This month, the Boy Scouts of America announced that it would welcome girls to their program, beginning with Cub Scouts and progressing all the way to the rank of Eagle Scout. As the daughter of a Scoutmaster, and sister to a Boy Scout, I’ve seen firsthand how this organization has influenced my family, and ultimately me.
I vividly remember the T-shirt my little brother wore as a kid that read, “Ask me what I did last weekend!” I also remember going to a Girl Scout campout the same weekend he attended a different campout as a Boy Scout. A few days later, I was with my brother when he wore that shirt on an errand. As he answered a man who jokingly asked what he did last weekend, I realized my experience was completely different from his. He had gone shooting, swimming, and completed envy-worthy merit badges. I’d spent the weekend learning about dinosaurs, digging up fake fossils, and geocaching. Nothing was wrong with either weekend, but I found myself hungry for more adventure.
I was not eligible to join my brother in the adventures he enjoyed through Boy Scouts back then. But three years ago, I became old enough to join Venturing, one of the several co-ed programs the Boy Scouts offer. I was invited to a weekend campout but found myself apprehensive.
Nevertheless, I went, mostly to prove a point to my parents that I was going to hate it. But less than 24 hours later, I called to let them know that not only was I having an amazing time, I’d also been elected to a leadership position in my district of about 81 people.
As my time in Venturing has progressed, I’ve been able to take advantage of many leadership opportunities and develop in unique ways because of the Boy Scout experience. I currently serve as the Central Region Area 3 Venturing President, helping lead Venturers across three states. Over the summer, I served on staff for the National Scout Jamboree, where I helped facilitate a visit by the president, a long-standing tradition dating to 1937, as well as the secretary of state. I was also interviewed by a number of the media that covered the Jamboree, and I’m only 17.
I believe that other Scouting programs provide value, including the Girl Scouts. But for me, and many girls I know, the Boy Scouts of America has been the right fit. As my own experience has shown, the BSA provides opportunities for youth unlike any other program in the world. The Boy Scouts’ approach to leadership and adventure is why I initially joined. The tangible changes that affect me in my everyday life are why I stay.
I should note that my initial reaction to these program changes was opposition. But the more I looked into what was being proposed, I realized this change wasn’t completely what I thought. I realized that Scouting units will keep boys and girls separate every step along the way, meaning the brotherhood bond and opportunity for boys to gain leadership roles will not be lost. This factor, in particular, was near and dear to my heart.
To me, this is all about having an opportunity. Having an opportunity to participate in Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or really any other type of youth-based developmental program is good and means youth like me can do things they never thought possible.
I grew up looking for adventure and leadership opportunities but did not find the right fit in other Scouting programs. I’m incredibly thankful that this did not stop me from joining the program that fit me. As a youth leader in the BSA, I am confident that the population of Scouts will adapt and march on successfully with this change. They always do.
Maddy Agers, 17, is a home-schooled senior who will be attending college for communications in fall 2018. She is also a business owner, editor of thedigitalbreakdown.com, and Scouter.