CONWAY, Ark. — An 18-year-old from Conway has made history by becoming the first woman in the state to become an Eagle Scout and one of the first in the country to join the inaugural class.

Like countless sisters of Boy Scouts, Diana Ashley watched with envy as her older brothers joined the ranks to become Eagle Scouts.

“It’s a legacy and I really wanted to be a part of the family of Eagle Scouts and have the distinction,” said Diana Ashley.

So, when the Boy Scouts of America opened all programs to girls in February 2019, Ashley didn’t hesitate.

“Oh, I had to jump on that. It’s in my blood,” said Ashley.

Ashley got to work right away, earning 42 merit badges — more than twice the requirement. She also completed her Eagle Scout project, building a fire pit at a Conway park. She did all of this in less than 20 months.

“Most boys take until they are 16 and they start when they are eleven years old,” said Ashley.

On Thursday, Ashley officially accomplished her lifelong dream,  breaking barriers, and becoming the first girl in the state to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

“I think that shows a lot of determination that she had a personal goal in mind and she was going to persevere to accomplish that, which is what Eagle Scouts do. To obtain that rank takes a lot of hard work and dedication,” said Marcal Young, Scout Executive for the Quapaw Area Council.

For Ashley, this is just the beginning. She said it’s an opportunity to encourage other girls to follow their dreams.

“Definitely jump at the opportunity. I did it so you can do it, too. I highly encourage it,” said Ashley.

Ashley is a freshman at Arkansas State University majoring in Biology with a Pre-Professional Emphasis.

The window to be part of the inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts opened on Thursday, but anyone who completes their requirements from now through January will be included.

The deadline was originally October 31, but it was extended due to the pandemic.