RICHMOND, Va. -- Iidajia James’ roots run deep at Belmeade Park.
“We are standing in a community garden,” said Iidajia. “Being present in nature is super important to me.”
The 18-year-old grew up blocks from here on Richmond’s southside. As a little girl, her playground was in desperate need of TLC.
“This is an amazing place to be,” said Iidajia. “I do take ownership. I take responsibility pride in this area.”
Now, the young woman is leaving her mark at Belmeade in a big way.
“What can I do to make this more beautiful?” said Iidajia.
In 2019, Iidajia broke some barriers by taking the oath. The senior at Open High School followed her brother and joined the Boy Scouts Troop 442.
“Yes, when I joined it was like breath of fresh air,” Iidajia said. “So. Yeah. They’re like ‘you’re joining the Boy Scouts. Aren’t you like a woman? I was like, ‘Yeah.”
She doesn’t listen to doubters anymore.
“Step out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid of doing something you’ve never done before,” said Iidajia.
Scoutmaster Tom Hayes said Iidajia's leadership sets her apart from other scouts, boy or girl.
“She doesn’t have to do what others are doing. She doesn’t have to wear what others are wearing,” said Hayes. “Without the fertilizer that her project produces, then all of the other projects that people are putting the effort into would go to waste.”
Her Eagle Scout project is to build three compost bins at the Oak Grove Belmeade neighborhood garden.
“I cried. I was like that is my name on there and I did that. I added to the place I’ve already been attached to, but now I put something permanently there so it is really special,” said Iidajia.
Bob Argabright watched her grow up while helping him transform the oasis.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Iidajia,” Argabright said. “I couldn’t have done it without Iidajia and the kids. It is their park.”
Argabright added Iidajia’s passion is second to none.
“It is an emotional thing for her,” he said. “Because she knows what it looked like.”
This Boy Scout is not only growing as a person.
“It is like you’re watering your own seed,” said Iidajia. “Oh my goodness. I’m excited.”
She is leaving the world of her childhood a much better place.
“I think I had the seed in the ground, but the Boy Scouts was like my fertilizer,” she said.
Iidajia James, an Eagle Scout who is truly taking flight.
“I am just hoping I get to live long enough to see what Iidajia gets to achieve,” said Argabright. “Because it is going to be unbelievable to me.”
Later this month at a ceremony, Iidajia James will reach the highest rank in the Scouts.
In July, Iidajia will tackle her next challenge of Basic Training. The Boy Scout is joining the U.S. Army reserves.
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