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The news made headlines when it was announced in October: Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has invited girls to join.
So, now what?
For BSA, the first baby steps toward adding girls starts with Cub Scouts. If yours is a family that's already home to a cub or two (boys in 1st through 5th grade; or 7 to 10 years of age), you're likely aware that female siblings have long been welcome to share in some special cub "family programs." Now, all cub activity and program options will now be open, for the first time, to both genders, with "girl dens" added to the "boy dens" that make up a cub pack.
BSA has already opened an early adoption period for new girl Cub Scout members (ends March 1), to be followed by the more traditional "back to school, back to scouting" enrollment period for fall.
How about getting your girl in Boy Scouts? For girls ages 11 to 17, the big news is that young women will be welcome and can finally aspire to earn scouting's highest honor, eagle scout–but not for another year. According to BSA, more program information will continue rolling out this year, with female enrollment in Boy Scouts officially set to open in 2019.
As the Boy Scout girls' entry deadline approaches, BSA district groups across the country are being updated by national BSA with the latest news, and sharing the information with their own area groups as they learn more, said Mark Mackowiak, Lighthouse District chair for the BSA Connecticut Yankee Council.
Macowiak, a life scout who is aligned with Guilford Boy Scouts Troop 471, was cub master of Pack 475 in Guilford during the years his three sons, now all boy scouts, were youngsters. The pack had its share of cubs' sisters who enjoyed many of the components of cub activities during family programs–but until now, they could join in only so much, recalls Macowiak.
"We would always get the question at events like our fall camp out–'My son's having fun; my daughter had a lot of fun today–how do we get her involved in the program?' And we would have to explain it's a boys' program," said Macowiak.
He says established family programming can only be enhanced by allowing girls to fully participate. On the other hand, Macowiak says BSA's plan of having cub packs made up of boy dens and girl dens also has merit, as "you'll still have, inside that pack, that single-gender opportunity."
Bob Banning, scoutmaster for Guilford Boy Scout Troop 472 and an eagle scout, has been involved locally as a BSA volunteer through the years, transitioning through groups as his son went from tiger scout to cub scout and now boy scout. He says his troop hasn't fielded any inquiries yet from girls looking to join, but says he's looking forward to learning more about bringing girls into scouting.
"I'm interested in the ground rules and what additional training there may be; [and] how to line it up," Banning says. "There's going to be some learning curve, but if it means we can off er everyone these learning and leadership opportunities, I'm all for it."
And while all the details are still in the works, BSA has already stated that the requirements for eagle scout will be the same for boys and girls. If girls choose to stay with the Girls Scouts, they still have the opportunity to achieve the Gold Award, the highest achievement that can be earned through the organization. It is considered by many to match the rigor and initiative required to earn the rank of eagle scout, and only 5.4 percent of eligible girl scouts successfully earn this award.
Reaction to last October's invitation for girls to join Boy Scouts inspired Girl Scouts of Connecticut CEO Mary Barneby, a resident of Madison, to pen a response.
In an op/ed published on the organization's website, Barneby builds a case for Girl Scouts' continued commitment to "single-gender learning," saying it "off ers girls the opportunity to try and fail in fields they might not feel comfortable experiencing in the presence of boys, whom the girls might view as the natural 'leaders' in those fields.
"The need for female leadership has never been clearer or more urgent than it is today—and only Girl Scouts has the expertise to give girls and young women the tools they need for success," continues Barneby. "Girl Scouts works. We're committed to preparing the next generation of women leaders, and we're here to stay."
To learn more about BSA in this area, visit www.ctyankee.org.
To learn more about Girls Scouts of Connecticut, visit www.gsofct.org.
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