of course. She dove in the water.

“I was like, ‘I know I can do this,’” Alexis said.

And she did. She received the Mile Swim Award and a patch recognizing her achievement.

“That was one of my favorite memories,” Alexis said.

But that victory wasn’t the moment for which Jenny was most proud of her daughter. The moment that stood out to her was one in which Alexis exhibited her characteristic selflessness.

“As she passed (one boy), she noticed he was struggling. She slowed down and she talked to him the entire time,” Jenny said.

With Alexis’ encouragement, the two of them both crossed the finish line. However, everyone had started at different times to give the swimmers enough space. When the clocks were checked, Alexis had beat every boy by more than 20 minutes and every adult man by more than 10 minutes.

On Dec. 14, Alexis, now 15, became the Grand Teton Council’s first female Eagle Scout when she completed her board of review. A total of four girls in Idaho have now passed their Eagle Scout board of review. She is one of just a handful of girls in the country to have achieved the honor.

Becoming an Eagle Scout is no easy feat. It includes passing a number of requirements, including earning 21 merit badges (Alexis has 77), serving in a leadership role for six months, carrying out a significant service project in the community and passing a board of review. Only 6% of Scouts achieve this rank.

“Alexis has been a very self-motivated and driven young lady. … This is something that a very small number of Scouts, male or female, have been able to do,” said Tom Barry, charter organizational representative of the Grand Teton Council.

She achieved this rank all while maintaining a 3.9 GPA, taking two college classes as a sophomore and participating in her school’s swim team.

For her final project, Alexis built a mountain bike trail for the Rigby High School mountain bike team.

“I love mountain biking myself. It’s a really good stress reliever for me. And I thought, ‘How cool would it be to be able to say I built that mountain bike trail?’ Because it’s something that I’m going to end up using. And I’ve used it a ton,” Alexis said.

So she got permission from the property owner, asked for help from a local trail builder, walked the area to look for a natural route in the land and mapped it out. Then came the hands-on work. Alexis organized a team of 40 volunteers who helped clear the brush, trim trees and then dig out the trail.

Alexis has already received positive feedback on it after the Thunder Ridge High School mountain bike team used it for training.

Alexis’ brother, father and two uncles are all Eagle Scouts. She spent years picking up Scouting skills alongside her younger brother. “An outdoor junkie” whose favorite activities include swimming, mountain biking, skiing and camping, she loved learning it all. She watched as her younger brother earned badge after badge and eventually became an Eagle Scout at the age of 12. She, of course, earned nothing, despite learning the same skills.

“I’ve always thought that it was kind of dumb that the boys get to do all the fun, outdoorsy things,” Alexis said. “When nationals announced girls can do it too now, I jumped at the chance.”

Upon hearing the announcement that girls could join Boy Scouts of America beginning Feb. 1, 2019, she quickly reached out to the Grand Teton Council about joining.

“I got told that I had to have at least three girls in the troop in order to start it up,” Alexis said.

Alexis leaped into recruiter mode. She made pitches to all her friends (“You know all the really cool stuff all the boys get to do? We can do that now!”) then set up a booth on parent-teacher night at the middle school until she found enough girls to start a troop in February 2019.

Troop 100’s numbers have fluctuated over time, but today there are four girls in it. Jenny was, “told, not asked,” that she would be the troop’s scoutmaster.

But Jenny was happy to help. Alexis is not the first in the family to watch longingly as her brother become an Eagle Scout. Jenny was a lot like Alexis as a girl; “everything outdoors was (her) passion.” She went hunting, fishing and camping. But at church, she learned “homemaking skills” like cleaning, cooking and sewing. It wasn’t that Jenny thought those were bad skills, but she really wanted to learn how to build a campfire.

“Two of my brothers got their Eagle. And I was so jealous because when they got their Eagles, they got rifles. When I got the equivalent of the Eagle for girls through our church, I got a cedar chest,” Jenny said.

Both Jenny and Alexis love that Scouting has become a bonding activity for the whole family.

It hasn’t always been easy to be one of the Grand Teton Council’s first female Scouts, let alone first female Eagle Scout. Alexis and Jenny heard many negative comments. One of Jenny’s coworkers, who was involved in Scouting his whole life, quit upon the announcement that girls could join. Others told Alexis “it wasn’t right” for a girl to be an Eagle Scout. These comments didn’t come from the boys. Her fellow Boy Scouts thought it was “freaking awesome” she had gotten her Eagle. Alexis said the pushback was mostly from adults and girls her age. She believes those naysayers grew up in homes where they were told what is and isn’t possible for girls to achieve.

Alexis is proud that no one can ever again claim girls aren’t tough enough to become Eagle Scouts. She is living proof of that.

“It’s a big thing. Because now I’m going to be a part of history. And history cannot be rewritten. There’s always going to be a record of it somewhere,” Alexis said.

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