For the first time, girls are allowed to join what was previously known as Boy Scouts. The U.S. had been the last hold-out, keeping boy scouts a single-sex organization. Now it’s up to individual troops to decide if they want to make the change. The organization in Blacksburg was more than ready.
The ‘Arrow of Light’ is part of the ceremony when young scouts ‘bridge over’ and officially join the troop. Troop leaders proudly announce the progress kids have made. "Gwen earned, building a better world, outdoor adventurer, scouting adventure, duty to God in action, aquanaut, maestro, art explosion, movie-making and sportsman.”
Last year, Blacksburg Troop 158 was part of a pilot project, leading the way toward integration of girls and boys participating in scouting activities together. Ashley Bell, a math major at Virginia Tech, was and is troop leader. Last year they had 6 girl scouts, now they have 10.
Bell says, “It’s been so much fun getting to know these girls getting, to see how eager they are.” She says, we don’t see gender anymore, “they’re just scouts.”
But among the national organizations, all is not so simple. The ‘Girl Scouts of the USA’ organization is suing, the ‘Boy Scouts of America’ for trademark infringement and trying to draw girls away from its female ranks of girl scouts. It objects to the use of the term ‘scouts’ to cover everyone.
Not a problem in Blacksburg Troop 158.
One of the most significant aspects of girls into the organization, is that they can now work toward becoming ‘Eagle Scouts,’ a coveted rank with rigorous requirements that comprise the essence of scouting. It’s something Bell would have loved to have been able to work toward when she was younger, but it wasn’t possible until now and the age cut off is 18 years old.
"I don’t feel any bitterness that I couldn’t do it because I can do it through them now.” She says with a big smile.
This coming July 2019 the ‘World Scout Jamboree’ will be in West Virginia. The first time it’s come to the U.S. in 50 years.