JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Boy Scouts of America will welcome girls into its most iconic program beginning Feb. 1 and girls from across the First Coast are already prepared to join.
The BSA North Florida Council has approximately 14 girls-only troops ready to sign up across their 17-county area, including Troop 291 in Ponte Vedra Beach.
“I learned about the opportunity to join Boy Scouts of America from my mother, and I am so glad I will be able to take part in the high adventure the Scouts BSA program offers,” said Marina Mitchell, a future scout with Troop 291. “My little brother started in Cub Scouts and is now a Boy Scout. Now I can join the same organization and earn my Eagle Scout rank, which I am really looking forward to.”
Marina and countless girls around the country will join troops next month because of the BSA’s historic decision to open the Boy Scout program to both boys and girls ages 11 to 17.
The program will also have a new name, Scouts BSA.
While Scouts BSA will welcome both genders, it will not be co-ed. Troops will be single-gender and will meet independently. The BSA recognizes and celebrates that boys and girls develop differently, and there are times that single-gender learning is the most appropriate.
“I got involved with Scouts when my son joined about four years ago and when my daughter told me she wanted to earn her Eagle Scout rank, I signed on to lead the Troop,” said Elaine Mitchell, Troop 291 adult volunteer leader. “We have about 15 girls ready to join and they have received their custom neckerchiefs, Troop number and Class B’s, which is their Troop t-shirt. We have some great campouts already planned and we are ready to get started with this new Scouting adventure.”
Kaylee Russell spent a lot of time around Boy Scouts because her older brother is a scout. She's excited to be able to sign up to be in a troop. “My brother was always in Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts,” said Russell. “He always included me and I would do things like archery, swimming, and shooting rifles. That encouraged me that I wanted to become a scout myself.”
Her mom, Stacey Russell, said scouting has made a noticeable impact on her son. Russell is glad Kaylee will have the same opportunity. “I like the leadership skills they’re developing,” Russell explained. “I’ve watched them with their friends and they know what they’re supposed to do, they know how they are supposed to behave.”
The Scouts BSA girls-only troops will have the same curriculum as the current program and will earn the same merit badges and achieve the same ranks, including the prestigious Eagle Scout rank.
Last year, the BSA opened up the Cub Scout program to both boys and girls ages 5 to 10 and more than 77,000 girls and their families around the country said “Scout Me In.” Within the North Florida Council, more than 800 girls joined Cub Scouts putting the local council in the top 10 in the southern region.
“The programs of Boy Scouts of America are uniquely able to develop character and leadership skills in young people,” said Jack Sears, executive director of BSA, North Florida Council. “We are proud to be able to now offer young women the opportunity to join Scouts BSA and we welcome them to their new Scouting adventure.”
To find a Scouts BSA troop near you, visit BeAScout.org. If you don’t see a troop in your area, reach out to BSA, North Florida Council for additional information at 904-388-0591.
Troop 291’s charter organization is Ponte Vedra United Methodist Church at 76 S. Roscoe Blvd. in Ponte Vedra Beach. PVUMC also charters a Scouts BSA Troop for boys, a Cub Scout Pack with dens for boys and dens for girls, as well as, a co-ed Venturing Crew.
There will be a ceremonial meeting on Jan. 31 at 7 p.m. to kick off the new Scouts BSA Troop for girls.
The girls will be in their Scout uniforms and some of their Scout siblings will be joining them to show them how a Flag ceremony and Troop meeting is run.