Last week, the Boy Scouts of America unveiled its new name, Scouts BSA, to reflect its decision to now accept girls in its program. What we haven’t seen is any strategy or details about the programming they will be offering to effectively serve a co-ed group of children.
By Violet M. Apple and Lynne M. Durbin
May 08, 2018 at 11:30 AM
“It gives more opportunity for girls to do more things that boys can,” Korynn said. “We interact with nature more [than Girl Scouts] and it’s just fun to be outdoors.”
Korynn is one of about 18 members of Harford County’s first all-female Scouts BSA troops.
“She jumped on the opportunity to do this,” Korynn’s father, Shane Sims, said.
More girls are joining what, until last summer, been an all-male organization, though it had female leaders. Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA, formerly Boy Scouts, are now open to both boys and girls.
Like Korynn, many of the girls have been tagging along to Cub Scout events for years with their brothers, they just couldn’t join officially.
Girls in Scouts
Manny Fonseca, deputy scout executive and chief operating officer for the Baltimore Area Council, said recently that 115 of the council’s Cub Scout packs have opened up to the family scouting program. In 2018, the council had nearly 700 girls sign up for Cub Scouts. Nationwide, 77,000 girls enrolled last year, according to a spokeswoman for the national organization.
Twelve Scouts BSA girl troops, including 1920, were poised to launch within the first week in the Baltimore Area Council, with a total of 38 troops committed to accepting girls within the first year.
Fonseca said the numbers grow daily, and the reaction from troops has been positive. There have been a couple that are not ready to accept girls, he said, but those troops are not against the move to a coed program; they want to see it unfold and “get all their ducks in a row” before committing,
“I pose the question to individuals: ‘Do you believe that young women and girls should have the same opportunity for leadership development skills as boys?’ and 10 times out of 10 the answer is ‘yes,’” Fonseca said.
The Baltimore Area Council, Boy Scouts of America was established in 1911, and covers Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.
The council serves 44,000 adults and youth, according to Fonseca. In 2018, it had 253 Cub Scout packs and 244 Boy Scout troops.
‘My own little troop’
Lora Easton, 9, a fourth-grader at Bakerfield Elementary School in Aberdeen, joined Pack 313 in February because it was one of few packs that could accept girls early.
“When my brother was in Cub Scouts, I would always go to all their meetings. I wanted to have my own little troop,” Lora said. “It was just fun to see them doing stuff. When my mom told me there was an opportunity for us, then I was really excited and wanted to do it.”
Lora had tried Girl Scouts, but she didn’t really like it, she said.
“In Girl Scouts, we did activities in a book, but with Cub Scouts, we do physical activities and it’s a lot more fun,” Lora said.
A junior Webelo, she enjoys activities like fitness, whittling and learning how to use a knife properly.
Even though Lora started halfway through the year, she was able to complete all the requirements of being a Bear Scout. After completing her Webelo requirements, Lora said she plans to bridge to Scouts BSA.
“She thrives in Cub Scouts,” Lora’s mother, Sandi Easton, said. “She loves it and it gives her great opportunities.”
During a campaign event, Lora told Diane Adkins-Tobin she was one of the first girls in the county to join Cub Scouts.
“Diane thought that was super cool because she’s all about girl power,” Sandi Eason said.
Adkins-Tobin, a longtime Scout supporter, told Lora that if Adkins-Tobin was elected a Harford County Circuit Court judge, Lora could lead the Pledge of Allegiance at her investiture. Adkins-Tobin won and Lora led.
Easton’s son, Joshua, is in Scout Troop 820 based at the Aberdeen American Legion, while her younger daughter, Piper, is a Lion in Pack 313.
Chance to be an Eagle
Korynn is a member of Troop 1920, which meets every Thursday at Christ Our King Church in Bel Air. It’s affiliated with Troop 313 and Cub Scout Pack 313, though they all have different scoutmasters and leaders.
Emily Whaley, whose daughter is also a Scout, is the Troop’s Scoutmaster, said Sims, Korynn’s father.
Whaley has been active in Scouts her entire life, he said, and she and her husband were actively involved in Pack 313 before Troop 1920 formed.
