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IOWA CITY — Being a trailblazer as one of the first women to achieve the Eagle Scout rank in Boy Scouts of America is something Greta Stock, 18, has gotten used to.
That attitude is not a matter of cockiness, but rather the mindset of a woman who had to work to earn respect in a world she was prohibited from participating in just a few years ago.
“It was more difficult than I thought it was going to be,” said the University of Iowa freshman, who in two years moved through seven ranks to become an Eagle Scout — something that her male counterparts who get involved earlier in BSA usually do in about seven years.
In fact, she beat her own brother, involved in Scouts years before Greta, in earning the coveted rank.
“That was my motivation,” she said.
Undeterred by the negative sentiments toward girls and women being allowed to fully participate in Scouts, Stock set out in Annapolis, Maryland’s Troop 396 to prove them wrong.
“I saw all the backlash when I Googled it,” she said. “The number one thing you do to beat the backlash isn’t to go online. It’s to be an Eagle Scout.”
With the requirements to achieve the rank no different for her than for any other boy, she set out to achieve something objective that naysayers couldn’t easily argue with.
But along the way, she became more than a participant. Her visible example as a mentor in a first-year program for girls served as a reminder to other girls in Scouts that they belong, no matter what men may say.
“I wanted to make them feel like they were supposed to be there,” she said.
In a male-dominated space, that involves more than a passive presence, though.
“I don’t think the girls should’ve been allowed in, they’re not capable,” she heard a group of men say once at camp.
“You can’t talk about that stuff out loud,” she replied, confronting them as she reminded them of the duties in their paid positions. “People can hear you. Scouting it supposed to be accepting.”
As a senior patrol leader, she was not referred to by her title, and other boys would often go to male senior patrol leaders first. When boys lost a portion of bathroom space so girls could have bathrooms, she heard the complaints.
But on Feb. 8, she proved that girls are, in fact, capable and deserving, when she was recognized alongside 1,000 other young women with the highest rank on the BSA’s 111th anniversary.
“It does mean a lot to me, that I can say,” Stock said. “But it meant a lot to my parents and the adult leaders in my troop, and that means a lot. A lot of the adult leaders remember what it was like before (girls were allowed to participate.)”
A creative writing and French major, the Maryland native with family roots in Iowa comes from a proud family tradition of Scouting. Her grandfather, Larry Hatch, earned the rank in 1953, in addition to the distinguished Silver Beaver award.
Though he died before Greta was born, those who knew him said he would’ve been proud.
“It’s full circle, the family experience in keeping a legacy going,” said Holly Stock, Greta’s mother. “It warmed my heart that even though I lost my dad when I was young, she could come full circle and it brought back memories of my dad. He’d surely be proud of her.”
Holly said that Greta has always had “nerves of steel,” and was up for challenges as a child.
“I’m just so very proud that she could be a trailblazer and set the course for future girls to be able to join the party and have fun just like everybody else,” Holly said.
Darlene Hatch, Greta’s grandmother from Marion, said Larry would have been ecstatic.
“It was just a given,” for boys in the family to be in Scouts, she said.
Now, that given can apply to girls in the family, too. Out of Darlene’s two children and four grandchildren, Greta is the first to become an Eagle Scout.
“We’re elated that this opportunity is now available to even more youth — young men and women alike,” said Joel Waymire, president of the BSA’s Mid-Iowa Council, in a February news release.
On average, only about 6 percent of scouts earn the pinnacle rank of scouting. To earn Eagle Scout rank, scouts are required to take on leadership roles within their troop and community, earn 21 merit badges across a broad range of topics and complete a large community service project.
Greta’s project, a mural brightening a dark hallway in her Annapolis church, displays 1 Timothy 4:12, a verse encouraging youth to not be deterred by anyone looking down on them due to their age.
Stock has plans to someday become a pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, where her experience as a woman in a male-dominated field also will come in handy. As of 2018 only 32 percent of ELCA clergy were women.
The Eagle Scout was inspired by her own pastor, a woman, to ensure inclusivity remains a part of the church for future generations.
“There’s a lot of people out there that are using … Christianity as a way of putting down or discriminating against transgender people, gay people, LGBT people in general,” she said. “And it’s driving a lot of people away from the church.”
With the good she thinks the church still does, she wants to ensure the institution survives to benefit people the way it helped her.
“I didn’t just want to stand by,” she said. “I was seeing all these issues, and rather than leaving it, I thought I’d make a change myself.”
She sees the parallels between her journey in scouting and what she hopes to achieve in the church.
“It is important to have a female presence in all spaces, including the church,” Greta said.
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