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‘Such an honor’

Ryan Schnobrich and Risa Littman place the Eagle Scout scarf on their daughter Magnolia Schnobrich, 16, who became the fourth generation in her family to earn scouting's highest rank, Monday during a ceremony in Ashland. Photo by Denise Baratta
Magnolia Schnobrich, 16, takes the oath to become an Eagle Scout in front of her father, Ryan Schnobrich, also an Eagle Scout, Monday in Ashland. Photo by Denise Baratta
Ashland teen Magnolia Schnobrich achieves rare feat of Eagle Scout in historically all-boys program

ASHLAND — For local Boy Scout leader Ryan Schnobrich, standing up Monday in front of family and friends with his daughter, 16-year-old Magnolia Schnobrich, at a Court of Honor ceremony was no easy task.

As he read the text of the Eagle Charge and Promise, his voice broke when Magnolia had to reassure him, as he led her through the Eagle Charge and Promise.

And with that, Magnolia was officially an Eagle Scout — only the second girl to achieve the rank in Jackson County and the third in the Crater Lake Council. Her achievement comes after the BSA’s board of directors unanimously approved in 2017 that girls could participate in its programs.

“Being the second-ever female Eagle Scout in Southern Oregon is such an honor, and I do not take it lightly. It is a role I am happy to fill,” she said.

“Everyone here has helped me get to where I am today,” Magnolia said during the Nov. 22 ceremony at Bellview Grange. “Scouting has made an irreversible change in my life.”

Even before Monday night’s event, which saw scores of Magnolia’s family and friends attend, others throughout the Rogue Valley took notice of the young woman’s Eagle Scout achievement. It’s why the Jackson County council approved a letter of congratulations addressed to her.

“We are pleased to hear of your diligence in this monumental feat! This achievement is made even more special as you are among the first females in history to achieve this milestone,” the letter stated.

Starting Troop 211

Ryan Schnobrich’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather were all Boy Scouts. When the organization decided to admit girls in 2017, he recognized the historic nature of it.

“As a father, I’m so thrilled that Boy Scouts of America welcomes girls into the program so my family could continue our scouting legacy,” he said.

It did not take long for him to start Troop 211 after the Boy Scouts made its historic decision to admit girls.

“I made a beeline to the council office, pounded on the glass and looked in the door and said, ‘Hey, I want to start a girls troop in Ashland,’” he said, “because I knew what it would mean not only for my daughter and my family, but other local scouts.”

Schnobrich and other leaders chartered Troop 211 Feb. 1, 2019 — “the very first day we were allowed.”

For Magnolia, joining the Boy Scouts was a long time coming.

“I remember as a little girl, my dad forced me to go to scouts meetings when he couldn’t get a babysitter, and dreading it and hating it,” she said. “But I eventually saw how cool the program was and wanted to be a part of it. It was disappointing just because of my gender I couldn’t do that.”

When the decision came, Magnolia was “ecstatic,” urging her girlfriends to join along with her.

Before the pandemic, her dad said, troop membership swelled to 16 girls. But virtual scouting once COVID-19 shut down proved difficult not only for the scouts themselves, but for the organization’s enrollment.

“What we’re doing now is we’re working closely with Troop 112 and we’re rebuilding the girls troop,” Schnobrich said. “We’re rechartering now, and I think we’re probably around 10 scouts or so, and we’re welcoming anyone who is interested.”

Despite enrollment faltering, “there were scouts like Magnolia that buckled down and tried to make lemonade out of lemons,” Schnobrich said.

Eagle Scout attainment

During Magnolia’s Court of Honor ceremony, local female scout leaders explained the scout rank, which include Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and then Eagle.

Attaining the top rank requires the person to be a Life Scout for at least six months and acquire 21 merit badges — 10 more than the Life rank.

In addition, scouts must obtain numerous personal recommendations and “demonstrate Scout Spirit by living the Scout Oath and Scout Law.”

As if all of that doesn’t sound daunting enough, Magnolia had to do much of it from home because of the pandemic. She earned eight of the 10 most difficult merit badges and moved up two ranks without outdoor activities.

