By Martha Bowles
Special to the Tribune
On Feb. 1, 2019, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) opened its age 11-17 program to girls. With this change, the program name changed from Boy Scouts to Scouts BSA. The name of the organization, however, did not change and remains Boys Scouts of America. This change makes it possible for all youth to benefit from the knowledge and skills provided by the BSA program. Girls across the area are excited about the change and are now coming together to form new Scouts BSA all-girl troops.
Lee’s Summit is part of the High Trail District in the Heart of America Council and is the home of two newly formed Scouts BSA all-girl troops: Troop 7195 and Troop 7220. In addition, the First Presbyterian Church is also working on forming Scouts BSA Troop 7323 and currently has three interested girls.
Troop 7195, based at Grace United Methodist Church, has six registered girls (Amy S., Leigha H., Greta G., Mary C., Emma M., and Katelyn M.) ranging from age 11 to age 13. Emma and Katelyn received their Arrow of Light Award, Cub Scouting’s highest rank, while in the Cub Scout Pack and crossed over to the Scouts BSA Troop when it formed. Scoutmaster Brendon Hale explained that he is very impressed with how well executed the change has been. He said he “has received a lot of support from Heart of America Council and the district as well as the existing Scouts BSA Troop 1195 [for boys].” He stressed that “girls are not joining Scouts BSA to prove a point. They are there because they love the program and are interested in all that it provides.”
After only being a troop for two weeks, Troop 7195 went on a cold-weather campout the weekend of Mar. 2. The girls had a great experience and all who attended were proud of their accomplishments. All the girls have been having a lot of fun with the program already. Greta G. said that it is “really fun to get the opportunity to learn things like CPR, have pocket knives, make campfires and go camping. You learn more when having fun.” Future plans for the troop include an overnight at the zoo and attending the 10-day summer camp at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation.
The girls are enthusiastic about all the opportunities and some are already completing some rank requirements. Five of the six girls have completed the Scout Rank and the last is close to completion. They are also nearly done with Tenderfoot requirements.
Katelyn M. “likes Scouts BSA because you get to do things for yourself” and is looking forward to working toward earning Eagle Scout. Mary C. enjoys Scouts BSA because “you get to work at your own pace.”
When asked how she felt about BSA including girls in the program, Leigha H. said she “had been hoping for years it would happen and was super excited when she heard that girls would be able to be part of Scouts BSA.”
Troop 7220, based at the Lee’s Summit Christian Church, has 17 registered girls (Sadie C., Hannah B., Reagan B., Elena C., Mari F., Leuia I., Leah K., Katelyn M., Reese N., Autumn N., Risa N., Steffi R., Leah S., Erica S., Camile B., Aleasa H. and Audrey T.) ranging from age 11 to age 16. According to Scoutmaster Tabitha Beck, “Many in the community have the mindset that having girls involved in the program is complicated, but it really is not. The program is laid out clearly. The girls are eager to experience all that Scouts BSA has to offer and troop leaders are in place to make their wish to be included a reality.”
Beck appreciates the thought put into the program changes, including considering the challenges older girls will face when working toward their Eagle Rank. Due to time limitations, a girl who is 16 or older when she joins this year may not be able to complete the Eagle requirements before she turns 18. To allow them time to complete the requirements, BSA has offered a temporary extension to the age cutoff. Any young man or young woman who joins in 2019 and is at least 16 but not yet 18 as of Feb. 1, 2019, will have 24 months from the date they join to earn their Eagle Rank. Although the addition of girls to the program was the driving factor of this extension, BSA also included older boys joining this year in the extension to be fair.
The girls of Troop 7220 hit the ground running. On the second day of being in Scouts BSA, they attended High Trail District Merit Badge Academy and went to classes for two Eagle required merit badges: Citizenship in the Nation and First Aid. Their first campout was also a cold-weather campout and they got to experience camping in the snow and below-freezing temperatures. Mari F. said “I never thought I could have done something like that before. It taught me a lot and brought me closer to others in the troop.” A special memory of the campout for Sadie C., the senior patrol leader, was the opening campfire ash ceremony. A small portion of ashes from a prior campfire were added to their fire, and then a tin of the ashes from their campfire were collected to be spread to a future fire. This is a tradition started by Boy Scouts founder Robert Baden Powell.
The girls have also been busy during troop meetings. They have had guest speakers on sign language and semaphore flags as they worked on the Signs, Signals and Codes merit badge. Soon they will begin working on the Personal Fitness merit badge. Hannah B. said she likes working on merit badges and feels that “merit badges are a fun way to learn new things.” Future plans for the troop include camping with the polar bears at the zoo in April, a spaghetti dinner fundraiser, and being part of the first group of girls to attend summer camp at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation this year.
Some girls joining Scouts BSA Troops have a history of Scouting in their family. In the past, it was not unusual for boys to follow in the footsteps of their father and grandfathers in a long line of Scout family history. Girls in the new Scouts BSA Troops can now do the same and create future generations of Scouts.
According to Reece N. of Troop 7220, “We are building the pathway for our future daughters and granddaughters.”
Sadie C. of Troop 7220 is excited about the change and sums up the significance to her and other girls beginning their Scouting journey: “Everything we do is making history and it is cool to be part of the traditions of Scouting and to be part of the start of girls in Scouts BSA.”
Journalist Martha Bowles has been a BSA volunteer for 15 years. In her early years, she was a den leader and advancement chair in Cub Scouts. In 2009, she became an assistant scoutmaster in the troop and later the troop treasurer. In 2015, she served as the camp scoutmaster for her troop at the H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation, and for the past five years has been on staff as a commissioner at Bartle. She has completed many training courses related to Scouting, the highlight of which was Venturing training at the Philmont Scout Reservation in New Mexico. She is currently a troop committee member for a boys troop and the associate advisor of administration for a Venturing Crew. Martha has been active at the district and council levels for many years, helping with Cub Scout day camp, fundraising and merit badge events. In 2015, she received the highest district recognition, the District Award of Merit.
Related article: Boy Scouts Of America Expands Its Horizons