The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910 and for more than a century was exclusive to boys.
But after it got several requests from families over many years to include girls, not only did the name of the organization change, but all-girl troops are now a reality.
The organization is now known as Scouts BSA and troops across the United States have the option to start all-girls troops as of Feb. 1, which includes the Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Explore and Venture branches. The troops will remain gender exclusive, meaning there will be no co-ed groups.
The Heart of America Council, which oversees the greater Kansas City area, will start nearly 40 all-girls troops this month, according to the council’s director of marketing and communications, Matt Armstrong.
“The national organization has received feedback from numerous families over the course of many, many years,” said Heart of America Council Director of Field Service Travis Rubelee. “Basically trying to find a program that will adapt to our ever-changing families. Families are busier today than they have ever been.”
“So to bring sons and daughters to one meeting as opposed to three different programs, this is a great opportunity for them. Every kid deserves a scouting program to change their lives.”
Rubelee said many troops in the Heart of America Council expressed interest in having all-girls troops – one of those being Troop 161 in Independence, which has had families interested in having girls join for a long time.
“We had some girls coming to meetings and they wanted to do what their brothers are doing,” Scoutmaster Meghan Griffith said. “They now have the opportunity to earn the same ranks that their brothers are.”
“We are all linked and have experience with an existing troop, but we are actually starting a brand new troop here. ... We have our own registration number, our own meeting space and our own leadership.”
Troop transition coordinator Lisa Mosley is excited for the opportunity for girls.
“I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “I enjoy it as an adult because the program has programs for adults as well as kids. We just took an outdoor-leader training on Saturday where we learned outdoor skills and leadership skills as adults. I think it’s great to have that equal opportunity for girls to learn leadership skills.”
Added Griffith: “I wish they had this available 30 years ago because when I was a kid, I would have been all over this.”
Griffith said the minimum number to start an all-girl troop is five, and so far, Troop 161 has seven committed. The girls and boys troops will be treated the same. The requirements to earn merit badges, the activities and the requirements to become an Eagle scout (the highest rank in scouting) are the same across the board.
“I am excited to earn merit badges,” Cub Scout Lucy Bigham said. “I think that sounds fun.”
The girls will be able to earn new badges and ranks right off the bat. Those in Troop 161 will attend a district camp where they have the opportunity to participate in archery and shooting a shotgun.
The troop will have an interest party from 9 a.m. to noon Feb. 16 at East Alton Community of Christ Church, 2300 R.D. Mize Road in Independence. Those who can’t attend can inquire about joining at the troop’s regular meeting at 7 p.m. on Mondays at the same location. The all-girls unit with Troop 161 will launch March 11.
“It’s open to any girl interested in joining our troop,” Griffith said. “We are hoping to get more involved. The more the merrier.”