“Advancement was probably the hardest part of scouting for me — parts of it were fun, don’t get me wrong, but doing most of the merit badges ... in quarantine, isolated from everyone other than my parents, was a little less than unmotivating,” Magnolia said in her Court of Honor remarks. “But we’re not going to dwell on that. What really counts is what I’m doing now with my suddenly very open schedule.”

Magnolia was able to get out of the house to complete her Eagle Scout project — building a gaga ball pit for The Ashland Family YMCA’s Camp DeBoer.

“It is basically dodgeball in an enclosed structure,” she wrote in a press release issued by the Scouts. “It was very fun to make, and I hope campers enjoy it for many years to come!”

But it wasn’t just Magnolia’s sweat equity that got the ball pit done — she coordinated 29 volunteers to contribute a total of 1,475 hours of service. Ashland Ace Hardware and Home Depot donated the materials.

In their letter of congratulations, council members noted some of Magnolia’s other scouting projects, like raising more than $2,000 for the Maslow Project, which supports homeless children throughout the community.

“We have no doubt that you will continue to have a positive impact on those around you and on the community as a whole,” the council stated in its letter. “This accomplishment is an excellent demonstration of generosity and service, which serves as a positive example to the youth of Jackson County.”

Values gained from scouting

Magnolia said she learned how to be an effective leader and communicator. She also learned a number of other skills that will help her in life, from personal financing to leather working.

“I will always carry the Scout Open Law with me in everything that I do … just to be a good person and contribute to my community and be a person that people can look up to,” Magnolia said.

In prepared remarks, she said the most important quality she learned was resilience.

“Resilience is such a key aspect of my personality,” Magnolia wrote. “Being able to go with the flow even when something you had planned goes wrong is such an important skill that everyone should practice and know well.”

Janel Yergen, a Scout leader for Troop 211 of the Crater Lake Council, praised Magnolia for her work in an interview with the Mail Tribune.

“Being awarded the Eagle Scout is not the end of something — it’s the beginning,” she said. “I’m excited to see where all of this learning and achievement takes her in 20 or 30 years.”

Magnolia is already planning her next scouting adventure. She plans to attend the National Order of the Arrow conference in 2022, and the National Jamboree in 2023.

Reaction from the boys

During the Court of Honor ceremony, Magnolia’s mom, Risa Littman, read praises from female leaders, including State Rep. Pam Marsh, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.

Magnolia even received a video tribute from Charlize Sentosa, a Brown University student who was Southern Oregon’s first female Eagle Scout.

After the event, young men who witnessed Magnolia’s achievement testified to her outstanding qualities.

Kaeden Calkins, a Troop 112 Life Scout who helped Magnolia on her Eagle Scout project, said, “I’ve known Maggie for most of my scouting life, and we’ve been pretty close throughout all of it … so I wanted to help do everything I could,” he said. “[Girls] should have been allowed in [the BSA] earlier. They never should have separated them out. Clearly, they can do the same thing just as well, if not better.”

In addition to assisting in Magnolia’s Eagle Scout project, Calkins has gone kayaking with her and joined in on some of her 95 nights of camping.

“She’s always very enthusiastic,” he said. “She’s willing to learn.”

Harper McGrath, a Troop 112 Life Scout who also helped Magnolia, has known her even before she was a BSA member.

“Considering my scouting career started before hers, I think it’s incredible that she’s managed to excel this quickly, achieve such a high ranking and do it as well as she’s done it,” McGrath said. “I’m just happy to see her achieve this.”

Calkin's mother, VJ Chin, Grew up thinking the Boy Scouts was for boys, but it’s been a “treat” to see her son and other young men work with girls.

“It’s an opportunity for the boys to start looking at girls as equals, and (for girls) to prove ... that girls can do the same things, and function the same way, as boys do,” Chin said.

In her remarks, Magnolia had a message to girls like her who will reach Eagle Scout.

“Always be yourself — the real, authentic you is all you need. Don’t ever change yourself for anyone but you,” she said.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.