Breaking barriers: Mississippi young woman earns prestigious Eagle Scout designation

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Picayune youth resident Emma Cufr has achieved something no other young woman in Picayune or Pearl River County has done. On April 30, 2022, Cufr was elected to Chapter of the Order of the Arrow, BSA’s National Honor Society, making her the first female ever elected.

Scouts BSA Troop 5 was founded in 2019 when the Boy Scouts of America began allowing girls’ troops to be chartered nationally. From 2019 – 2022, the group was chartered by First United Methodist Church – Picayune and made the move to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church Picayune in January 2023. Troop 5 is very active with 18 youth and 10 adult leaders participating in a variety of activities including hiking, camping, and lots of “just for fun” things like escape rooms, haunted houses, and swim parties. They also have very active community service relationships with the Picayune Carver Cultural Center and the Pearl River County SPCA. In 2022, the troop logged more than 300 hours of community service.

Setting a Standard!

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As a 15-year-old, Cufr had a lot of ground to cover in a limited amount of time. She has repeatedly risen to the challenge and has earned the nickname “Mum” from her fellow scouts due to her nurturing nature and seemingly never-ending patience with younger scouts.

In the spring of 2022, she became one of the first female youths elected to the chapter of the Order of the Arrow, BSA’s national honor society. Based on leader nomination and a rigorous screening/interview process, she was one of only 25 scouts nationwide selected to participate in the BSA’s Fall 2022 National Youth Leadership Council, where her area of advocacy was how BSA could better support scouts with mental health issues. In December 2022, Emma completed her Eagle project, which involved a community Christmas toy drive providing gifts for 28 children in conjunction with the Picayune Carver Cultural Center. On April 3, 2023, Emma participated in her Eagle Scout Board of Review, chaired by Sherry Aycock, a long-time scouter and fierce advocate of the inclusion of girls in Scouts BSA.

Cufr is thrilled to not only be Troop 5’s first Eagle Scout, but also the first female Eagle Scout in Picayune, Pearl River County, and the Tall Pine district of the Pine Burr Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America.

“It means a lot. I hope that by earning my Eagle rank it can show others in and outside my troop that they can do whatever they put their minds to,” said Cufr in a statement to the Picayune Item.

Cufr answered a few more questions through email to the Picayune Item. When asked what she loves about being a scout she stated, “I love scouts because it has given me the opportunity to help my community, learn great life skills, make friends, and it has helped me build my confidence.”

Cufr also mentioned her reason for joining the scouts.

“I joined Scouts because of my mom. She is friends with my scoutmaster, and she thought scouts would be a good way for me to make friends, and she was right. I have met some amazing people and friends through this program.”

Melissa Petersen, Scoutmaster of Troop 5 had this to say about Emma: “I am beyond proud of Emma and all of her accomplishments in scouting. It has been an honor to watch her grow in confidence and skill, all while being a fantastic example and constant help in mentoring younger scouts. I could not be more thrilled that she is the one who has the honor of being the first female Eagle in our city and our county. She has set the bar high for all those who follow her.”

What’s next for Emma?

Emma’s Eagle Court of Honor is scheduled for late May in the new Ted and Amy Longo Leadership Center at Camp Ti’ak in Wiggins. She will be accepting an award from the City Council on Tuesday, May 2nd.

“I hope to one day have a career in scouting, but for now, I will be taking a gap year to help me decide on plans for college. I will also continue to stay an active member of the scouts,” she said.