“Scout me in” is the slogan for the Boy Scouts of America’s campaign to fully incorporate girls into their ranks as of Feb. 1. Well, the girls took this to heart and are ready to be included, as a few determined young women have applied for one of Northeast Ohio’s first all-girl troops in Scout BSA, the organization’s new name for its age 11 to 17 scouting program.
Monday night, Jesse Grabowski, scoutmaster for Scouts BSA Troop 122, Elyria’s first all-girls Scouts BSA troop, held a general interest meeting at Westwood Middle School to try and recruit young women for the troop.
“The girls we’ve noticed wanting to sign up are looking for a program other than what they’ve already been exposed to,” Grabowski said. “They heard about our program and they’ve seen their brothers, cousins, friends go through the BSA program, and they like what they saw and are curious about what we have to offer.”
Though turnout was light, with only two kids showing up, those who did proved determined to lead the way as some of the first female scouts in BSA’s 109-year history.
“I kind of wanted to join to show that I can do anything a boy can do — and that girls can literally kick butt,” said 11-year-old Aubrey Scholle, one of the recent recruits for the all-girls BSA troop.
“No hate on Girl Scouts, it’s a great program and I really enjoyed it for the most part,” she added. “There were just a few things that ‘confuzzled’ me. And a few things that I didn’t really understand. When my mom told me they were letting girls into Boy Scouts, I jumped up and down and screamed I was so excited.”
Aubrey is most excited to go on adventures and camping trips with the BSA troop, as she missed the “rugged outdoor” experience she felt the Girl Scout program lacked.
“I didn’t particularly like it because it was cabins every single time we went ‘camping,’ and it wasn’t at all what I grew up with because I have three brothers.”
It would be difficult to discuss young women joining Boy Scouts of America without noticing the potential competition with Girl Scouts of America. But Grabowski said that the two local chapters have a great relationship, despite a pending infringement lawsuit between the two national organizations.
“GSA has been a huge supporter and I let them know we are in no way trying to encroach on their program or recruitment,” he said. “We’re not trying to compete with each other.”
Which still leaves the question — why would a girl want to join BSA over Girl Scouts?
To Grabowski, BSA offers girls a chance to tap into the network and brand name of the BSA — particularly as the now gender inclusive Scouts program will allow girls to reach the coveted “Eagle Scout” rank, the highest and most acclaimed rank in the BSA program.
He said the rank of Eagle Scout can help these young people get interviews, make career connections, demonstrate leadership and organizational abilities, and will connect them with a “huge network of elite people.”
Aubrey, whose 15-year-old brother, Nathan, is close to becoming an Eagle Scout, dreams of doing the same someday — and plans to earn her first BSA Scout badge before he completes his Eagle Scout requirements.
Additionally, the change is supposed to make the program more family friendly, and appealing to parents who want to enroll all their children in one program.
“It makes it a little easier when all your kids have the opportunity to do something together,” said Leanne Scholle, Aubrey’s mother and an assistant scoutmaster for Troop 122. “It makes it logisticswise less driving. I also like that Boy Scouts teaches the Scout law. And I think those are traits you want to instill in all your kids regardless of gender.”
Scout law says that every kid enrolled in BSA should be “trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent” according to the official BSA Scouting handbook for girls.
Nationally, Boy Scouts of America has seen a serious decline in enrollment in recent years due to changing national demographics and cultural attitudes, as well as a series of scandals involving sexual misconduct by Scout leaders.
Additionally, the group made waves in recent years for removing its ban on gay troop leaders and gay and transgender Scouts, which caused a number of religious organizations to condemn the BSA and end their partnership. The Mormon Church withdrew its support from BSA in 2018, effectively cutting off about one-fifth of the BSA’s scouting base.
In Elyria, fewer than 10 percent of school-age children are enrolled in any Boy Scouts of America program.
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