MARYSVILLE — As a little girl, Molly McKinney attended a Girl Scouts meeting, thinking it would be similar to her older brother’s Boy Scouts.
She asked the group leader, “When do I get my knife?”
“She says, ‘Honey, you’re not going to need a knife,’” said Molly’s father, Brian McKinney. “And that was the deal-breaker, I remember that all the way home, ‘I want to earn my knife.’”
For years Molly tagged along with her older brother in Boy Scout Troop 80 of Marysville, where their father is the troop leader. Now she’s one of the first women in the country to become an Eagle Scout.
Molly, 18, grew up in Marysville and is a senior at Marysville Getchell High School. She also is in Running Start at Everett Community College and expects to graduate high school with her associate’s degree.
Next year she plans to attend the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, a well-known school in Los Angeles. She may focus on costume design for movies, television and theater, but isn’t sure yet.
Molly is part of the Inaugural Class of Female Eagle Scouts. Others are still in the process of earning the Eagle Scout credentials. Because of that, she isn’t sure how many other girls in the country earned the title before her, but it can’t be many.
A board began to review projects on Oct. 1, and Molly received the distinction 11 days later. A list is to be released in February. However, her family is certain she is the first in Snohomish County.
Molly’s family has been involved with Boy Scouts since before she was born. Her brother, who is 10 years older, started more than two decades ago. That’s when her father started to lead the troop.
“I have pictures of her when she’s in diapers, handing out awards to the boys,” said her mother, Wanda McKinney.
About four years ago, Molly joined Venturing Crew, a co-ed program through Boy Scouts of America. She started to work toward her Eagle Scout back then.
Then about two years ago, the Boy Scouts began to let girls participate and became Scouts BSA. Molly entered around that time.
“I always wanted to join Boy Scouts because I always wanted to earn my Eagle, and kind of do the same thing my brother did,” Molly said.
Anyone who wants to become an Eagle Scout must do so before turning 18. Most boys who become Eagle Scouts have much of their lives to work toward it. About one in 100 Boy Scouts becomes an Eagle Scout, Wanda said.
Many girls in the inaugural class have been granted extensions because of the limited amount of time they’ve been allowed in the program. Molly received the extra time, but she ended up not needing it. She turned in her project just before her birthday on Sept. 25.
Molly spent nearly 400 hours working on her Eagle Scout project. She placed 10 posts along a short trail on private property along 67th Avenue NE, owned by Bethlehem Lutheran Church.
She researched animals and vegetation in the area and wrote descriptions for each point. The trail is close to Kellogg Marsh Elementary School, and the idea is that teachers can take classes there for field trips.
At times, Molly faced adversity for being one of the first girls to join Boy Scouts, Wanda said.
She recalled that when Molly and some other girls tried to earn a merit badge for archery, the instructor made it clear he didn’t want to teach them.
“He was so judgmental that none of the girls would even consider going back and doing it with someone else,” she said. “They never went back because of this one guy who was incredibly rude, which is uncalled for. That’s not what we’re about in scouting.”
When Molly joined Troop 80, Adam Benson became the troop leader for the girls. He started to work with the troop 13 years ago, when his son joined. Before he was the assistant troop leader.
He has noticed how hard the girls had to work.
“Every aspect of scouting, they had to be 10 times better than the boys, just because,” he said. “If they weren’t, it was a reason to get rid of the girls. But because all the girls excelled, it was very simple for me to say, you know what, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be here.”
Molly knew there were people who didn’t think they should participate, even if they didn’t say it out loud.
“It was hard I think the first year just adapting to that, and figuring out what we needed to do to prove that we were capable of being just as good as the boys,” she said.
After years of working with Boy Scouts, both Brian and Adam noticed a positive difference once the girls came in. It seemed the boys saw how clean the girls’ campsites were, and started to get more organized. Plus, Brian said, they didn’t want to be outdone by the girls. It pushed them, in a way.
Outside of Scouts, Molly has lettered on the varsity soccer team and, since freshman year, has taken advanced-level art classes. She has earned other accolades, as well.
Monday morning, she walked along the short trail in the woods off the main road. A horse roamed the property as she looked through her project binder.
She stopped along the path and pointed out the post where young students would one day learn about different trees. At one point a couple of deer wandered through the brush.
She wore her Scout uniform, including all 45 of her merit badges. Some of her favorites are for horsemanship, kayaking and automotive work. She’s happy to be one of the first young women to become an Eagle Scout, to pave the way for others.
“I’m excited about it,” she said.
Stephanie Davey: 425-339-3192; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @stephrdavey.