• First girls join Cub Scouts, Scouting BSA

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    On Feb. 8, 1910, Charles Alexander Eastman, a physician; William D. Boyce, a magazine publisher; Ernest Thompson Seton, British author; and Daniel Carter Beard, American illustrator, made history when they founded the Boy Scouts of America organization.
    Since then, more than 110 million Americans have participated in the program, making it one of the largest Scouting and youth organizations in the United States, according to the official BSA website.
    BSA made history again in October 2017 when it announced that girls would be welcome into the Scouting programs, and Fort Leavenworth troops have started their transition.
    “I am truly excited about girls joining Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA and making history here at Fort Leavenworth,” said Carol Gersema, local BSA Chartering Organization representative. “I believe these young ladies are going to rock this program and far exceed the expectations.”
    Currently, 20 girls have joined Cub Scouts. The first official girl Cub Scout was 7-year-old Kallina Noell, Wolf Pack, whose father Eric Noell, is the Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 1.
    Eric Noell said he initially had mixed feelings about girls joining the Scouts.
    “I was not always sure this would be a good idea. As a parent and a former Scout, I had concerns about why this was even being needed in the first place. The time has passed, the decision was made and I have seen the joy Cub Scouts has brought to some of these girls. I am glad I was wrong in my initial thoughts. I am now able to go through the Cub Scouting experience offered to me with my daughter, something I never thought to be an option,” Noell said.
    “As a Cubmaster, I am happy that the Cub Scouts are including girls this year in the program. It is including girls who joined for many different reasons. Some were siblings of boy Cub Scouts who have been attending Scout functions already; some wanted the adventure of Cub Scouts; some are still deciding on which organization is right for them. There has been a far greater positive response than there is negative.”
    Girls age 11-17 who are interested in joining can sign up for Scouts BSA, that program’s official new name, which will begin in February 2019.
    “I have been working with a group of people who want to provide the best opportunity for the girls,” Gersema said. “We want the program to be the same as the boys’ program, offering lots of adventures for the girls along with teaching them about service and leadership and survival skills.
    “We hope to have a dozen or more girls to start the troop in February with good, supportive leaders that are trained for their position,” she said. “We will not settle for anything but the best.”
    Page 2 of 3 - Sarah Groefsema and Christie Zoch will serve as the Scoutmaster and assistant Scoutmaster for the new troop.
    This is Groefsema’s fifth year volunteering with the Boy Scouts.
    “I am a big supporter of the program and more importantly the impact that it has had on both individual Scouts as well as their families,” Groefsema said. “The history of (BSA) is an exciting one, and the change to include girls means that the impact this program has can be even further reaching. It is wonderful that girls have a choice of what program works for them and their families.”
    Zoch has also had a long history with the Scouts with her two sons in the program.
    “I have really enjoyed the opportunities that BSA affords my children and I think the expansion by creating troops for girls will continue that tradition,” Zoch said. “That is really why I volunteered. I wanted the girls to have an opportunity to participate and we needed female leadership for that to happen.
    “I know women can do anything they want to do,” she said. “Women practice leadership every day in our family, work, play and church commitments. The opportunities for girls to learn leadership with the BSA model will be fun and useful to each of them.”
    Gersema said there were different reasons that led the BSA’s decision to open the program up to girls.
    “BSA had a lot of requests to make Scouting available to girls and boys so that the families could Scout together, more of a one stop shop,” Gersema said. “No more leaving sisters behind or having them tag along and doing the same work, but not getting the recognition.
    “BSA is focused on family Scouting,” she said. “We are working hard to provide meetings for the boys and girls on the same night and same location to make it easier on parents with multiple children.”
    By being a part of Scouts BSA, girls will also be given the opportunity to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
    “The rank of Eagle Scout is well known to represent the values of Scouting and great leadership skills,” Gersema said. “The achievement holds weight on applications for scholarships, schools and job opportunities and often a promotion in rank when joining the military.
    “It’s exciting that these girls will now hold the same title, be a part of this elite group and have the same benefits that go along with the achievement,” she said.
    Gersema said this new development molds with today’s society.
    “This provides an opportunity for equality for both genders; a new generation of acceptance and understanding that we are all able to learn and do the same things,” she said. “We are equally capable of being the best people we can be.”
    Page 3 of 3 - The Cub Scouts are already working together, selling coffee and cocoa door-to-door around post to raise funds for pack activities, awards and day camp. They also went on a family campout.
    “The campout was awesome,” Gersema said. “The boys and girls were doing the same things, like archery, sling shot, hiking, playing Gaga ball and camping alongside each other. It worked as if this was the way it had always been.”
    Gersema said she hoped to see the same interaction when Scouts BSA begins.
    “I see (the older Scouts) working together on service projects and special events and attending camp together,” Gersema said. “I’ve already had some of the Boy Scouts offer to mentor the girls and help them get their unit started. They have already invited the girls to come check out their meetings and planning sessions to help the girls observe before doing it themselves.
    “I’ve been impressed with the support of our units,” she said. “They make me proud.”
    Gersema said the decision to include girls directly fulfills the BSA mission.
    “The mission of the (BSA) is to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law,” Gersema said. “When looking at the Scout Oath and Law, the values are those that I wish every person would have. They are not gender specific and so I feel the program will benefit all youth and provide hope for our future, which will fulfill the mission.
    “Scouting is a family program and I hope and pray the families will take advantage of spending time together and learning through this program,” she said. “The memories they will make will last a lifetime.”
    The Scouts BSA program will not affect the regular Girl Scout program. Girls will have a choice of one or both programs, Gersema said.
    For more information or to enroll in the Scouts BSA program, contact Gersema at troop366ftlvn@gmail.com.
    For more information or to enroll in the Cub Scouts, e-mail Pack1ftleavenworth@gmail.com.
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