Southampton teen first in area to earn top Scouting awards

  • Abby Thibodeau of Southampton recently became an Eagle Scout in BSA Troop 124 Westfield. With this accomplishment, she is now the first girl in western Massachusetts to have achieved the highest achievement in Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts; Eagle Scout and Gold Award, respectively. ​​​​​​STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOW

  • Southampton resident Abby Thibodeau recently became an Eagle Scout in BSA Troop 124 Westfield. Her Eagle Scout project included power washing, sanding and staining a fence at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. —SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Southampton resident Abby Thibodeau has achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and Gold Award. Her Gold Award for Girl Scouts involved installing shade shelters for the William E. Norris Elementary School preschool playground. SUBMITTED PHOTO

  • Abby Thibodeau, far left, and her mother, BSA Troop 124 Assistant Scoutmaster Cathy Thibodeau, joined Quinn Humason and former Westfield Mayor Don Humason Jr. last week in Westfield to commemorate Flag Day. STAFF PHOTO/EMILY THURLOW

Staff Writer
Published: 6/22/2022 6:24:35 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Throughout most of her formative years, 17-year-old Abby Thibodeau has drawn inspiration from and looked up to a handful of people. Their impact has left such a definitive mark on her life that she has made it her goal to one day become that same influential person to someone else.

As the first person in western Massachusetts to have successfully earned both her Girl Scout Gold Award and the rank of Eagle Scout, the Southampton teenager is well on her way.

Thibodeau celebrated her Eagle Court of Honor at Moses Scout Camp in Russell on Sunday, June 5.

“From the beginning, I’ve been one of the older girls in my troop — one of the ones that they look up to — and I wanted to show all the girls in my troop that it was possible,” she said. “That was kind of my motivation to get there and show them: hey, guys, you can do this too. We can do this now.”

For her Eagle project, Thibodeau assembled a group of people and power-washed a fence that lines the sidewalks to the sports fields at the school she attends, Hampshire Regional High School. The group also sanded the fence and stained it in the school’s team color — red.

To earn the rank, Scouts must first earn six other ranks and obtain 21 merit badges. Scouts must also demonstrate leadership, including successfully planning and completing a community service project.

In 2019, 8% of all Scouts BSA earned the Eagle Scout rank, according to Boy Scouts of America’s Research & Strategy division in Irving, Texas.

The first girl in western Massachusetts to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout was Kat Romoser of Longmeadow, according to Gary Savignano, executive director of the Western Massachusetts Council of BSA. Romoser and Thibodeau are childhood friends.

“They started in the same Girl Scout troop together when they were in kindergarten. Kat got Eagle first, but Abby got her Gold Award first,” Thibodeau’s mother, Cathy Thibodeau said.

Currently, there are just under 200 young women spread among 12 different troops from the Berkshires to Ludlow. But according to Savignano, girl troops are on the rise.

“Abby was the first young lady’s Eagle Court of Honor I’ve attended. If I had closed my eyes, I would have assumed it would have been a Boy Scout troop that has been functioning for 100 years,” he said, noting how impressed he was in the leadership of the girl troops.

Boys and girls together

Since the early 1900s, the Boy Scouts of America has offered outdoor activities and outings to boys between the ages of 11 and 17 in the name of character-building and youth development.

Although the Boy Scouts of America’s other programming, which includes Venturing, Exploring, Sea Scouts and STEM Scouts, became coed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, throughout that time, Boy Scouts programming remained exclusive to young men.

But as of February 2019, the organization launched Scouts BSA and opened the doors to young women, as well.

The Boy Scouts of America’s Cub Scout program was the first to welcome girl troops.

Having attended some Boy Scout functions with her brother, Thibodeau had the opportunity to experience what Scouting was like on their end and jumped at the chance to experience more outdoor-based programming.

“Each of the programs offer such a different experience. I’ve been with the Girl Scouts for 12 years now and their experience is so much different than the Boy Scouts that I can get different things out of both,” she said. “Girl Scouts helped to shape me into who I am as a person. And now that I’ve reached the age where I’m the oldest in my service unit, I can now mentor those younger girls.”

‘Very goal-driven’

Thibodeau, a member of Girl Scout Troop 64594 in Southampton, secured her Gold Award, the most prestigious honor in the Girl Scouts, in 2021. To earn a Gold Award, Scouts need to have completed two Senior or Ambassador Journeys, which are completed when a Girl Scout has earned Journey awards that include creating and carrying out a Take Action project.

According to statistics provided by the Girl Scouts, the Gold Award is awarded to fewer than 6% of Scouts every year. Girl Scouts poised to secure a Gold Award spend one to two years on their project.

For her project, Thibodeau worked with the administration at William E. Norris Elementary School to install two steel shade shelters at the preschool playground. She also worked with a civil engineer to help decide the safest place for poles within a limited-footprint playground.

She also had to go before the Community Preservation Committee to request $16,000 in funding for the project, which was ultimately approved by voters at the October 2019 special Town Meeting. She worked with a total of 20 volunteers on this project.

As a trailblazer within Scouts BSA, she gained experience in helping to form a new troop: BSA Troop 124 Westfield. Once that troop was established in April 2019, she flexed her leadership skills again as the assistant senior patrol leader of her troop.

In addition to spending her time between the two troops, Thibodeau works at Western Massachusetts Council of BSA and spends her summers working at Horace A. Moses Scout Reservation in Russell. She was also inducted into the Order of the Arrow.

More recently, Thibodeau was asked to speak at an upcoming conference in Tennessee.

“She’s definitely a very goal-driven individual. We’re very, very proud — so thrilled that scouting has given her the opportunity to learn all these skills, to have all these experiences and lifelong friendships and memories. It’s been fantastic,” said Cathy Thibodeau.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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