Girls set to join Boy Scout ranks in new year

ASHLAND, Ore.– It’s the countdown to a new year and come February things are set to change for the Boy Scouts of America.

Starting that month, girls will be able to form all-girl troops within the organization as part of a rebranding as Boy Scouts of America also change its name to Scouts BSA.

In Ashland, an all-girl troop, Troop 211, is set to form in that month as well and its committee chair Ryan Schnobrich says there is a lot of excitement to see what happens.

“There has been a lot of excitement about girls being in the program,” he said.

The new program will allow 11 to 17-year-old girls to join but younger girls from grades first to fifth have been a part of the Cub Scouts since 2017. Even before then, Schnobrich says girls have been allowed to take part in Boy Scouts events but never truly received the full program and experience.

“Young women have been in parts of the scouting program in the past, exploring and adventuring, but they’ve never been a part of what is now called Boy Scouts and is changing to Scouts BSA,” he said.

These new troops won’t be any different from the all-boy troops in terms of how their programs are run Schnobrich added.

There’s been a concern though that these all-girl troops are just girl scouts under a different name. But according to a representative from the Girl Scouts of Oregon and Northern Washington, a chapter of the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. – it’s not a worry.

“We remain focused on girls,” said Sarah Shipe, communications director. “We’ve been focused on girl programming since 1912 and that remains our focus.”

However, nationally, there has been a bit of tension especially about the Boy Scouts decision to change its name. In November, the Girl Scouts sued the Boy Scouts for trademark infringement describing the dropping of the word “boy” from the organization’s name was an effort to attract more girls and cut out the Girl Scouts.

According to Shipe, girl scout numbers in Jackson County only dropped by one person from 2017 to 2018 from 720 members to 719. The organization says that regardless of what the Boy Scouts do, they will continue serving just girls and providing them with opportunities to grow and learn.

“We’re here to help girls develop self-esteem, to develop leadership skills, outdoor skills, and really to explore their passions,” said Shipe. “We want to help them be the best versions of themselves they can when they’re adults.”

That isn’t the only bit of controversy though. The Boy Scouts also parted ways with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints earlier this year after nearly a century working together. The separation was a joint agreement but the church cut ties due to changing rules in the Boy Scouts that allowed girls to join as well as gay troop leaders.

But for those like Schnobrich, this change to the organization is a good step forward.

“You know people have their opinion about whether girls should be in a Boys Scouts of America program and to that I just say I’m an Eagle Scout father with a daughter and I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

Paula Kersch, a district executive for Crater Lake Council, the body overseeing all of the programs in Northern California and Central and Southern Oregon, also released a statement in favor of the Boy Scouts decision.

She says St. Mary’s has plans to open up an all-girl troop in the new year as well.

     We are excited to announce this new opportunity for girls. As a professional of the Boy Scouts of America who only has a daughter, it has been a wonderful opportunity for us as a family to experience the BSA Cub Scouting program grades K-5th, which launched last fall with the families I serve.

The Boy Scouts of America has programs beyond the traditional Scouting program most people do not know, so we are not strangers to serving girls. For instance Exploring is for career exploration, ages 14-20 and has allowed girls to receive hands-on experience in the career of their choice, since the 70s. Mercy flights locally has had a thriving program for many years; it is just one of our exploring program locally that all youth 14-20 can join.

Many people would like to know the difference between the Girl Scout program and this new opportunity for girls in the Boy Scouts through the scouts BSA program grades 6th-12th,  but like most things, the experiences and life lessons are left to the individual. We are two totally different organizations with our own advancement programs.

New opportunities for girls to now achieve the Eagle Scout rank through the scouts BSA program gives more opportunity for young girls; that is what is important. To receive leadership training and outdoor skills while making memories that last a life time. We are not in competition with the Girl Scouts, we welcome their youth to our camps and I have personally help mothers of Girl Scouts finish their archery badge with BSA equipment and trained volunteers.

As the professional executive for Jackson and Siskiyou county, our mission is the same as it has always been. We gladly work in partnership with the YMCA, the boys and girls club and Girl Scout leaders who need guidance or help with merit badges. Our dedicated volunteers committees work tirelessly to ensure better program year after year. I like to think of it has Coopetition or pooling resources, to better serve the community’s youth. It is the best job I have ever had.  Serving the youth of the community means a stronger community for all of us; regardless of what program they participate in.

Currently we have troops starting in East Medford, Ashland, Eagle point and Jacksonville based on our Cub Scout programs K-5th grade who currently have girl dens. Parents interested in the program can contact me directly to ask any questions they may have. We have an abundance of guidance available.

– Paula Kersch, Crater Lake Council


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