Sophie Froese has always loved to paint. So, when it came time to choose her final Eagle Scout project, she came up with a mural that would help refugee children feel at home.

“I just thought it’d be nice to do something so that all the children who come through here can have something to look (at) and make them feel welcome,” said Froese, an 18-year-old MU freshman who is painting the mural at the City of Refuge headquarters, 7 E. Sexton Road.

Since joining her Boy Scout troop in June 2019, Froese has earned the 21 merit badges required to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts. The mural is part of her final Eagle Scout project.

She is among the inaugural class of women in the Eagle Scout program. This first class of female Eagle Scouts is being recognized this year, according to the Boy Scouts of America.

Belonging to the inaugural class means earning the rank within the window of Oct. 1 and Feb. 8, 2021. According to the national Boy Scouts organization, the window was extended into next year because of COVID-19 delays.

Boy Scouts, now called “Scouts BSA,” began admitting girls between the ages of 11 and 17 in February 2019.

On Saturday, Froese led an army of 20 volunteers from her troop to begin working on the mural. The scouts spent part of the weekend painting the 10-by-12-foot mural inside the City of Refuge headquarters.

The nonprofit organization helps refugees in mid-Missouri adjust to their new lives through basic needs programs, counseling services and professional development. This includes English classes and driving lessons.

Sophie’s father, Aaro Froese, explained that the project was meant to demonstrate “that the youth can lead people and help get the project done.”

On a wall in the headquarter’s playroom, the mural displays a world map with colorful details and few words. Sophie said she wanted the children who visit the facility, many of whom don’t speak English, to be able to identify their country.

“When you come to a new country, it can be scary. And so she wanted them to be able to celebrate where they came from and where they are now”, said Michelle Froese, Sophie’s mother.

To avoid crowds when working on the mural, the aspiring Eagle Scout organized the volunteers in shifts to work from Saturday afternoon through most of Sunday on the project.

“I think it helped me grow my confidence a lot, and it really helped me become a better leader,” Sophie Froese said.

According to City of Refuge, about 200 refugees are placed in Columbia each year, and mid-Missouri is home to more than 8,000 refugees and immigrants.

“This mural will be a beautiful display for our families and will hopefully inspire the next generation of Scouts,” said Garret Pearson, executive director of the City of Refuge.

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  • State reporter studying data journalism and interested in tech and new media. Reach me at jax5c@missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5720. Follow me on Twitter: @adriano_dreamer

  • Molly Hart is an assistant city editor at the Missourian. She has previously reported on state government. She can be reached at mhart@mail.missouri.edu.

  • I'm the public safety and health editor at the Missourian and a professor in the School of Journalism. I'm experienced in directing investigative projects. Call me at (573) 882-1792 with story tips, ideas or complaints.

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