Scouting isn’t just for boys anymore! As of February 2019, the BSA officially opened its doors to girls ages 11-18. This means, for the first time in history, a girl can not only join the Boy Scouts of America — She can even become an Eagle Scout!
It’s no surprise that this change brought with it loads of controversy. Upon hearing that girls would be allowed into the Boy Scouts of America (in separate troops from guys) many individuals within the Scouting community began to wonder:
- Would bringing girls into troops ruin the experience of boys in Scouting?
- Was the BSA becoming too ‘politically correct’ and changing traditions that they shouldn’t?
- Is the BSA’s Scouting program even equipped to help girls thrive and succeed?
These are questions that almost every scout asked themselves upon hearing the BSA’s new all-inclusive policy. Myself included. To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure how to feel. Having earned my own Eagle rank only a few years before this change was announced, I didn’t have any firsthand experience to shape my opinions of girls in Scouting… until now! 🙂
In this article, I’ll be stepping aside to let Nicole, a female scout, share the story of her wonderful journey into Scouts BSA. A few weeks ago in my ScoutSmarts Scribe Newsletter, I had asked her (and other readers) to write back if they’d like to share their experiences in Scouting with the world…
And I was absolutely blown away by the email she replied with!
In this article, I’ll be sharing her story with you. In my opinion, everyone should read what Nicole has to say here about Scouting, leadership, and life!
⚜️Nicole R’s Scouting Success Story⚜️
My name is Nicole R and I am a 17-year-young Star Scout from Texas! As the Senior Patrol Leader of Troop 1584, I am so super incredibly excited to write to you today and answer some of your questions about girls in Scouting!
I love Scouts so much and it has become one of the main things I talk about. My family has a running joke that I can’t make it five minutes without mentioning something Scout-related (and they are sometimes right!!) I can’t wait to share the beginning of my journey!!
“What made you want to become a scout? Tell me a little about your journey through Scouting.“
So, what made me want to become a Scout? The real question should be what didn’t! Although I officially got to join Scouts BSA with my own tan uniform in December 2019, I have been a part of Scouting for as long as I can remember.
My dad is an Eagle Scout and as soon as my younger brother was old enough, he joined Cub Scouts. Like many other girls now involved in Scouting, that is where my journey began.
I went to every meeting and campout that I could and became an honorary member in Pack 1210. I was able to do almost everything (minus advance in rank, wear a snazzy uniform, and be part of a Den). In those first years, I fell in love with Scouting and couldn’t wait for my turn to have my own adventures. Some of my earliest childhood memories are participating in the Cub Scout’s campouts, Pinewood Derbys, Scouting for Food, and Scout Fair.
“In those first years, I fell in love with Scouting and couldn’t wait for my turn to have my own adventures.”
With Pack 1210, I was able to go camping and learn just as much as the boys got to. Opportunities of earning the Junior Ranger Award while camping at a state park and becoming a junior staffer at the SHAC Cub Scout Day Camp in the archery range were all available to me, and I loved every moment.
Aging Out of Cub Scouts
However, once my brother aged out of Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, it became a lot more difficult for me to participate in activities with his troop due to no permanent female leadership.
Suddenly, my camping and learning experiences were gone and, as I had never been interested in Girl Scouts and couldn’t find a relatively close Venturing Crew in my area, I was more than a little sad that my Scouting adventure days might have come to an end. 🙁
Although girls were not even close to being considered in Scouts, it was always my dream to become a female Eagle Scout, even though at the time it wasn’t a possibility. At our local headquarters, there is a plaque of the names of all the Eagle Scouts on a wall, and when I was young, I clearly remember finding my dad’s name on the Eagle Scout plaque and knowing that my name belonged up there next to his.
“It was always my dream to become a female Eagle Scout, even though at the time it wasn’t a possibility.”
Things began to change when I was in the sixth grade, and I began to hear some rumors circulating that BSA might be letting girls in soon…
The BSA Begins To Admit Girls Into Scouting
And eventually, they did!!! On February 1st, 2019 (what a great and glorious day that was), girls were officially allowed into Scouts!
However, this was, unfortunately, not the day I joined (and if I have any regrets in Scouting, this would be my only one). I waited and joined in December because one of the BSA Scouting Webpages at that time stated that if girls joined after they were 16 years old (in 2019 only), they got an additional 2 years after they turned 18.
