By RUSSELL JONES
PITTSFORD — For the first time in over a century, the Boy Scouts of America is now offering its iconic program of fun, adventure and responsibility to girls as well as boys. An open house will be held at St. Alphonsus Parish Hall in Pittsford on Feb. 27, from 6:30 to 8 p.m. to honor the occasion and introduce scouting to area girls.
It was Feb. 1, 2019, when the Boy Scouts of America opened the Scouting program to girls 11 to 17 years of age. Along with the traditional Scout troops made up of young men of the same age, this new program is collectively titled “Scouts BSA”.
For more than five decades, the Boy Scouts of America has been welcoming young women into its Venturing, Exploring, Sea Scouts and STEM Scouts programs. And now, the BSA is further expanding that legacy by welcoming young women into Scouts BSA.
“This will be a separate all-female troop under the Boy Scouts of America,” Scoutmaster Michelle Smith said. “These will be all-female troops with our own meetings, leadership, and unique unit number. We will have the option to join events open to male units such as camporees, summer camp, and Klondike Derby.”
Through participation in all-girl troops, young women that join Scouts BSA will learn from the same program, earn the same merit badges and achieve the same advancements that boys have earned for nearly 109 years in the Boy Scout program.
For more than 100 years, the pinnacle of the Scouting experience for some has been achieving the highest rank of Eagle Scout. Now, young women can begin the journey toward that goal, and the BSA will ensure that all new Scouts BSA members have a fair opportunity to earn the prestigious Eagle Scout rank. The BSA will celebrate their inaugural class of female Eagle Scouts in 2020.
“We will be wearing the same uniforms as our male counterparts, and we will be run the same as male units,” Smith said. “The only real difference with the new Scouts BSA troop is that we will have all female membership and a female scoutmaster.”
The new all-female Boy Scouts troops should not be confused with the Girl Scouts.
Ginger Kozlowski, Communications and Public Relations Manager for the Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, said that they want the public to know that the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are two completely different organizations.
According to Kozlowski, everything a Girl Scout does centers on four program pillars: science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); the outdoors; life skills; and entrepreneurship. It is also the only place where girls can work toward and earn the Gold Award – a prestigious scouting award. When a girl earns that recognition, she has taken on a project that changes the world for the better, and is a great boost when it comes to applying for college and scholarships. A Gold Award Girl Scout is also eligible to enter the military at a higher rank.
“We think it’s important that parents make the best choice for their daughters, not the most convenient choice,” said Kozlowski. “GSUSA has no plans to add boys into our organization. We remain steadfast in our knowledge that Girl Scouts is the world’s single best leadership development program for girls. We are committed to our mission to serve girls, and girls only, and to foster their amazing leadership potential.”
Membership in Girl Scouts of the Green and White Mountains, which serves New Hampshire and Vermont, has increased every year for the past three years.
The GSUSA has been recognized for having the highest membership growth nationwide. They now have more than 10,000 girl members and nearly 5,000 adult volunteers. They are also stepping up their efforts to reach girls in more rural areas, and have made it a priority to visit every school in both states with at least 100 students, including holding a Discover Girl Scouts event in Proctor on Monday.
“Girls Scouts of the USA is a great organization that the Boy Scouts of America respects and appreciates,” Smith said. “It’s program is a collection of engaging, challenging, and fun activities like earning badges, going on awesome trips, selling cookies, exploring science, getting outdoors, and doing community service projects, to name a few. Families who want their daughter to be part of the Girls Scouts will encourage them to join. Families who want their daughter to join Boy Scouts of America will do the same. Many times the girls make their own decisions based on their likes and interests.”
The Pittsford Scouts BSA event will have a slideshow of events and activities that scouts have participated in to show what sorts of things girls could do as a new troop. They plan to have male scouts from Pittsford Troop 110 providing scout skills demonstrations and they will be able to answer questions about their experiences in the BSA program. A display of camping gear and a mock campsite will be set up. There will be troop leadership, district staff, and district committee volunteers there for a meet and greet and to answer questions.
The Scouts BSA troop welcome potential adult volunteers to attend, as well as interested scouts. They will have registration information, membership applications, and a draft calendar of events available.