Fort Mill, S.C. teen, Eagle Scout builds $20K pavilion for school

The 14-year-old student becomes one of the few female Eagle Scouts in U.S. history.
The 14-year-old student becomes one of the few female Eagle Scouts in U.S. history.
Published: May. 6, 2022 at 10:05 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Becoming an Eagle Scout is not an easy or quick process, but one female scout is not only breaking down barriers but building up her community in the process.

Fourteen-year-old Zoe Valdez, a student at Walnut Grove Christian School in Fort Mill, S.C., has raised over $20,000 to build an education pavilion right on campus grounds.

“I decided that a nice space to get outdoors for the kids to learn because we were in the middle of a pandemic,” said Valdez. “So, I decided when the kids are happy, they learn better and it’d be better to get them outside in nature.”

After meeting with Head of School Kyle Boyd and discussing what new additions could be good for her classmates, Valdez got to work.

“Fundraising was quite a stressful process,” she said. “We went through the car lot passing out flyers, opened GoFundMes, I went to multiple companies presenting my project. I thought slowly it was going to get smaller because of how ambitious it was, because of how big it was.”

Now, that pavilion is a reality and a space where kindergarten through 12th-grade students now hold classes, including some of Valdez’s. It’s built to accommodate around 250 students.

“They love it!” Valdez said excitedly. “When I leave class for the day, I can already see them using it, kindergarten through 12th. I see them enjoying class and it makes me happy.”

Service, though, is in Valdez’s blood and in her badges. She’s a scout with BSA Troop 250G in Fort Mill, one of the founding female members of Boy Scouts of America.

With her work on the pavilion and many other community projects, she’s now becoming one of the youngest women to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, a title only 4% of scouts have ever held.

Meanwhile, of the 2.5 million youths who have earned the rank, Valdez joins a group of only about a thousand young women to have ever gained the accomplished title.

“I think Zoe’s come in and she’s a trailblazer,” scoutmaster Stephanie Tinker said. “And having her be a spokesperson for us lets girls know - scouts, period, boys and girls - we’re here for everybody.”

Eagle Scout is the highest rank possible in scouting. According to Boy Scouts of America, a scout “must fulfill requirements in the areas of leadership, service, and outdoor skills.”

The scout has to also meet certain tenure requirements and earn merit badges thorough various avenues like citizenship, first aid, camping, personal fitness and more.

Just about a year ago, the Boy Scouts of America inducted its first-ever class of female Eagle Scouts. Tens of thousands of girls have joined the scouts since they began allowing them back in 2018.

“I want to inspire the other girls to get to Eagle Scout and to work on these kinds of projects,” Valdez said.

The accomplished and newly-inducted Eagle Scout also says she hopes what she’s done lets other young scouts know that perseverance, hard work and community partnership pay off.

“I got told my plan was ambitious and people told me to make it smaller and, originally, I thought I should. But as I went through the process, I thought just keep going. It’ll work out in the end.”

Valdez has plans to get involved with Study Abroad, learning about cultures and backgrounds different from her own. She eventually hopes to become a travel nurse.

Learn more about Valdez and the pavilion at Walnut Grove Christian School on her website.

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