The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

The Student News Site of Bellevue East High School

The Tom Tom

Girls can join BSA

Trekking along. Eagle Scout Isabella Elge (far left) works to keep up with the group. She was part of a BSA summer camp involving troops 231B and 231G to Isle Royale National Park in Michigan. “The best part was jumping into the nearly freezing Lake Superior,” Elge said. Photo courtesy of Jonpaul Steenbakkers

Girls have been allowed in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program for over 5 years, and the organization is still continuing to function and grow today.

Since 2018, girls have been allowed in the Scouts BSA program. According to Maine Public, a non-profit media outlet, over 45,000 girls have joined the program over the last five years. Accepting girls into the scouts allowed girls who had interest in the program’s fundamental skills to be included. 

“Growing up I was the sister who came to all the meetings, and then I found a girls troop and it looked like fun, so I joined,” Papillion La-Vista South junior Nadia Steenbakkers said. “At first I just thought it would be cool to be an Eagle Scout. That turned into me seeing others earn Eagle and wanting to emulate them.” 

While starting a girls troop provides inclusion, starting up a troop is not always easy. Starting a troop generally requires a lot more than just gathering people and labeling them. However, the members of Troop 231G had a slightly easier time because they started a joint troop off of an already existing boy troop.

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“Because we set up as a sister troop to an existing troop, a lot of the bureaucracy was a little easier than it would be for someone starting a standalone troop,” Scoutmaster Brigit Talkington said. “If someone were starting a troop from scratch, I think it might be a little bit harder, but still, it’s a matter of a number of hours of paperwork, not a matter of months or years of paperwork.” 

According to the Boy Scouts of America Lincoln Heritage Council, troop meetings are scout-led by an individual called the SPL, or Senior Patrol leader. Adults are there for safety purposes while the SPL guides the scouts and patrols through different activities. Patrols are groups usually of similar age in scouting units that typically cook and work on skills together, especially during meetings. 

“Typically our meetings consist of rank requirements and activities that have to do with upcoming camping trips and games,”  Steenbakkers said. “My role right now in all of that is the one leading it all. So I lead the planning and execution of the meetings and other events.”

Even though the BSA program now has girls and girl troops, the functionality and structure of the troop remains unchanged. Girls involved in the program go through the exact same ranks and function as any boy troop would. Apart from having a different scout book with photos of girls participating in activities, the program is the same for boys and girls.

“Both units follow the same program, same rank requirements, same leadership stipulations, and learn the same scout skills,” Troop 231 Committee Chair Marcus Paar said. “The boy and the girl troop are definitely different in many aspects; motivation, participation, and organization. However, the biggest difference is their motivations. The girl troop is very goal oriented and driven, whereas the boy troop takes on a ‘it gets done when it gets done’ approach or laissez-faire.” 

Because the functionality is the same, both boys and girls can learn about everything the program has to offer. BSA is meant to teach young people lifelong skills, including leadership, wilderness survival, cooking, and much more. Going through the seven ranks of the program is meant to teach all of these skills.

“They have gained life skills like cooking and first aid; they have learned knowledge in many new areas, and have had their character tested and have had their resolve built in the classroom of the outdoors,” Talkington said. “They have built relationships based on respect and competence.” 

One challenge some girls face is criticism. When people participate in something that is not usually associated with their gender or other social custom, society can harm those involved. And while this is not condoned within the program, some girls have experienced backlash from the community. 

“I have had people straight to my face say that I don’t belong in scouting,” Steenbakkers said. 

Scouting is not always meant to be easy. Some leaders in BSA agree that even though the program teaches significant life lessons, participation may come with some challenges. The art of the program is working through when someone did not plan right, or something did not work out, which can be helpful later in life.

“I believe that there are always inherent challenges in any organization whose mission it is to teach leadership, citizenship, and morality to middle school to high school aged scouts,” Paar said. “Usually these challenges come in the form of resilience, failing and then picking yourself up and persevering is a hard life lesson that is not taught in a generation of participation awards. Some scouts bounce back while others the weight of failing lingers. That is where a scout leader steps in to guide the scouts on a better path.” 

Even though criticism may occur, one unique part about scouting is that it is a different environment than most people are in during their day-to-day lives. The new experience may lead people to meet others they would have never expected to meet otherwise, or to have experiences most other people may never have had. 

“Since we have only had about 10 scouts at any time we build really strong relationships with one another,” Steenbakkers said. “Honestly, we compare to a family with how close we are. You can get to know people really well when you spend so much time together, especially during downtime while camping,” 

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About the Contributor
Charlotte Palm, Reporter
Hi! My name is Charlotte, and I am a new reporter for the Tom Tom. I am an Eagle Scout and I love everything outdoors and nature. I’m also part of JDS dance studio in Plattsmouth. I love to go on adventures and some cool places I’ve been to are Alaska and the Florida Keys. Hiking and backpacking are some of my favorite activities.

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