Emma Guerrero is one of the founding members of Scouts BSA Troop 2163, the first all-girl troop in Milpitas. But it doesn’t stop there: Guerrero is also the first-ever female in Milpitas to make the rank of Eagle Scout.
Scouts BSA, a branch of the Boy Scouts of America, provides fun and adventurous learning opportunities for youth ages 11-17. In 2019, the program, which has been open exclusively to boys for the past 110 years, started allowing girl troops to join.
And so, in March 2019, a girl troop formed in Milpitas.
It started out with just 6 girls.
“They needed 5 girls to begin to create a troop,” said Guerrero, who had just turned 14 when she joined. “My cousin invited me to join, so I was the second one. And I invited a couple of my friends.”
In prior years, female cub scouts had nowhere to bridge to, so they would stop the program when they were about 10 or 11. However, the possibility of girls achieving Eagle Scout has marked a change.
Prior to the pandemic, the girls would have in-person meetings where they’d learn hands-on skills.
“I would teach them how to tie knots, how to cook using a camp stove, and how to use dutch ovens…we also learned how to make fire and use it correctly,” said Guerrero. “We were very active prior to the pandemic.”
The group’s last pre-pandemic activity was going snow-camping at Camp Hi-Sierra, back in February 2020.
In early April 2020, the troops switched their meetings to a virtual format. They had to adapt to teaching and learning skills over the computer. They also held ceremonies online to acknowledge the accomplishments of fellow troops.
The girls have even done game nights and virtual campouts. Guerrero also set up a “quarantine camp” since the Hi-Sierra trip for this year was cancelled.
“I wanted to create a replacement for it so girls would get a similar experience of what camp is like,” said Guerrero.
In the week-long virtual camp, they met every day to do activities, with Guerrero teaching them things like making “cloud dough” and painting terra cotta pots.
Most of the skills that Guerrero has been teaching fellow troops were taught to her by her Scoutmaster or her mom, who’s been serving as Assistant Scoutmaster. Both have played a big role in enhancing Guerrero’s own leadership abilities.
For the past two years, Guerrero has served in high leadership positions. She has been an Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, and is currently a Senior Patrol Leader.
Over the last 2 years, the troop has grown from 6 to 16 girls, from the ages of 11-17. And in that time, Guerrero has consistently worked her way up the ranks, determined to accomplish something that girls have only recently been given the opportunity to achieve.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is no easy feat. One must earn 21 merit badges, along with completing a service project.
In the journey from Scout to Eagle Scout, Scouts learn all kinds of skills, such as camping, cooking, and swimming; they even undergo various leadership trainings and activities. Scouts must also have conferences with their Scoutmaster along the way.
“I absolutely adore working with Emma,” said Christine Conover-Hill, the Scoutmaster of Troop 2163. “She’s very detail-oriented. She’s a great leader. She’s very outspoken, she has great ideas…”
Conover-Hill also mentioned that Guerrero’s focus on goal-setting, along with her perseverance, contributed to her Eagle Scout achievement.
“Emma put in a huge amount of work. She’s very focused and dedicated. She knew what she wanted,” added Eric Emmanuele, an uncle of Guerrero’s who works as the City of Milpitas’ Chief Fire Enforcement Officer
Emmanuele, who has a daughter of his own in Guerrero’s troop, has been actively involved in Scouts BSA for some time. His son, who is now 19, started as a Tiger Cub when he was 6, and Emmanuele himself has taken on many leadership positions in the Scouts over the years.
Guerrero’s troop is one of five that’s sponsored by the Milpitas Rotary Club, which is a Scouts charter organization. Emmanuele, who served as the Rotary Club’s President back in 2015, was the one who brought in the idea of sponsoring the younger troops.
For Guerrero’s service project, she led her fellow troop members in building a “bear box.” Guerrero raised the funds, purchased the supplies, and organized the effort to bag and prepare stuffed animals. The resulting box was given to the Milpitas Fire Department so that they can give the teddy bears to children they meet on calls, as a way of bringing them comfort.
When asked how this new program has shaped her, Guerrero replied, “It increased my confidence. Being in top leadership positions has put me out of my comfort zone. Prior to being in Scouts, I was pretty shy and quiet and not involved in anything specific. But being involved in those leadership positions forced me to communicate to adults, send emails, be enthusiastic, and pump up my other scouts in my troop.”
Guerrero’s troop is also very active in the greater community. Last summer, they sewed masks for the Milpitas Fire Department and even organized a back-to-school drive for the City of Milpitas through the Family Giving Tree.
Recently, Guerrero was elected as a Scout Patrol Leader for a year. She also plans to still be involved in her troop, as well as another branch of Boy Scouts of America, which offers her opportunities for high adventure.
To learn more about the Scouts BSA program, go here.