Newberg's latest Eagle Scout breaks new ground
A young woman has broken ground by earning Scouting's highest rank.
Aiden Gray, 18, a senior at Newberg High School, was named an Eagle Scout at a ceremony held Sunday at the Memorial Park Scout house. She is the only female to earn the Eagle Scout designation locally and one of only 6% of Scouts who attain the rank nationally.
Gray is a member of Troop 9265 of the Cascade Pacific Council, which numbers 10,000 girls and boys in 19 counties in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington. The troop is sponsored by the American Legion post in Newberg.
The road to becoming an Eagle Scout is a long one, Boy Scout officials said in a news release.
"Each Scout must attain 21 merit badges as well as demonstrate leadership, including successfully planning and completing a community service project," said Andy Trumbo, a spokesman for Troop 9265.
Gray's community service project was creating a sensory walk at Joan Austin Elementary School.
"I chose my Eagle project because I wanted to help current and future students of Joan Austin," she said in the release. "It is important to foster spaces … because it teaches children to value their mental health, which inspires a healthier and happier generation."
Gray explained that sensory walks are created by painting objects on the floor that students can interact with in ways that help improve their motor skills and emotional regulation.
"I was approached by the principal a few months before I became a Life Scout," she said. "She knew I loved art and she was hoping that I would design a sensory walk for her students to use. I couldn't plan anything until I became a Life Scout, but I had ideas in my head the moment she asked. Two weeks after I got Life in June, I had a meeting with her to discuss plans. And in August of 2021, I created the sensory walk with a group of volunteers from my troop."
The accomplishments of their daughter are not lost on Gray's parents — Tom and Janelle Gray — a physician and kindergarten teacher at JAES, respectively.
"Aiden continues to amaze us with the skills she has learned through Scouts," they said in the release.
In addition to Scouting, Gray is involved at NHS in the Rotary Interact Club, orchestra club and National Honor Society. Her three siblings — brothers Thomas and Owen and sister Lexie — are all involved in Scouting at different levels.
Aiden's accomplishment is made even more impressive when considering she only joined the Scouts about three years ago.
"I started in June 2019 when our troop was first founded," she said in an email. "I was one of the four original Scouts that formed the troop. … My journey toward Eagle started when I joined the troop. I had to get an … extension because I joined so late compared to most, but they were willing to give me an extra six months so I could get Eagle a few weeks after my 18th birthday."
Her entrance into the Scouts has opened some people's eyes about the organization in the 21st century.
"At first, most people didn't know that girls were allowed in BSA," Gray said. "During some of my first service projects, I was unintentionally misgendered or questioned about my involvement. Overall, though, most people were supportive once they learned about the new change in the BSA. I'm glad to see the shift in cultural attitudes as to what girls can do."
Achieving Scouting's highest rank has been transformational for the youth.
"I'm really proud of my accomplishment," Gray said. "Scouting has helped me gain valuable skills by giving me the chance to work in situations that I otherwise would have never been in. The leadership opportunities especially have been a huge help in developing my confidence."
Gray will apply that confidence in the next step on her life journey, pursuing a degree in civil engineering at Oregon State University once she graduates from NHS in June.
"I have completely enjoyed my journey to Eagle Scout. It has been an amazing journey through the creation of our troop to becoming the first Eagle Scout in our troop's history," she said. "I've made amazing friends and mentors and will forever cherish the memories and values that Scouting has given me."
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