MUSKEGON, Mich. — Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouts of America. The coveted achievement must be reached before the age of 18, and usually takes six years for scouts to meet all of the specific requirements.
A female scout from West Michigan wasn't allowed to join the Boy Scouts until 2019, but earned Eagle Scout status in two years flat, allowing her to become one of the rare members of the nation's inaugural class of all female Eagle Scouts, as well as the first female Eagle Scout in Muskegon County.
"I've always just seen people in scouting," said April Bowlin, 17. "I remember watching my older brother become an Eagle Scout and thought, 'Oh, that's cool, but I can't do that though' because I was a girl."
Since the Boy Scouts of America's inception in 1911, only 4% of scouts have put in the work to earn the ranking of Eagle Scout. Seven members of April's family happen to be a part of that 4%.
"My grandfather Dave Closz and his brother Jeff Closz; Grandpa's sons Mike Closz, Sean Closz, Brendan Closz and Rory Closz; as well as my older brother, Jacob Bowlin," April said. "They're all Eagle Scouts."
In February 2019, Scouts BSA, the program for youth in fifth grade through high school, started welcoming girls into the organization. April decided to sign up and her goal from the outset was crystal clear — to become the eighth member in her family to reach Eagle Scout.
"I thought it would be a really cool accomplishment and I really wanted to be in the inaugural class," said April.
When April joined Scouts BSA, she was 15 1/2 years old, meaning she only had 2 1/2 years to reach Eagle Scout before she turned 18.
"I had a high expectation of myself," April said, who became a member of Muskegon's Troop 1053G on Feb. 1, 2019. "Unlike many of the boys who were able to start 5 years earlier, time was of the essence for me."
April spent her first year accomplishing as many specific requirements, including earning as many merit badges, as possible. From learning first aid to tying knots to attending outings to arduous endurance tests, April was doing it all.
"I had to go for a cycling merit badge where I had to complete a 50-mile bike ride," April said. "I got through it."
When 2020 rolled around, April was well on her way toward Eagle status, but then COVID-19 hit, forcing most of the typical scouting events to have to be modified.
"All of our gatherings started happing on Zoom," April said. "Despite the challenges the pandemic presented, I was still determined to do it."
The last requirement to reach Eagle status is the completion of the Eagle Project, which is a community-related endeavor that's planned and initiated entirely by the scout.
"There was a pathway around my church that was covered in Pea Gravel," said April, who attends St. Gregory's Episcopal Church, which also sponsors her scout troop. "I pulled together a group of people to help me remove all the Pea Gravel and replaced it with Dolomite."
On Feb, 1, 2021 — two years to the day she started with Scouts BSA — April earned Eagle Scout.
"I've seen many capable boys earn the rank of Eagle at 17 years old, and a few of them at 16, and a very, very few of them at 15 or 14," said David Paulson, who is April's Scout Master of Troop 1053G. "But to do it in 2 years flat is pedal to the metal the whole way, and extraordinary.
"She cut no corners. She did everything the right way."
"It's a really cool thing that no one else can really say," April said, referring to becoming Muskegon's first female Eagle Scout. "I kind of feel like I have more of a connection to other people in my family."
At 8 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 21, Scouts BSM will host a nationwide program on its Facebook page honoring the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.
April Bowlin will be recognized as being among the girls who truly made their first two years as members of the organization count.
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