More girls joining Boy Scouts of America

Staff file photo / Bob Coupland In 2019, Ava Tallman of Leavittsburg, left, and Audrey Gensburg of Mineral Ridge said they wanted to give Scouting under BSA a try and learn things such as folding a flag, canoeing, hiking and building a fire.

In February 2019, when the Boy Scouts of America welcomed girls to join its Cub Scout (ages 5-10) and Scouts (ages 11-17) programs, it began to see more girls — who for many years watched their brothers — join the ranks.

The Boy Scouts of America officially allowed girls to join its signature group, renaming the organization as “Scouts BSA.”

John Brkic of the Great Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America said over the past two years, the council staff and volunteers have helped found over 20 troops for girls throughout Mahoning, Trumbull, Medina, Northern Wayne, Portage and Summit counties.


Rachel Gensburg of Mineral Ridge, a Scout den leader, said her fourth-grade daughter, Audrey, is part of a Scouting troop in Austintown.

“We laid out all youth organization opportunities for her and let her choose, and she chose the Scouting program,” Gensburg said.

She said her daughter liked all the civic learning opportunities Scouting has to offer.

“The girls and boys in Cub Scouts get to do things together and then other things separate. They get the same curriculum,” Gensburg said.

She said she and her husband Bret like a youth leadership organization that is helping their daughter become a responsible young adult.

Suzanne Heino of Canfield, a Scout leader with Troop 8025 in Canfield, said her son was in Scouting for 10 years and earned his Eagle Scout award, and now her daughter Emily has joined.

“My daughter always tagged along all those years. She loved what the boys were doing and wanted to be a Cub Scout,” she said.

Heino said a girls troop was started a year-and-a-half ago and has been popular.

“The girls really embraced this program. Once more people understood what Boy Scouts was doing, there were more girls getting involved. The families told me the girls want to have more opportunities in leadership and activities such as fire building, hiking, knot-tying and canoeing,” she said.

Heino said she herself was a Girl Scout leader and that program offers girls many opportunities, but some girls choose to do other activities offered by Boy Scouts.

She said another program that also offers many opportunities to boys and girls is 4-H.

“They are all valuable programs that offer much to kids. Each person is different and has to see what is their fit. Just like sports, some like soccer and others like baseball,” Heino said.

Heino said some girls want to do the Gold and Silver awards in Girl Scouts, while others want Eagle Scout and earning merit badges like in Scouts BSA.

Shannon Sinex, field director for the Great Trail Council, said what she has seen is for many years when the boys were in Scouting, often a sister also was there but did not participate. So many families liked the idea of a brother and sister in Scouting together.

“One of the main reasons has been families wanting to be on the same schedule,” she said.


She said more girls are completing Eagle Scout projects.

“People say being an Eagle Scout means something,” said Sinex, who herself was in Girl Scouts and earned a Gold Award, the highest honor in Girl Scouts.

“I have heard from parents who are excited that girls can have the same opportunities as boys. Our summer camps are already full, and girls are working on merit badges,” Sinex said.

She said boys and girls have separate troops as they get older, but all have the same opportunities.

The Girl Scouts are their own separate entity with their own programs. The Boy Scouts have their own program and last year opened to both boys and girls with no change in the curriculum.

She said girls can join Girls Scouts if they don’t like Scouting under BSA.

“These are different programs with different opportunities. With girls in Scouting under BSA, there is more high-adventure activities and opportunity to earn an Eagle Scout award. Girl Scouts also offer opportunities for girls who choose that,” Sinex said.

Brkic said about 10 percent of the membership of the Great Trail Council is girls. Brkic said girls first started joining Cub Scouts in 2018 and Scouts BSA in 2019.

Jim and Bonnie Dade of Leavittsburg said their troop of eight girls began in March 2019 and they have been active in the past two years. Troop 5008 has girls who first started in Cub Scouts in 2018 and then moved up to Scouting BSA in 2019.

“There are many organizations that offer programs and activities for youth. Each program is different and not for everyone because everyone has different interests,” Jim Dade said.

The Dades’ granddaughters tried Girl Scouts but weren’t interested in what the organization offered.

“When the opportunity came to be involved with Boy Scouts as a family, they were interested,” Jim Dade said.

The draw of the Eagle Scout award is one of the major factors more girls are choosing Scouts BSA.

“The Eagle Scout Award is one of the biggest draws since it is very prestigious nationally. Girls wanted the opportunity to earn an Eagle Scout, which people have earned for 111 years. The Eagle Scout Award gets a lot of recognition, and the girls wanted to have that opportunity,” Jim said. “It is long overdue to allow girls in Scouting. The girls wanted to and should have the same opportunities as the boys. They are learning important life and leadership skills.”

Bonnie served 33 years as a Boy Scout leader and 30 years as a Girl Scout leader.

“Even when my own children were in Scouting, this was something I have always enjoyed doing. When I started, I was a leader for the Lake to River Girl Scouts and helped the girls with their Class Award, which later became the Gold Award,” Bonnie said.

“This is a well-designed program to help young people become good leaders and better citizens. That is what we are about — leadership and citizenship,” Gensburg said.


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