By Michael Gresham
The Texas Catholic
In the coming months, Scouts BSA — formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America — will induct its first class of female Eagle Scouts, the highest rank someone in Scouts BSA can earn. Vying to be among that inaugural group is Grace Olden, a senior at Ursuline Academy.
“I have literally grown up in and around Scouts all my life as my older brother and my father are both Eagle Scouts, and my younger brother is also in Boy Scouts,” said Olden, explaining that when the organization began allowing girls in 2019, she decided to follow in their footsteps. “I was intrigued by the idea of becoming part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts.”
Before achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, Olden must submit an application for review as well as have a final board of review to assess her readiness. One aspect of that process is choosing an Eagle Scout project. To do this, Olden turned to another passion of hers: helping children with special needs.
Olden, 18, opted to create fine motor skill activity kits for primary school students at Notre Dame School of Dallas, which serves students with developmental disabilities ages 6 through 21.
A lifelong parishioner at St. Rita Catholic Church, Olden first began working closely with special needs children as a summer camp counselor at Camp Blessing in Brenham, which provides a sleep-away camp experience for developmentally challenged children.
“It was always a very rewarding experience for me to be hands on with kids who share trust and gratitude in a way I have never experienced before,” she recalled. “When choosing my Ursuline Senior Service beneficiary, I knew I definitely wanted to serve the special needs community, so it made Notre Dame School of Dallas an easy choice.”
However, health and safety guidelines enacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the school’s senior service project.
Olden, though, wasn’t deterred.
“I felt really bad that these kids would have to miss out so I reached out to Notre Dame directly to see if I could help them in any way through my Eagle Scout project,” Olden said.
The Ursuline teen reached out to Elizabeth Garrison, development director for the Notre Dame School, who connected her with Courtney Howard, who teaches children ages 4 through 6.
“Because of COVID, students could no longer share sensory learning materials like they used to and the teacher asked if I could make individual materials for each student in her classroom,” Olden said.
With the help of volunteers from BSA Troop 890 and Ursuline Academy, Olden completed eight activities for students in the classroom. In addition, she made several aprons for teachers to make it easier for them to carry around cleaning and sanitizing supplies — a necessity during the pandemic.
“I delivered the activity kits and aprons the first week in January when the student came back to school after Christmas break,” said Olden, who added that the project took longer than expected due to implementing extra safety measures for COVID.
With the kits, each student gets his or her own bin with various activities such as buttons, zippers, and a small clothes line to work with clothes pins.
“These activities strengthen muscles in the fingers which increases independence in self-help skills and functional writing skills,” explained Garrison, adding, “We truly appreciate what Grace has done.”