By Maria Rocha-Buschel
UPDATE: See below for a correction to this story.
Stuyvesant Town native Sydney Ireland will officially be recognized as an Eagle Scout after a board of review voted to approve her Eagle Scout project on Tuesday evening.
Now a freshman at Amherst College in Massachusetts, Ireland returned to New York this week for the first time since starting school so that she could meet with the board that ultimately approved her, officially making her an Eagle Scout.
Ireland has been fighting to be recognized by the organization since following her older brother into scouting at the age of 4, and although the Boy Scouts of America officially changed the name of their premier program to the gender-neutral “Scouts BSA” to allow young women to participate starting this year, Ireland herself was not being recognized for the work she had already completed.
The BSA even previously recognized her as a catalyst for the changes that were made to the program but denied her Eagle Scout rank by claiming that all the work she had done up to that point didn’t count, likening it to auditing classes in college. Although she had already completed one Eagle Scout project, she finished a second project in June, officially finishing all the requirements to become an Eagle Scout and making the board of review official.
Ireland has also been the subject of online sexual harassment from adults affiliated with the BSA. Ireland’s father Gary said that the organization has been boxing his daughter out regarding a board of review to approve her Eagle Scout project, especially since they’ve been complaining about the harassment.
The board of review process is how the organization approves Scouts to move up in the ranks, and according to their own guidelines, a Scout can’t be denied the opportunity to meet with a board of review when all of the requirements for a rank have been completed.
The board is made up of three to six committee members who are at least 21 years old and understand Scouting’s aims.
National Organization for Women-New York President Sonia Ossorio had previously asked NOW-NY Board Chair Judi Polson to help Ireland draft resolutions to make her case (“But Sydney really didn’t need my help,” she said as an aside), and she recruited Polson again to be on the board to approve her.
“I was a Girl Scout the whole time I was growing up. The highest I could get in Girl Scouts was first class last because that’s all they had and as soon as I left high school, nobody cared,” Polson said after the review, tearing up while she showed Ireland her sash from her scouting days. “Thank you for your leadership and opening the door to the generations of women.”
Also on the board of review was Jim Nedelka, who was involved in scouting when he was a kid and has known Ireland since she was about 7.
Kian Brown, a representative from The Maroon Society, which supports educational institutions that cater to underutilized communities, was on the board of review as well and said that Ireland’s struggle is an important one for his organization.
“I call her Baby Rosa,” he said. “She’s fighting against a system that’s unjust. All she wanted to do was do what her brother did. She’s not allowed because of her sex and we’re still having this conversation in 2019.”
Representative Carolyn Maloney had to be in Congress on Tuesday but Taylor Abbruzzese, a representative from her office, came in the Congresswoman’s place and said that their office has been working on this issue with Ireland for a while.
“It’s awe-inspiring to see girls in places they haven’t been before,” she said.
Assemblymember Harvey Epstein was also on the board of review that voted to approve Ireland’s project.
“Sydney is a groundbreaking individual who has opened up the scouting opportunities for hundreds of thousands of other young women just like her,” Epstein said. “This historic moment needs a historic statement from the Scouts BSA leadership, which should be their acceptance of her as an Eagle Scout. If BSA is serious about gender-neutrality in their organization, then they must acknowledge the work that Sydney has accomplished and recognize her for the successful completion of the requirements to attain the Eagle Scout rank.”
Correction: This board of review, conducted at the offices of NOW-NY last week, has not actually been recognized by the Boy Scouts as official, although Ireland has completed all of the requirements for the rank of Eagle.