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Scouts BSA now open to girls; Troop organizing in Tri-City area

For the first time, girls have the opportunity to start on a path toward earning the esteemed rank of Eagle Scout.

On Feb. 1, the Boy Scouts program offered through Boy Scouts of America for youth 11-18 years old became known as Scouts BSA. The name change reflects the fact that girls are now allowed to participate in that program.

Scouts BSA is the same program as Boy Scouts, and none of the requirements have changed. The only difference is that girls can join all-female troops, and boys will continue to join all-male troops, said Art Hawkins, scout executive for Boy Scouts of America, Evangeline Area Council, which includes St. Mary.

Eight all-female troops are currently organizing within the Evangeline Area Council, including one troop based in Patterson.

Leah Begley is organizing the girls’ troop in Patterson. Begley said the troop will probably meet in Patterson, but she encourages girls from across the Tri-City area to join the troop.

In the troop, girls will learn about first aid, camping, wilderness survival and outdoor cooking skills, Begley said.

“It’s going to be fun, and it’s going to be what a lot of girls are looking for,” she said.

Girls joining Scouts BSA can also be a part of the first class of girls to earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Scouts BSA.

To ensure that no girls try to take short cuts to be recognized as the first female Eagle Scout, Boy Scouts of America won’t recognize an individual first female Eagle Scout. Instead, the organization will recognize the first female Eagle Scout class together, Hawkins said.

Begley plans to meet with an organization next week that she hopes will serve as the troop’s charter organization. Five girls, the minimum to start a troop, have committed to join, and another five girls have expressed interest in joining, Begley said.

Begley has two sons in scouting, and one of them is an Eagle Scout. She also has a daughter who grew up attending Cub Scout meetings with her brothers and the sisters of other scouts.

When Begley learned that girls would be allowed to join Scouts BSA, she decided to organize a troop for the girls who were eager to join, she said.

Begley has been active in Boy Scouts of America programs for years. She is on the committees for Troop 41 in Patterson and Cub Scout Pack 438 in Morgan City. She’s also a merit badge counselor in Scouts BSA and council camp director for STEM camp.

Boy Scouts of America is a “great family organization,” and now girls can officially participate in all of the programs in which boys have been participating, Begley said.

Girls in Scouts BSA are eligible to sign up to attend their first summer camp this year at numerous camps throughout the country.

“A girl who’s looking for high adventure is going to get high adventure very, very quickly,” Hawkins said.

In 2018, Boy Scouts of America allowed girls to join its Cub Scouts program for 5- to 10-year-olds. The organization allows mixed-gender Cub Scout packs, but individual dens within those packs still have to be single-gender.

Officials in the Evangeline Area Council have received “very, very positive reaction” to that decision in the past year, Hawkins said.

Since Boy Scouts of America began allowing girls in Cub Scouts a year ago, about 115 girls in the Evangeline Area Council had joined by the end of 2018.

“We anticipate that number growing exponentially this year and next year,” Hawkins said.

Anyone interested in joining Scouts BSA, Cub Scouts or any other Boy Scouts of America program may contact District Director Justin Guidroz at 337-235-8551, ext. 108.

To contact Begley about joining the Scouts BSA girls’ troop in the Tri-City area, email her at leah.g.begley@gmail.com.

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