So, my dad and I decided that since I was 15, we should wait a few months because four years is longer than three. Unfortunately, after I joined in December, I discovered that the website’s information was misleading. Instead of four years, I only had exactly 2 years (or 730 days, if you are keeping track like me) to race to become Eagle and experience all there is that Scouting as a youth had to offer.
“I only had exactly 2 years (or 730 days, if you are keeping track like me) to race to become Eagle and experience all there is that Scouting as a youth had to offer.”
Although it was extremely disappointing that I missed out on the first 10 months of Scouting, I am still incredibly thankful BSA allowed girls into Scouting when they did because I’m still able to have the opportunities to advance, earn Eagle, and experience Scouting BSA while still a youth.
The Start of Nicole’s Journey as a ‘Boy’ Scout
Because becoming an Eagle Scout was my end goal, I knew from the very beginning that I was on a massive time crunch to earn it. The very first day I joined, I sat down with one of our Assistant Scoutmasters, Mr. Joe Dante, for about an hour after the meeting ended and earned my Scout rank.
“The very first day I joined, I sat down with one of our Assistant Scoutmasters, Mr. Joe Dante, for about an hour after the meeting ended and earned my Scout rank!”
Since that first moment, I have been determined to experience Scouting to the fullest and learn as much as I can. I have now been an official part of Scouting BSA for just over a year (or 468 days as of March 23rd).
However, just three months after I joined and two amazing campouts later, the COVID-19 pandemic shut the world down. I began to feel like my opportunities to experience Scouting to the fullest were slipping away.
While our Troop didn’t miss a beat with our weekly meetings and campouts, nothing was quite the same over Zoom. Things like Summer Camps and NYLT were erased from my calendar, and I realized that Summer 2021 would be my first and last opportunity to attend these camps as a Scout.
“While our Troop didn’t miss a beat with our weekly meetings and campouts, nothing was quite the same over Zoom.”
Thinking Outside the Box
After it hit me that I had under a year left in Scouting but still so many experiences to have, I made the decision to join Sea Scout Ship 1996 and Venturing Crew 584. The two units are at the same charter organization as my troop and shortly after I joined, they combined to create one larger unit, now lovingly called the “Crew-Ship” (like “cruise ship”!) since the majority of the members overlapped. 🙂
In this unit, I am currently serving as Chaplin Aide, and I am really enjoying my adventures so far! I have gotten to go sailing, learn lots of maritime history, and meet some truly amazing people. I would highly encourage anyone to join Sea Scouts or Venturing because they are also incredible youth leadership programs like Scouts BSA.
“I would highly encourage anyone to join Sea Scouts or Venturing because they are also incredible youth leadership programs like Scouts BSA.”
With these programs, I am allowed to stay in until I am 21 as a youth member, and I am incredibly ecstatic that I still have opportunities to have more adventures as a youth while simultaneously being able to serve as an adult leader in my troop after I age out in December!
Scout Camps After COVID-19 (As a Girl)
As the COVID-19 pandemic is beginning to ease up at the time of writing this, my troop has begun to meet in person again, and I have been able to experience new things. This past winter I went to my first ever Scout camp, Winter Camp!!
Every morning, I would start the day off by playing Reveille to wake up our campsite on my kazoo ( I am actually the Official Troop Kazoogler. Yep, Kazoogler, not Bugler). Although some other troops expressed their slight-annoyances with the kazoo, I had a blast here earning merit badges and spending time with the girls in my troop.
Below, I have included some photos (just me though, to protect other Scout’s privacy, of course). While there I even earned an award for best costume!!
Winter Camp was Sci-Fi themed, so naturally, I went all out and wore a full TIE-Fighter costume. I was ready to crush the competition. However, I wanted to win fairly because I had the best costume, not because I was a girl.
With my face hidden behind the helmet for the night, I traded Nicole for Nick and went officially undercover. When awards were announced at Closing Campfire and I won the best costume award, the joy my troop and I felt and the shocked look on everyone’s faces was far better than any award I could have earned.
