Makela Humke is taking flight after becoming south-central Wisconsin’s first female Eagle Scout
Becoming an Eagle Scout was one of Humke's lifelong dreams.
On an early spring day in 2019, Portage High School junior Makela Humke came to Madison and told Gov. Tony Evers and the Wisconsin Legislature what it meant to her to have a chance to become an Eagle Scout.
She was the first female to represent the Scouts at the annual Capitol presentation that dates back decades. Two months earlier, the Boy Scouts of America had changed the name of its older youth program to Scouts BSA — and started welcoming girls.
Humke’s Capitol appearance drew media coverage, and while she still had significant work ahead of her to become an Eagle, most of the reaction was encouraging.
But not all.
“There was definitely some hate,” Humke says. “Some people didn’t think girls belonged in Scouts.”
Anyone who thought she might be deterred didn’t realize that this was a girl who’d broken her arm cheerleading as a high school freshman and recovered in time to earn a spot as a sprinter on the track team the following spring.
“I knew what I was doing was important to me and that’s what mattered,” Humke says. “When I had the possibility to be an Eagle Scout, I knew it would be more than just earning the rank. It would prove I can do just as well as the boys. Just as well as anyone.”
In November 2020 — some 19 months after her state Capitol appearance — Humke was in her dorm room at the University of Wisconsin–Platteville answering questions via Zoom for her Eagle Board of Review. A successful session was the last step to becoming an Eagle.
“What’s the significance of this day?” one of the examiners asked Humke, near the end.
“That I got my Eagle?” Humke responded, hopefully.
“You got your Eagle,” the examiner replied.
Humke became the first female Eagle Scout in the Madison-based Glacier’s Edge Council, which serves south-central Wisconsin and northern Illinois. She was one of around 1,000 young women nationally in the Scouts BSA inaugural class.
“This is a powerful moment for these young women, for all Eagle Scouts and for our nation,” Jenn Hancock, Scouts BSA national chair for programs, told the Associated Press. “People recognize Eagle Scouts as individuals of the highest caliber, and, for the first time, that title isn’t limited by gender.”
Humke, more than most, had been around scouting all her life.
She’s originally from China. “I was abandoned when I was born, near Hefei,” Humke says. “I was in an orphanage for around 11 months.”
She was then adopted by her parents, Todd and Tracy Humke, who brought her home to Wisconsin. Humke grew up in Stanley, 25 miles east of Chippewa Falls. When Humke was 14, the family — which includes her sister, Camryn — moved to Portage.
Scouting was important in the family’s life. Todd and Tracy ran a venturing crew — a scouting program — for adults with disabilities. Every year, the family went to the Crystal Lake Scout Reservation in Rhinelander for summer camp.
When Humke was old enough, she worked at the camp.
“I actually worked at the Cub Scout camp,” she says. “It’s called Akela’s World. I was named after that. My mom thought it was a cool name.”
Humke enjoyed the camp experience, up to a point. “It was kind of a bummer that I couldn’t do merit badges,” she says. The boys were tying knots, learning to make fires and more.
With the advent of Scouts BSA in February 2019, the Glacier’s Edge Council created Troop 7070, which included nine girls. Humke was the senior patrol leader.
“Makela stepped in as a leader,” the troop’s scoutmaster, Brenda Kubasik, says. “She got them to blend together as a team. She made them feel comfortable, planned activities and got them going.”
Just two months after the troop’s formation, Humke spoke at the Capitol.
“She was nervous,” Kubasik says. “At first she said, ‘Oh, no. I can’t do that.’ But she did it and she did a great job.”
Becoming an Eagle Scout requires earning at least 21 merit badges — in diverse areas such as camping, cooking and citizenship in the world — as well as completing a service project.
Humke’s project involved collaborating with Rusch Elementary School in Portage to build a new sandbox, toy storage box and GaGa Ball Pit (a popular dodgeball variant). Her sister, Camryn — who became an Eagle not long after Humke — installed small food boxes around Portage in the manner of Little Free Library.
Humke is studying criminal justice at UW–Platteville. Among her goals is to visit China.
“I really want to go back one day,” she says. “To see where my orphanage was. Just to see where everything started.”
“I’m going to take a break because I’m in college,” Humke says. “But I do plan on being involved in the girls’ troop, showing up once in a while, helping them with their Eagle projects and their journeys. Eventually I plan on getting my family involved, when I have a family one day.”
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