On Feb. 1 in Camarillo, two troops officially joined the Boy Scouts of America scouting program, whose membership consists entirely of girls.
In 2018, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would drop the “boys” from its namesake program and instead rename it to Scouts BSA in an effort to appeal to girls, who beginning that summer were allowed into previously exclusive-to-boys programs.
For Ventura resident Karen Erickson and her daughter, Claire, the announcement came with much excitement. When Karen learned about the opportunity, she brought her daughter to the initial meeting regarding the changes.
“When she got there she was a little quiet and hesitant until they showed the marketing video to recruit the girls and as soon as she watched that she reached over and grabbed an application,” said Karen. “She’s been watching her brother go do amazing things for two to three years now and every time he goes, she stays home. I think that’s been a big motivation for her.”
Karen’s son joined the organization formerly known as the Boy Scouts in 2016 and took part in activities that were exclusive to the boys. From camping to rock climbing, canoeing and archery, boys were given an opportunity that made Karen ask, “Where is this opportunity for my daughter?”
“I looked across the spectrum and I kept coming back to, ‘I wish there was a Boy Scouts for her.’ ”
Karen says that she looked into the Girl Scouts of America program but was more attracted to the ability to move up in ranks within the Scouts BSA program, where a scout can earn merit badges for accomplishing certain tasks, the biggest draw for her being the rank of Eagle Scout.
“The Eagle Scout rank opens doors of opportunity for folks who have earned that rank,” said Karen. “Girls should be every place that decisions are being made, so if earning that rank gains them that opportunity that’s fantastic.”
Scoutmaster Allan Oerlemans says that girls have been welcomed in to the Boy Scouts of America since the 1960s via a program called Explorers, which focused on career paths. In Ventura County, Oerlemans says that the program offers Sheriff Explorers and Fire Explorers, just to name a few. Since the 1970s, the BSA programs Venturing and Sea Scouts have been co-ed as well for girls aged 14 or older. It wasn’t until 2018 that the BSA allowed girls into the Cub Scouts program for youth in grades Kindergarten to 5th. Feb. 1, 2019, was the official date after which girls would be allowed into the Scouts BSA program.
“For years, boys have been attending all of these great events and exciting adventures and sisters either had to tag along or watch from the sidelines,” said Oerlemans, waxing on the fundamentals of the BSA program, saying that it focuses on building character, being a good citizen and learning leadership skills as well as being a good person. “We’ve been offering that to boys for 109 years now, so why don’t we offer it to girls? They deserve access to the same kind of programs.”
On Friday, Feb. 1, six girls from Ventura took part in a kickoff celebration at the Boy Scouts of America Ventura County Council headquarters, submitting paperwork to officially become Troop #1176. Oerlemans says that the girls will perform the same duties and take part in the exact same activities as the boys. To signify that, at the celebration, the girls took part in a traditional Scout activity.
“They got to perform their first official duty by raising the American flag at the BSA Ventura County HQ,” said Oerlemans.
For more information on Scouting BSA, visit www.scouting.org.