New Milford girl on way to earning Eagle Scout rank

NEW MILFORD — Brooke Thibodeau has set herself apart from other girls her age.

The 17-year-old is on her way to earning the rank of Eagle Scout through the Scouts BSA program for girls and boys and ages 11 to 17.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank in the BSA.

Brooke attended a Board of Review meeting Oct. 26 when her project was approved. If approved by the national organization, Brooke will be a member of the first class of females to earn the rank of Eagle.

This rank was only made possible for girls after BSA opened the program to them in 2019.

“It feels pretty great,” Brooke said of her achievement thus far. “It’s not a feeling necessarily that I’m done, it’s more that I’ve watched myself grow through this program and I’ve reached this point when I can step back and reflect on it.”

“It feels incredible to see how much I’ve grown,” she said.

Brooke joined New Fairfield Troop 179 when the BSA first invited girls in February 2019. The troop, of which she has been senior patrol leader, includes more than a dozen girls from New Milford, New Fairfield and Danbury, and is part of the Yankee Council.

Michael Moreell, assistant Scout executive for the state’s Yankee Council, said a lot of girls formed troops when the program opened to them.

“Our council led the Northeast region in the number of girls and girl troops,” Morrell said, citing there are 22 girl troops just within the Yankee Council.

To apply for the rank of Eagle, Brooke had to complete a project. She designed and then led her troop in the construction of four live-edge Leopold-style benches for Steep Rock Association’s soon-to-open preserve, Johnson Farm Preserve.

She funded her service project through the sale of face masks she had hand-sewn and sold at the local farmers market.

Brooke said fundraising is part of the planning for a project such as this, but reaching out to businesses during a pandemic made it more challenging. That’s why she took matters into her own hands and made masks to sell.

In addition, she received donations of screws from Ring’s End, some rough-cut boards from Davis Sawmill and gift cards from Big Y and Stop & Shop for food to feed volunteers.

Mike Giapponi, trails and preserve coordinator for Steep Rock Association described Brooke as “an incredible young woman” whose project has caught the attention of board members and volunteers who are still developing the trails at the preserve.

The association was supportive of her project and gave her “creative” license with her design, Brooke said.

Brooke and her father, Michael, visited some of the association’s preserves, including Macricostas, where they saw Leopold-style benches.

“She got very creative with the live edge to it, how the boards would be,” her father said. “She used trigonometry and geometry to figure” out certain aspects of the design.

“I hadn’t done a lot of woodworking, except building a pinewood derby car,” Brooke said humbly with a laugh. “So, this was absolutely new.”

The New Milford High School senior, who plans to study physics and engineering in college, said she enjoyed “trying my hand at a belt sander.”

“I was really impressed with the benches, which was her first woodworking project,” Giapponi said. “It was a tremendous amount of commitment and skill.”

“Everyone is thrilled to have this addition” at the preserve, he said.

Brooke said her interest in Scouts was piqued during the years her brothers, Ryan, in college, and Alex, 15, were in Cub Scouts.

“Cub Scouts is more of a family thing, so I could participate on a whole bunch of activities,” Brooke related. “It was fun.”

Advancing to the rank of Eagle Scout in 22 months went smoothly for Brooke, who said she had the resources of two troops — hers and her brother Alex’s Troop 58 in New Milford — which allowed her opportunities to go forward with merit badges.

“When it came to the first couple of ranks, I already knew what to do,” she said.

In October, Brooke was inducted into the Order of the Arrow, which is equivalent to the National Honor Society for BSA. She met with the board of review about her Eagle Scout project Oct. 26. Her paperwork is now on its way to the national organization for review.

“An Eagle Scout date is whatever the national approval date is,” Morrell said.

As of now, the BSA is expected to officially welcome its inaugural class of female Eagles in February, according to Morrell.

Brooke joined BSA at 151/2, and was the oldest girl in her troop.

“She got thrust into a leadership position and (the girls) all looked up to her,” said her Scoutmaster Lester Mcguire, noting that earned Brooke the nickname of “Mother.”

“She’s been an effective leader and that’s what we needed at the time,” he said. “The right way for a troop to be done is for it to be Scout led, and she took the ball and ran with it.”

Mcguire described Brooke as being an “independent” worker who “took every opportunity she could to get ahead.”

In addition to being senior patrol leader for her troop, this past summer she was an online merit badge counselor for Scouts, stepping up to lead weather and emergency preparedness merit badges.

“It’s phenomenal to watch the growth she’s had over the year — to see her step up in a leadership role and give cohesion,” her father said.

“I was very shy, timid and quiet before this whole program,” Brooke said, reflecting on her growth through the BSA program. “And just growing through it and taking on leadership positions and working at a BSA resident camp, all these opportunities BSA has afforded me has made me more confident.”