“With my face hidden behind the helmet for the night, I traded Nicole for Nick and went officially undercover.“
Turns out, it was a good thing that I was in disguise; after the fact, we discovered that the camp directors has originally wanted to pick one boy and one girl to win the awards, but in the end, they choose the best two costumes.
Although the camp directors got what they wanted, I was able to walk away with my plaque knowing I had earned it fairly. And, that I belonged in this program just as much as any boy! 🙂
Why Scouting Matters
Since joining Scouts BSA, I have fallen in love with this program more and more every day. The skills that I’ve learned through it are so practicable and applicable, and it has already helped prepare me for plenty of situations I ‘ve encountered.
From an outsider’s perspective, Scouting may only appear to be an outdoor adventure and camping program. While this fact is true, since I joined I’ve learned that it’s so much more; Scouting is a leadership program — and the great outdoors is our classroom.
“Scouting is a leadership program — and the great outdoors is our classroom!“
By allowing Scouts to all work together for a common goal of something as simple as setting up tents or cooking a meal, each youth is developing their own leadership skills. Leadership is not something that can be learned overnight. It is something that has to be learned over time, through experience, and especially through failure.
Leadership Outside (and Within) the Troop
I am a Section Leader in my high school marching band, and I have been a part of the Student Leadership Team (SLT) for two consecutive years now. When I was first selected as a sophomore for the position (extremely uncommon, might I add), I only had one year of marching experience under my belt compared to multiple years the junior and senior SLT had.
Being an SLT was the first time I had been in charge of leading and teaching skills to a group so large, and I definitely was not perfect on the very first day. Needless to say, I had some failures before I succeeded in leading well.
I have also learned that a person’s journey to becoming a leader is never truly finished; the wisest leaders know there is always something more to learn. While previously holding the position of Instructor for my Troop, I learned that experience is truly one of the greatest teachers.
“A person’s journey to becoming a leader is never truly finished; the wisest leaders know there is always something more to learn.”
By throwing myself into that new situation of teaching the skills from Scout to First Class, I learned about patience, persevering, and working with each individual Scout in order for them to grasp the skills.
The skills Scouts learn through the First Class rank are the foundations of Scouting that will benefit them the rest of their lives, and being a part of each individual’s journey as an Instructor was one of my most rewarding experiences.
Leading Her Troop As An SPL
Now as the Senior Patrol Leader, I am learning a lot about juggling, more commonly referred to as time management. I am currently working hard on my Eagle-required merit badges (only 2 left to start!), fulfilling all of my SPL duties, and serving as Chaplin Aide — while simultaneously being in 4 AP classes and a leader in band!
With everything and more loaded onto my plate, it has been easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. But, through my time as a leader, I have been able to learn that it is okay to ask for help and rely on others.
My personal struggle I am having to overcome while being SPL is trying to do everything (it was funnily enough also my dad’s biggest challenge during his SPL term too!). While we are doing things from volunteer work to teaching knots, I always want to be able to help with everything and meet everyone’s needs.
Through leading as SPL, I am learning that it’s okay to step back and delegate tasks to my leadership team so that I am able to focus on other things. Leading has helped me practice asking for help now, and I know this skill will come in handy all throughout my life as I lead in other situations.
“I am learning that it’s okay to step back and delegate tasks to my leadership team so that I am able to focus on other things.”
Leadership is one of the skills that is needed in every aspect of life, and the importance of it never goes away. Learning to lead and developing my leadership skills is hands down the most valuable thing I have learned from being a part of Scouts BSA, and I am extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to serve as a leader in so many ways.
Thank You, Scouting!
I am so incredibly thankful that I have been given the opportunity to be a part of Scouts BSA. I am thankful for the memories that I have been able to make, and I look forward to the new memories I will have from the adventures of Scouting in the future.
I want to say bigger-than-huge thank you to Scouts BSA for opening the door at the right moment in history and providing this opportunity for myself and girls everywhere. Scouting has completely shaped my life and made me the person I am today, and I don’t what I would do with all my extra time without it!
I am thankful for the opportunity I have been given today to talk about Scouts and I hope you enjoyed hearing just the very beginning of my many adventures!
“Scouting has completely shaped my life and made me the person I am today”
Yours in Scouting,
Nicole R 🙂
Troop 1584 Senior Patrol Leader