When the Boy Scouts of America opened its ranks to girls in 2019, Twyla Paska was quick to take the Scout Oath. A resident of Macalester-Groveland, she joined all-girl Troop 7091 in what is now known as Scouts BSA and recently became the first young woman in Saint Paul to earn the organization’s highest rank of Eagle Scout. Her troop is sponsored by Macalester-Plymouth United Church.

The road to becoming an Eagle Scout is “a long, intensive journey. For most scouts it takes several years,” said Scoutmaster Jerald Dosch. Only around 6 percent of Scouts achieve that status, according to him.

Paska, who is now 16 and a junior at Central High School, had no Scouting experience when she joined the troop, but “I liked the outdoors, so I thought I’d try it,” she said. “I got to do some things I don’t think I would’ve done if I hadn’t gotten the opportunity.”

Since she could not join Scouts BSA until it was opened to girls ages 11-17 three years ago, Paska had less time to work on the Eagle Scout rank than others. Dosch told her it was best to get it before her junior year of high school.

“I had to aim high to reach my goal,” Paska said. “As far as I remember, from the start I wanted to get there.”

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Troop 7091 member Twyla Paska, 16, is the first female in Saint Paul to earn Eagle Scout. Photo by Brad Stauffer

Along the way Paska earned 36 merit badges. Fourteen of them were required, such as first aid, camping, environmental science and emergency preparedness. Others were her own choices, such as robotics, kayaking, metalworking, game design and music. Only 21 badges are necessary to obtain Eagle status, and her extra work earned her three Eagle Palms in addition to her Eagle ranking, Dosch said.

Paska said a big part of becoming an Eagle Scout is completing a service project. A cat lover whose family has four of them, Paska completed a project to build six cat trees that she donated to the nonprofit Kitty Revolution to be given to families who foster cats awaiting adoption. With the help of her dad, Paska designed the prototype apparatus using a computer-aided design program.

 

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Scouting, Paska said, has had a significant impact on her life. “I’ve gotten more mature,” she said. “It’s definitely been eye-opening, talking to people from different places and different points of view. I base my beliefs on the Scout Law.”

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Twyla Paska presents six custom-designed cat trees to cat rescue organization Kitty Revolution. Pictured, from left, are Robin Holland of Kitty Revolution, Paska and troopmate Lucy Dosch. Dosch is now the second to earn Eagle Scout in Troop 7091.

“The CAD drawing helped us with measurements, supplies and eventually cost,” Paska said. She gained carpentry skills by building the prototype, then taught friends and family how to construct five more.

As they progress through the ranks toward Eagle, Scouts also develop leadership skills. Dosch said Paska has put in more than 1,000 days of service in various leadership roles in her troop. He said she also has camped more than 70 nights, not including cabin stays, and hiked more than 150 miles.

Paska said her most memorable Scouting adventure was a mountain backpacking trip. Her troop took Amtrak to New Mexico to the Philmont Scout Ranch, the largest Scout camp in the world.

“We were probably the first all-girl troop to go down there,” said Paska, who had never backpacked before.

In their 12-day trek, the Scouts covered 73 miles carrying 40-pound packs. Dosch said the group reached the summit of Mount Baldy, which at 12,441 feet is the highest mountain peak in the region. He described the adventure as “a grueling, thrilling, life-changing experience.”

Dosch said Paska was nominated for and attended the weeklong Grey Wolf Youth Leader Training in 2021. She returned as a member of the staff this past summer. She was also elected into the Order of the Arrow, the national honor society of Scouts BSA.

Dosch pointed out that most of Paska’s time in Scouting has been during the COVID-19 pandemic. “The added challenges of the pandemic didn’t stop her or her troop-mates from being deeply engaged, active Scouts,” he said.

As Paska heads back to school this fall, she will continue with Scouts, but she has plenty more on her plate. She is in the academically challenging International Baccalaureate program at Central and intends to earn a full IB diploma. For the last four years, she has also been training in tae kwon do and will continue sessions three times a week as she works toward her black belt.

Paska is looking forward to her Court of Honor on September 23 at which she will receive the Eagle medal, neckerchief and patch. So is Dosch.

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Foster cats using one of the cat trees created as part of Paska's service project.

“It’s been my pleasure getting to know and work with Twyla over the years, watching her mature and grow in skills and confidence,” he said.

Scouting, Paska said, has had a significant impact on her life. “I’ve gotten more mature,” she said. “It’s definitely been eye-opening, talking to people from different places and different points of view. I base my beliefs on the Scout Law.”

— Janet Lunder Hanafin

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