Next year, the Boy Scouts of America program Boy Scouts will rebrand itself as Scouts BSA, officially allowing girls to join its ranks. In response to the change, local scout leaders are forming a new Troop 3752 for girls from Chittenden County.
At the beginning of this year, BSA expanded its programs to allow girls into Cub Scout packs, which serve kids aged 7 to 10, according to the organization. Next February, girls aged 11 to 17 can create their own Scouts BSA troops.
While Troop 3752 is meant to mostly serve girls from Essex and Colchester, it will act as a “magnet troop” in the beginning to attract girls from all over the county as it grows, said Kevin Eschelbach, senior district executive for the Scouts’ Three Rivers District. Once the program gains more interest, local troops may split off, he said.
Eschelbach said BSA became more inclusive when families with sons and daughters asked if girls to join to make commuting to meetings easier.
“That way they’re not trying to bring the son to Cub Scouts and the daughter to Girl Scouts,
which Murphy’s Law demands will be on the other side of town and one would be late every single week,” he said.
Many families seemed to agree with Eschelbach’s explanation, saying their daughters saw the activities their sons were doing and wanted in.
Suzanne Blanchard, the troop’s Scoutmaster, said her daughter Sarah has participated in Scout activities for years because of her older brother. This year, she could finally earn merit badges and officially be called a Scout.
“All these girls that are part of scouting families have been doing this for years; they just couldn’t get the advancement,” she said.
Once girls can join Boy Scouts, they’ll earn Scout merit badges and progress through the program to the highest attainable rank of Eagle Scout. They’ll do all this apart from boy Scouts, however, as the BSA concluded the genders should essentially remain separate but equal.
Eschelbach said the decision stemmed from research with educators and developmental psychologists who said there are benefits to keeping the genders separate as they mature at much different rates.
“When we examined the co-ed scouting programs in Europe and Canada, when you get to the upper grades of high school, the girls are in charge and all the boys are gone,” he explained.
“Naturally, we wish to serve boys as much as we can in addition to girls, so having them all quit is contrary to that mission.”
By keeping girls and boys separate, each can have more of an opportunity for leadership positions in their respective troops.
“All the youth leadership positions would be equally accessible to both boys and girls, because we’ll need one of each,” he said. “Everyone will get an equal shot at making sure that they can serve in those leadership roles.”
Sarah Blanchard, the Scoutmaster’s daughter, could barely contain her excitement when asked why she wants to join BSA.
“My favorite parts about the Scouts is the teamwork, the fun, and the whittling chip!” she exclaimed.
Troop 3752 held an open house Monday night at the Colchester meeting house for prospective Scouts. BSA volunteers set up different stations to show girls some typical activities they could look forward to after joining.
Some activities included knot-tying, campfire cooking and orienteering, and even an entire campsite – tent and sleeping bag and all – was set up for girls to explore. Local Cub Scout girls, soon to be a part of Troop 3572, performed their first flag ceremony during the open house as well.
Prospective Scout Katie Coolidge said her attraction to the new troop began years ago since her father and brother have been involved in BSA. The activities, like hiking and camping, enticed her.
“I was in the Girl Scouts, but it wasn’t the right thing for me,” she explained. “It was too girly.”
Like all BSA troops, Troop 3752 will be chartered by a local community organization to “build bonds” between the Scouts and the community, Eschelbach explained. The group hasn’t chosen one, but both the Essex Jct. and Colchester Lions Clubs are in the running.
Essex Jct. Lions Club charter organization representative Mark Johnson said his family has a “vested interest” in chartering the troop because his granddaughter, Evelyn, is going to join.
She’s currently a Cub Scout, and said being around her Scout brothers piqued her interest. She’ll be able to join in a year and a half, when she turns 11, but is already looking forward to the opportunity.
“I want to be able to plan a hike or a campout,” she said.
Her father will serve as the new troop’s advancement chairman.
“I don’t know much about the Girl Scouts … and our family is invested in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts,” Johnson said. “My daughter wanted to do what her brother was doing, and that works for us just fine.”