Sydney Ireland Wins NOW Changemaker Award
November 21, 2020 — New York, NY — At the NOW New York State Conference on Saturday, November 21st, Sydney Ireland was awarded the 2020 Changemaker Award for exemplifying the spirit of activism and social justice in her fight to demand the Boy Scouts recognize girls as official members. Along with Sydney, another Long Island activist was honored with the 2020 Changemaker Award, Becky Hill-Genia, a Shinnecock Activist who has been fighting racial injustice in Southampton for over 20 years and advocating for the rights of the Shinnecock Indian Nation.
New York City Troop 414 leader and member Sydney Ireland, 19, became the first female to successfully complete all requirements to earn the Eagle rank more than two years ago. She finalized her Eagle project – “Connect a Vet with a Pet” – on Veteran’s Day in 2018.
Sydney’s journey to reaching the pinnacle of scouting has been marked with resistance and adversity. The Boy Scouts initially encouraged Sydney’s efforts to demonstrate mastery of BSA skill levels in pursuit of the Eagle Rank. Led by former BSA President Jim Turley, BSA reversed course. Sydney was told during a meeting at NOW-NYC offices only a month before her long-scheduled Eagle project, that none of her work towards Eagle would count and that she would need to repeat the effort because she was not an official member when she undertook the challenge, endorsed by BSA leadership.
Despite repeated setbacks, including the harassment by a prominent Boy Scout leader and refusal of the BSA leadership to remove the cyber-harasser, Sydney completed an unprecedented second Eagle project to again complete all the requirements for Eagle rank.
Next month, on October 1st, 2020, the Amherst College sophomore is set to have an official BSA Board of Review, the process in which a scout seeking Eagle Rank presents his/her credentials, skills training, and Eagle project for review and approval.
Sydney, who had been an unofficial BSA member since the age of 4, spearheaded an international movement to push the organization’s largely male leadership to allow girls as official members.
“I am so immensely grateful for the support of so many who believed in me and in the Boy Scouts of America’s ability to adapt and I cannot wait for what the future holds for the Scouting movement,” Ireland said.
Sydney has earned the highest award in Scouts Canada and was recognized by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for her tenacity, work ethic, and resilience in the face of adversity. She has also been recognized as an honorary member of Scouts South Africa.
Her advocacy over the last decade led the BSA to finally allow and recognize girls as full pack and troop members. Prior to the change in BSA policy, girls were forced to sit on the sidelines while boys in their troops (many siblings) earned badges, while girls were denied any recognition of their achievements by the BSA.
Last year, BSA ended its policy of barring female troop members from participating, officially becoming the last Western scouting organization to allow women to join as members. However, the BSA leadership still denied Sydney the Eagle rank recognition she had already earned. BSA has benefited from Sydney’s efforts with a surge in official memberships of young women and girls with over 150,000 new female members joining Cub Scout Packs (ages 5-10 year) and Scouts BSA Troops (ages 11-18), as of the end of 2019.
“Sydney Ireland is a role model for anyone fighting for equal rights for women and girls, thanks to her work in getting the Boy Scouts to start allowing girls to join its ranks. Sydney helped take down a century-old barrier to equality and is now the first woman to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout. As those of us in Congress and across the country work to finally guarantee women’s equality in the Constitution by passing the Equal Rights Amendment, I take inspiration from Sydney’s story and am heartened to know that the next generation is ready, willing, and able to do what it takes to secure the equality everyone deserves. I was honored to welcome her as my guest for the 2019 State of the Union and very proud of her today for all her accomplishments,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (pictured below with Sydney Ireland and Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi).
“As we reflect on the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, we are reminded that pushing boundaries and following one’s dreams, is the truest of American values,” said Sonia Ossorio, President of the National Organization for Women, New York. “As a trailblazer, Sydney exemplifies the best in young leadership today.”
Ossorio added, “Like RBG, Sydney has exemplified her skills as a leader and her ability to overcome so many man-made barriers.”
“The Boy Scouts of America and its current leadership have taken a huge step forward in recognizing girls and women as assets to the organization and ending a blatantly discriminatory practice,” Ossorio said. “As an icon of American society and a gateway to opportunity, the 109-year-old Boy Scouts is now poised to build a new future.”
We thank our many esteemed leaders who stood with Sydney in her successful odyssey to becoming an official Scout. They include: Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, State Senator Brad Hoylman, NY State Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Member Keith Powers, and many others, including many in the media.
NOW-NYC ignites change for the women and girls of New York. We advance laws, promote women in politics, fight for reproductive justice, challenge discrimination and violence against women, and act NOW.
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