Badge of Honor: Teen going for highest Scouting awards to follow in parents’ footsteps

A change in policy has opened new opportunities for girls in the Boy Scouts of America. At the beginning of February, the national organization allowed girls to join the program formerly known as the Boy Scouts.

Because of the new policy, one La Crosse teenager is hoping to join its highest rank, while following in her parents’ footsteps.

Karissa Adams was running through her lines ahead of an annual fundraiser for the annual Golden Eagle event.

“Welcome to the Gateway Area Council’s 16th annual Golden Eagle dinner to support local Scouting programs,” said Adams, a Scout with the Venturing Program through the Boy Scouts of America.

A few years ago, the emcee for the local Boy Scouts of America annual fundraiser may have looked a little different. Karissa Adams, 15, was chosen because of her long involvement with the organization, which started when her younger brother A.J. joined the Cub Scouts.

“I started going along to meetings and I went to campouts, like winter camps. And I also made pinewood derby cars with them and raced with them,” Adams said.

“A campout would come up and she’d [say], ‘Dad, can I go camping with you guys,'” said Toby Adams, Karissa’s dad and a volunteer leader for the organization.

She would often tag along to the meetings, but sometimes she wasn’t allowed.

“When my son moved up from the Cub Scouts to the Boy Scout side, along came winter camp and Karissa asked, ‘Can I come along?’ And I’m like, ‘I don’t think so.’ She was disappointed,'” Adams said.

“I couldn’t officially be officially part of the group, just because females weren’t allowed in Scouting at that point,” Karissa Adams said.

But she was able to be a Girl Scout.

“After starting out, if she had chosen and said this isn’t really what I want, that would be her choice and that’d be OK,” said Susan Adams, Karissa’s mom and volunteer with the organization.

Her parents had initially signed her up when she was in kindergarten. While she later enjoyed going to Cub Scout meetings, she was working her way up through the ranks in the Girl Scouts.

“I’ve been happy she’s found a project that she’s interested in and she’s passionate about,” Adams said.

Karissa is going for the gold, literally.

“It’s the highest award you can get,” Karissa Adams said.

To receive the coveted Gold Award for the Girl Scouts, Karissa is building a natural playground at Perrot State Park, which her family would visit when she was a kid.

“It’s going to have wood stumps that you can jump to stump to stump. It’s going to have balance beams,” Adams said.

It’s a project she’s hoping to build on.

“I have ambitions to be one of the first young women from the Gateway Area Council to join a troop in the BSA and continue my trail to earning my Eagle Scout rank too,” Adams said.

She could be the first person to receive both the Gold Award and become an Eagle Scout.

“It’s a little bit of pressure but it’s mostly just really cool that I’m able to get both of these awards,” Adams said.

Her parents have been supportive, allowing her to make the decision to pursue the awards on her own.

“But at the same time, it’s like, ‘Well, my dad has an Eagle, my dad has a Gold.’ It’s just what you do,” Susan Adams said.

Scouting runs deep in the family.

“I enjoyed the fellowship with the other kids that were interested in things I was interested in,” Susan Adams said.

“Camping was kind of my favorite part of it all,” Toby Adams said.

While the change in policy meant she could earn the same awards as her parents, some things are more rewarding.

“I think it’s really neat that she has this opportunity. We think she’s a pretty special kid but she’s developing a lot of leadership skills. We’ve seen her grow in the last couple of years with that and come out of her shell,” Susan said.

During the fundraiser on Wednesday night, Karissa will share her experiences at camp, memorable scouting experiences and what she hopes for all Scouts as they join the ranks too.

“Scouting has helped me so much in my journey to find who I am and what I want to do with my life. I’m so thankful to be able to share my journey with all of you,” Karissa Adams said.

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