There’s a myth surrounding the Boy Scouts of America, and it’s got something to do with what’s in a name. Specifically, the use of the word “boy.” Many women have grown up watching their brothers venturing into the woods, blazing trails and earning badges, thinking they were barred from participating. In reality, girls have been joining in on the fun for years. The only caveat: they haven’t been recognized for it.
The Boy Scouts of America is entering a new era, welcoming girls and young women with open arms – into the wild, into the adventure and into a world of fun, social responsibility and community service. Here’s what you need to know about the BSA’s big move.
#1: The change came about because families were asking for it.
Joe Wiltrout, Scout Executive/CEO of the Crossroads of America Council, based in Indianapolis, says that the demand for more inclusive programming has always been there. “The decision has been a combination of years of research and listening to our families as to what they want,” he says. “And what we’ve found is that we’ve got a great product, and our families want to be able to offer these programs to both genders.” Philip Sheward is an Indiana father who has two sons already participating in Scouts, along with a younger daughter. He says convenience is a big factor in wanting his daughter to be able to scout alongside her brothers. “It definitely makes it easier for us as a family, if everyone is involved in the same organization.”
#2: The biggest change is recognition. Girls will now be able to reach the highest ranks in the organization.
Wiltrout is a father to two daughters and a son. He says his position allowed them all to be a part of scouting. “My daughters got to participate in lots of different activities with the Boy Scouts, but they never got the recognition or the advancements or anything like that. But now you have young ladies that have the opportunity to earn Eagle Scout, and that’s a big deal.”
#3: The new co-ed Scouting programs aren’t in competition with other organizations.
Mary Owens is the marketing and public relations director for the Crossroads of America Council. She says the expanded programming is intended to provide more options for families. “The program offerings from a lot of youth organizations are great, and this is another option. It won’t be for everybody, but for those who have wanted this for a long time, finally, we’re listening.”
#4 The decision boils down to one thing: what’s best for youth and communities.
So what’s the next chapter? Wiltrout says, “I think we’ll be able to offer another avenue for character development and service to the community. That’s really what we’ve got to focus on: how we impact the lives of more families, youth and communities on a local and national level, daily.” Sheward says, “I’m all for opening up the same opportunities for girls that boys have. Having boys in the Scouts program, I already know that the programming is great. My daughter has shown some interest, and I’m glad that now she’ll have an opportunity to participate.”
#5 The program is already in full swing, depending on age.
Owens says girls have already begun registering for Cub Scouts, and their enthusiasm is contagious. As for older girls, she says, “In February [of 2019], that’s when the older, traditional program now known as Boy Scouts will become Scouts BSA, and that’s when they can register.” Scouts and families will have more options than ever, with boy dens and girl dens participating in both co-ed and single-gender packs.
Want to learn more about how your family can get involved with the Boy Scouts of America? Visit www.crossroadsbsa.org for more information.