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Robert Perkins, an official with the Boy Scouts of America, congratulates Newsome on completing the rigorous requirements to earn the organization’s highest rank.

Reminder Publishing submitted photo

AGAWAM — Shannon Newsome is Agawam’s first Eagle Scout since the Boy Scouts of America allowed girls to join the organization five years ago.

The Agawam High School senior is only one of a few female Eagle Scouts — about 50 of more than 1,000 female BSA members — to achieve this rank. This compares to about 360 of 6,000 male Scouts.

Eagle Scout is the highest rank in the BSA. Newsome recently reached this rank after completing the rigorous process that includes earning 21 merit badges on various subjects, assuming leadership roles and completing a community service project.

All of these requirements had to be met before she turned 18. Completing her community project was the final piece in Newsome’s quest to become an Eagle Scout — and she faced a time crunch to get her project done. Approved Oct. 10, 2023, she completed it Nov. 30 — the day before her 18th birthday.

Shannon Newsome stands by one of the informational signs she made for Agawam High School’s Henry Kozloski Outdoor Classroom for her Eagle Scout project. The AHS senior is Agawam’s first female Eagle Scout.
Reminder Publishing photo by Mike Lydick

Newsome’s project created signs for the Henry Kozloski Outdoor Classroom, a two-acre site behind the high school that includes a community garden. She started Nov. 25 with a group of more than a dozen volunteers, including her parents, JoAnne and John Newsome.

They spent 28 hours installing four pressure-treated posts along the gravel path leading to an overlook of Three Mile Brook. Informational signs secured to posts were then covered with Plexiglas for protection. The total cost — including discounted engraved signs by CHH Engraving in Agawam —  was about $300.

In addition to school and work, Newsome dedicates many hours with the Agawam Veterans Council. It, as well as Veterans Council member Patrick Asta-Ferrero, donated to her project, as did City Councilor Anthony Russo and Agawam Knights of Columbus Council 5585.

“I finished my merit badges a few nights before my birthday. I submitted all my paperwork and had a conference with my Scoutmaster the night I finished my project,” said Newsome.

This past January, Newsome had her board review and got the good news about earning the Eagle Scout rank.

“I absolutely broke out crying — happily of course,” said Newsome. “There was a sense of accomplishment, but I was also stressed out. I had worked so hard and I not only made myself proud, but also my family, most importantly my late grandma, Dolores LaGrange.”

Newsome will be honored May 18 during a celebration at St. John the Evangelist Church in Agawam. Her interest in Scouting began when her older brother became a Boy Scout and her father became a Scoutmaster.

“I went on a lot of hikes with them and participated where I could. In 2020, when my brother became an Eagle Scout, my grandma had this big, amazing smile. That was my push to for me to go for the Eagle rank,” she said.

In 2021, Newsome joined the BSA program with Westfield Troop 5124. When she didn’t advance with the Westfield troop, Newsome started again with Troop 5164 in Palmer — one of the few girls BSA troops in the area — and was quickly promoted to First Class, the fourth-highest rank.

Her project idea came from discussions with AHS Principal Jim Blain.

“I wanted to help out my school and leave my mark because I will be graduating in June, and Mr. Blain said a good project would be to make signs for the outdoor classroom,” she said.

Newsome decided to tackle the project to help both her school and her community: “Agawam is where my grandmother and my parents moved to begin a family. My grandmother loved this town  — she had so many friends everywhere she went. She was my best friend and she would’ve loved to see me doing something to benefit the community.”

While fulfilling her requirements, Newsome also worked part-time and still kept up with her studies, maintaining high grades.

“I worked and got most of my homework done at school. My Scoutmaster helped me a lot by making sure I had everything in on time and avoided nights when I had lots of homework or a shift at work,” she said.

Newsome plans to stay connected to scouting as a College Scouter Reserve. She said this is the best option since she won’t always be “super-involved” with her troop when she starts attending Central Maine Community College in Auburn, Maine, this fall.

Similar to her goal to becoming one of the few females to earn the highest rank in a program traditionally only offered to boys, Newsome plans a career in primarily male-dominated field.

“I’ve been in the automotive technology program at the Lower Pioneer Valley Career and Technical Education Center since I was a sophomore,” she said. “As part of this program, I work in the service department at Balise Ford in Wilbraham every weekday after finishing my morning classes. … My work has been so good at the dealership that they’re sending me to college for Ford Motor Company’s ASSET program for automotive technology. It’s a state-of-the art program allowing me to alternate between classroom and laboratory training with paid, on-the-job experience at a Ford dealership for a career as a senior master automotive technician.”

Newsome’s parents said they’re “very proud” of their daughter’s accomplishments in her Eagle Scout journey. “Shannon served in many leadership positions in her troop, including, assistant and senior patrol leader and webmaster She even landed her job with Balise Ford on her own. She proved that if you set goals, it can be done. Scouting made her the person she is today and who she will become.”

mlydick@thereminder.com | + posts