In Chevy Chase, Maryland, Boy Scout Troop 52 gathered to plan a trip to Shenandoah National Park. The Troop discussed what food to bring, what clothes to wear and the expected elevation of their campsite.
And, as usual, they began their meeting by recited the Boy Scout law. But the scene wasn’t as usual as some would expect. It wasn’t just boys participating in the meeting and preparing for the trip — girls were a part of the group too.
While the BSA just recently announced its full inclusion of girls for the first time in its nearly 100-year history, Troop 52 is an example of a group that already knows what inclusion looks like. Though these girls are technically part of a Venturing crew, they’ve been participating alongside the Boy Scout troop since 1997.
“The rest of the world is going to catch on to what we’re doing here,” Scoutmaster Will Stone, 55, told the group at last week’s meeting.
15-year-old Cadyn Harris has been a part of this Venturing Crew for two years. She joined after deciding that her Girl Scout troop was no longer a good fit for her interests. Since joining the crew, Cadyn said there isn’t anything separating her from the boys — aside from the different uniforms and rank advancements.
“It’s a really cool experience because you’re out with the girls doing your own thing, but you’re also interacting with guys,” she said. “We’re just a part of the troop.”
Both boys and girls participate as the troop camps, hikes and participate in service projects. At last week’s meeting, they passed out plastic bags for the upcoming Scouting for Food project, an annual food drive. Being involved in these activities has been a great experience for the girls involved, an experience that they might not have gotten elsewhere.
However, its not just the girls benefitting from coed activities. Meredith Sherman, 19, served as the venture crew president and assistant senior patrol leader while she was in Troop 52, and explained how some of the boys pushed back on her leadership. But, Meredith stuck with it, and eventually the boys learned that women deserve the same respect that would be given to male leaders.
Sherman went to an all-girls high school and now, studying at Tufts University, reflects on her experience with Troop 52 and said it was “really rewarding.”
“By the end of the year they accepted my leadership. They learned that it’s a totally normal thing for a girl to have a leadership position over boys,” Sherman said. “There’s a really important element to young boys being exposed to girls doing all the same things as them, having leadership positions over them, so I think it really cultivates a sense of acknowledgment and respect.”
Senior patrol leader Camaran Gaillard, 17, said it’s been normal for him to participate alongside girls in Scouts. like many others, he’s glad the national change will allow girls to work toward the same recognition as the boys who achieve the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
“They’ve always been doing the same Scout skills we’ve been doing. They’ve always been a part of this troop,” Camaran said. “We’ve grown so accustomed to them being there. It’s not a big deal to us. All the craziness going on, it seems foreign to me.”
Although the girls had great experiences participating in Scouting alongside the boys, there are still moments when the girls are aware they are not full members of the troop.
Before Stone wrapped up the meeting last week, he went over the next steps the boys would be working on for their Eagle Scout Award and Larissa Sakaria, 16, zoned out. As a girl, she had never been able to even think about achieving that goal, no matter how far she advanced.
She replied: “Anything that a guy can do, a girl can do — and probably better.”