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story.lead_photo.caption Sean Clancy, Paper Trails columnist

Growing up in Conway, Diana Ashley was surrounded by Scouting. Her father, Dennie, was a scoutmaster; brothers Daniel and David were Eagle Scouts.

"I've been an unofficial, official Scout my whole life," Diana says from her dorm room at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. "I attended events and I would even make cookies for my brothers and my brothers' friends. ... They would be doing different skills; they did all this really cool stuff and I really wanted to join them."

In February of last year, the Boy Scouts of America opened up their Boy Scout program to girls and renamed the program Scouts BSA. Diana was all over it.

"I was ecstatic. I was really excited to do it all officially."

On Oct. 1, Diana became the first woman in Arkansas, and one of only a few hundred across the country, to earn Scouting's highest rank in the program's inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.

"It's really cool," she says. "I'm really happy I've gotten to do what my brothers did and so many others have done in the community of Scouting."

Diana, a member of Troop 6071 in Conway, was on an accelerated pace, checking off her Eagle Scout requirements -- which only about 6% of Scouts complete, according to Boy Scouts of America -- in a mere 18 months.

She finished on Aug. 29, just before turning 18 on Sept. 12.

Becoming an Eagle Scout involves earning a minimum of 21 merit badges, covering things like first aid, civics, business and the environment. Diana, not exactly a slacker, earned 42.

Aspiring Eagle Scouts also must organize a large community service project.

For her Eagle Project, Diana directed the construction of a fire pit with a paver stone circle in a park at First Baptist Church in Conway. It took about month to plan and complete.

"I really wanted to do something in the park," she says. "I asked the church, and they said a fire pit would benefit the youth at the church as well as in the community."

It was also a tribute to Daniel, who was 27 when he died in an automobile accident in 2015.

Diana is studying biology with a pre-professional emphasis at Arkansas State University and plans to continue Scouting. She is a college reserve member of her troop and is the Foothills chapter chief of the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's honor society.

"And as I get older, I'm sure I'll do something with the Scouts," she adds.

Not surprisingly, she encourages young girls interested in Scouting to give it a shot.

"I would ask them to jump at the opportunity. The skills you learn, you can't put a price on them. They are life skills that you can take with you not only as a youth, but as an adult as you continue your life's journey. I think that is really unique and special."

email: sclancy@adgnewsroom.org

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