Two years after the Boy Scouts of America opened its ranks to girls, two members of a Lutz troop have become part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.
Crystal Ming Torres, 16, of Carrollwood, and Sianna Eldert, 18, of New Port Richey, were among 300 girls nationwide to officially earn the distinction on Feb. 8. They are members of Troop 339G, which is chartered by the First Baptist Church of Lutz.
It’s always notable when anyone earns the rank of Eagle Scout (only 6% of all Boys Scouts reach that level).
This was different.
This was history.
“Personally, it was a goal of mine that I wanted to achieve, to prove to myself that I could achieve anything that my brother could do or my dad could do,’’ Torres said. “I’m a pioneer. That was important to me. I also wanted to be that role model for younger girls.’’
“It’s a tremendous honor to be an Eagle Scout,’’ Eldert said. “You are respected and viewed as a leader. You’re going to change the world.’’
Torres and Eldert already have changed the world — along with everyone’s perceptions.
“We have celebrated everything they have done, but also reminded them of the obligation they both have going forward,’’ said Matt Cordani, scoutmaster for the Lutz boys troop and assistant for the girls troop. “As an Eagle Scout, you carry that with you the rest of your life. It isn’t, ‘I was an Eagle Scout.’ It’s always, ‘I am an Eagle Scout.’
“It’s really impressive how quickly they’ve come in and made an impact to the program. New girls came into the troop, followed by younger girls. They can run their own organization, plan their own campouts. I think they are on par with any boys troop in the (Greater Tampa Bay Area) council (which encompasses 192 Boy Scout troops in nine counties). They are motivated to excel.’’
Torres, a junior in the International Baccalaureate program at Hillsborough High School, is the daughter of Dr. G.S. Torres and Cindy Zhang-Torres. Her father, uncle and brother are all Eagle Scouts. Torres earned 38 merit badges and qualified as an Eagle Scout with Silver Palm.
She’s a member of Hillsborough High’s varsity cheerleading and varsity tennis squads. She’s planning a career in medicine and has her sights set on attending the University of Florida.
Eldert, who graduated last summer from Florida Virtual School, is seeking a bachelor’s degree in Media Communications from Full Sail University. She’s the daughter of Tanya and Michael Eldert. Her father and uncle are Eagle Scouts. Eldert, who earned 23 merit badges, plans to own a marketing and graphic design business.
As part of the Eagle Scout requirements, both Torres and Eldert had to earn at least 21 merit badges, take on leadership roles within their troop and community, and complete a community service project.
Torres, working in conjunction with Owl’s Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife, built six nest boxes for screech owls and a carrying case for transporting injured birds.
Eldert’s project concerned raising awareness of Dysautonomia, a rare condition in which the autonomic nervous system (ANS) does not work properly. It may affect the functioning of the heart, bladder, intestines, sweat glands, pupils and blood vessels. Eldert, who was diagnosed with Dysautonomia, visited pediatricians and family care physicians, and presented them with gift baskets that contained information pamphlets and a book about the condition.
“It’s so misdiagnosed and hardly anyone knows about it,’’ Eldert said. “My project was really personal for me. I wanted this condition to receive more attention.’’
Both Eldert and Torres are now familiar with raising awareness for a cause. They said they have enjoyed receiving local media attention after their notable accomplishment.
“I was on three different news stations and featured in the local newspapers,’’ Eldert said. “One of the camera guys told me, ‘We need to get you an agent.’ The attention opened my eyes and let me know that this was kind of a big deal. I loved the attention and it gave me an opportunity to talk about my journey.’’
“I’ve had all sorts of interviewers — female and male — the main reaction we’re getting is we have done something amazing,’’ Torres said. “I think I’m starting to understand the impact. It makes me realize what we’re doing is important.’’
By Joey Johnston
Published March 24, 2021