All-girl troop 1st in Sa­line County

All-fe­male Boy Scouts take oath

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - ARKANSAS - ALEX GLADDEN

BRYANT — Ten girls stood in a sin­gle line along­side the Boy Scouts of Troop 17 and raised three fin­gers on their right hands as they re­cited the Boy Scouts oath dur­ing a cer­e­mony Tues­day night in the First United Methodist Church of Bryant.

The girls, ages 11-17, are the found­ing mem­bers of Troop 19.

“This is ac­tu­ally a re­ally great honor to be the first girl, fe­male troop in Sa­line County,” said 11-year-old Emily McEuen.

The group be­came the first all-girls troop char­tered by the Qua­paw Area Coun­cil of the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica. The Qua­paw Area Coun­cil is the largest coun­cil in the state, rep­re­sent­ing 39 coun­ties in cen­tral and north­east Arkansas.

All-girls troops are start­ing to crop up else­where in the state, too.

All-girls troops have formed in Con­way, White Hall and Cabot since the Bryant troop’s in­duc­tion, and the coun­cil plans to add 10 or 12 more all-girls troops in the next month, ac­cord­ing to Mar­cal Young, Scouts ex­ec­u­tive and CEO of the Qua­paw Area Coun­cil.

An all-girls troop was char­tered Feb. 1 in Fort Smith, which is part of the Wes­tark Area Coun­cil in North­west Arkansas, said Chris­tian Swaim, an as­sis­tant Scouts ex­ec­u­tive with the coun­cil.

Boy Scouts of Amer­ica be­gan ac­cept­ing ap­pli­ca­tions for all-girls troops in Fe­bru­ary for girls ages 11-17. The all-boys troops and all-girls troops fol­low the same pro­gram and of­fer the same op­por­tu­nity to earn the rank of Ea­gle Scout, the high­est rank at­tain­able in the pro­gram.

Mem­bers of Bryant’s Troop 19 hope the troop serves as a model for other states that have yet to add

all-girls troops to their ranks, Scout­mas­ter Tim McEuen Scout said.

“We want other states to look at us and think, ‘wow’” said McEuen, who has two daugh­ters in the troop.

For decades there have been Scout­ing pro­grams in other coun­tries for boys and girls to­gether, but the Boy Scouts pro­gram here re­mains sin­gle gen­der, char­ter­ing only all-boys troops or all-girls troops.

The de­ci­sion to al­low all­girls troops drew crit­i­cism from some, most notably the Girl Scouts of the USA or­ga­ni­za­tion, which ac­cused the Boy Scouts of try­ing to re­plen­ish its di­min­ish­ing num­bers with girls.

But Young said al­low­ing girls to join al­lows all fam­ily mem­bers to par­tic­i­pate in the Boy Scouts. Some of the girls who joined Bryant’s Troop 19 have brothers in Troop 17.

Araina Sim­mons, 14, said she has a brother in­volved in Scout­ing. She has fol­lowed along as he learned skills and is ex­cited to be a part of the Scouts and getting the op­por­tu­nity to mas­ter the same pro­gram her­self.

The pro­gram will teach the girls tra­di­tional Scout­ing skills such as hik­ing and camp­ing but also will teach such things as de­vel­op­ing fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity and lead­er­ship. McEuen said the in­ten­tion is to let the girls lead the group while he acts as a guide.

There are 135 merit badges that girls will be al­lowed to earn, he said. The girls in Troop 19 will also get a badge for found­ing their group.

“I think it’s very ex­cit­ing,” Young said, “be­cause I think it’s a his­toric time for us.”

First United Methodist Church of Bryant char­tered Troop 19 as well as Troop 17, which in­cludes more than 40 boys.

Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette/ALEX GLADDEN

Ten girls gath­ered Tues­day in Bryant to form the first all-girl Boy Scouts troop char­tered by the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s largest coun­cil in the state.

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