“It important with our girls to have a female leader,” Sims said. “It’s someone to model and look up to.”
Being a Scout allows girls to try to achieve Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouts, and that “is a big deal,” Sims said.
“Being an Eagle, retired from the military, opened up more doors than I realized when I started talking to leaders in companies,” Sims said. “It’s a huge opportunity and it does mean something.”
Leadership and project management skills are needed to become an Eagle, he said. When hiring, companies look for integrity and character, traits instilled in Scouts early on.
The girls of 1920 voted on their troop number. Transposed, 1920 becomes 2019, the year their troop was founded. But more importantly, 1920 is the year women earned the right to vote.
In the two months the troop was allowed to recruit before becoming official, the girls participated in activities such as rock climbing and skiing.
Just weeks after becoming official, they participated in their first Klondike Derby, a daylong competition to challenge preparation and teamwork, where Scouts are “running around doing a bunch of different Scouting skills,” Sims said.
Of the 18 units, Troop 1920 placed in the top 10.
“These girls are amazing,” Sims said. “They know Scout skills already, much from Girl Scouts and being with Cubs.”
They have learned how to shoot rifles, throw hatchets, start fires and camp outdoors in the winter.
“They love that stuff and they eat it up,” he said.
The troop is split into two patrols — the Fierce Tiger Patrol and the Mumu Patrol.
Typically in a troop, the Scouts assume leadership positions — a patrol leader and an assistant patrol leader. Because the troop is so new, Troop 1920 doesn’t have any patrol leaders, but that doesn’t mean the girls aren’t interested.
“[At the Klondike], when any adult asked for volunteers, they all enthusiastically raised their hands,” Sims said. “They’re all so motivated and wanting to step up and lead. There’s no better way to learn leadership than by doing it.”
Sims was instrumental is starting the first all-female Scout troop in the county. Korynn had asked him why girls can’t be Eagle Scouts and the only thing answer he could give her was that she was a girl.
“That did not sit well with me,” Sims said.
He’s worked with women throughout his career, including in combat. He wrote to Scouts at the national level and asked that girls be allowed. Others were writing at the same time.
Scouting organizations all over the world allow girls, he said. “It’s the fastest-growing youth organization worldwide and yet we still segregated Scouting between boys and girls,” Sims said.
The boys in Scouts have welcomed girls, he said.
“At Klondike, the boys couldn’t care less, that generally, they don’t like discrimination of any kind,” Sims said. “They accepted those girls no big deal, they can do anything we can do.”
Korynn said she’d like to become an Eagle Scout “because I think it’s just a big accomplishment [Scouts] can say they’ve done in their life.”
To anyone girl considering Scouts, she says: “You just need to trust what you think. Don’t let anyone else decide for you.”
‘I like to sleep in tents’
Like many other girls who have joined Scouts, Annalise Elam has been participating in Cub Scouts events for years, tagging along with her older brothers.
“She was very, very involved in Scouting before she could join,” Annalise’s mother, Kim Elam, said. “She would join on hikes. She wanted to learn everything they could learn. Now, she can get the patches.”
Annalise, 7, is a Tiger in Cub Scout Pack 802 based at Grove Presbyterian Church in Aberdeen. Her brother Sean is a Webelo and her other brother Ian is a Bear.
The 60-year-old pack has 56 members, nine girls among them — two Lions (kindergarten), two Tiger (first grade), three Bears (third grade) and one each of Webelos (fourth grade) and Arrow of Light (fifth grade).
The Lions and Tigers dens meet together, as do the Bears and Webelos, though each has its own leaders.
The dens may not be co-ed, but outings and other activities, including pack meetings, can be done together, Elam said.
“I like about Cub Scouts that we get to go camping. I like to sleep in tents and have fun,” Annalise said.
She likes learning in Scouts, she said, “because it’s fun.”
Most of the pack’s recruiting so far has been word of mouth, but Elam encouraged anyone who’s interested to attend an event or visit the pack’s Facebook page www.pack802md.com or beascout.org and type in your ZIP code.
“Hopefully we will continue to grow” the number of girls in the pack, she said.
Elam supports girls in Scouts. “They should have the same opportunity as boys,” she said.