WHO: Austin teen Abby Winkelman.

WHAT: She’s one of the first girls in Texas to earn the rank of Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America.

WHY IT’S SO GREAT: In February 2019, when the Boy Scouts changed their name to Scouts BSA and announced that girls could join the organization for the first time in its 108-year history, Winkelman, then twelve, was ecstatic. Having accompanied her older brother on camping trips and other scouting events since he was in the Cub Scouts, she’d always been jealous of the climbing, fishing, and welding he got to learn while earning merit badges. So Winkelman quickly signed up. And since the BSA had also announced that the first group of girls would be eligible to become Eagle Scouts in the fall of 2020, she immediately set her sights on the achievement. 

“When they said that they were gonna recognize the first group of girls for Eagle Scout, I just thought, ‘Wow, I wanna be in that group,” Winkelman says. “That would be amazing, my name in there, and also just to set that goal for myself and achieve it.”

Abby throwing a hatchet.

Courtesy of Don Winkelman

But she didn’t have a whole lot of time. While many Boy Scouts spend three or more years working toward becoming an Eagle Scout, Winkelman had only a year and a half in which to climb through the six preceding ranks. She also needed to earn at least 21 merit badges, as well as present a detailed plan for an Eagle Scout project that would be accepted by the BSA board of review. She did it all. In a final project that took 373 hours, Winkelman designed and built benches and wheelchair ramps for the Anderson Mill Garden Club in Volente, just west of Austin. She’s grateful to her uncle, a woodworker who welcomed her into his home shop.

 “We spent hours there cutting wood, and he taught me how to use a jigsaw and all these other power tools,” Winkelman says. “And I learned how to make a concrete ramp. You have to put wood support beams and posts—it’s just a whole process. And I know how to do it now.”

Winkelman’s project was accepted by the Scouts board of review on October 2, which makes her one of the first girls in the country to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. She’s gotten some press adulation for the achievement, but Winkelman says she didn’t want to become an Eagle Scout just for the attention. “I did it for other girls to notice that I got it and to inspire them to achieve their goals,” she says.

 

Correction 10/23: A previous version of this article stated that Winkelman was thirteen when she joined Scouts BSA. The article has been amended to reflect that she was twelve.