Boy Scouts’ new pro­gram open to girls gives pre­view

Rap­pelling, archery among ac­tiv­i­ties at coun­cil’s Fun Day

San Antonio Express-News (Sunday) - - Metro - By Vin­cent T. Davis STAFF WRITER

With her feet planted firmly on the side of a 35-foot-high climb­ing tower, Laura Vinka be­gan her de­scent to­ward the ground, teth­ered by safety lines and faith.

The fifth-grader had prac­ticed at a 4-foot-high sta­tion, deep in the scrub brush of McGim­sey Scout Park. Climb­ing in­struc­tors had taught her how to keep her body in an “L” po­si­tion as she walked down the wooden wall.

And they helped build up her con­fi­dence.

“I re­mem­bered all of the rules,” Laura, 11, said af­ter she reached the ground. “I slipped a lit­tle bit, but I kept on go­ing.”

In Fe­bru­ary, Laura be­came the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica Alamo Area Coun­cil’s first girl Cub Scout when she joined Pack 380.

The rap­pel chal­lenge was one of sev­eral ac­tiv­i­ties Satur- day at Scouts BSA Girls Fun Day, spon­sored by the coun­cil. The day­long event was a pre­view for girls who will join the new Scouts BSA pro­gram Feb. 1.

“The Boy Scouts of Amer­ica is the pre­mier lead­er­ship devel­op­ment pro­gram for boys and girls want­ing an out­door ad­ven­ture,” said An­gel Martinez, spokesman for the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica, Alamo Area Coun­cil.

Coun­cil spokesman An­gel Martinez said 753 girls joined lo­cal Cub Scout packs this year.

Scout ex­ec­u­tive/CEO Michael De Los San­tos stood among the scout lead­ers cheer­ing for Laura and other young girls who took part in ac­tiv­i­ties that in­cluded archery, camp­ing and fish­ing. He said the new pro­gram strength­ens fam­i­lies.

“Scout­ing is a fam­ily-ori­ented pro­gram,” he said, “Strong fam­i­lies, strong Amer­ica.”

He said the goal of the pro­gram is to en­cour­age fam­i­lies to ex­plore na­ture with their chil­dren.

“What­ever it takes for us to get our kids out­doors,” he said, “Whether it’s the Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, YMCA or the Boys and Girls Club, the youth agen­cies in this com­mu­nity need to work to­gether to bet­ter serve these kids and get them out­side.”

Michalea Oakes, 17, was re­cently cho­sen as one of nine Scouts to rep­re­sent more than 2 mil­lion youths of Boy Scouts of Amer­ica at the Re­port to the Na­tion pre­sen­ta­tion in Wash­ing­ton in 2019.

She comes from a long line of Boy Scouts, and that his­tory has prompted her to pur­sue be­com­ing a fifth-gen­er­a­tion Ea­gle Scout.

“I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to watch my grand­fa­ther, brother and un­cle de­velop into these amaz­ing lead­ers that I look up to and ad­mire,” she said. “I want to ex­pe­ri­ence ev­ery­thing they’ve ex­pe­ri­enced, and I want to be just like them.”

Crit­ics have taken is­sue with the re­nam­ing of the pro­gram and its ter­mi­nol­ogy. On Nov. 6, the Girl Scouts of the United States of Amer­ica filed a trade­mark in­fringe­ment law­suit against the Boy Scouts of Amer­ica that al­leged that the pro­gram would erode its core brand iden­tity.

Stephanie Fin­leon Cortez, spokes­woman for the Girl Scouts of South­west Texas, said it’s im­por­tant for the coun­cils to co­op­er­ate with each other, but the Girl Scouts do not in­tend to en­roll boys.

“We want to limit any con­fu­sion that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are the same or­ga­ni­za­tion,” Fin­leon Cortez said. “We have a shared his­tory, but we have op­er­ated for 100 per­cent sep­a­rately for 106 years since Girl Scouts was founded. Our focus has been on girls, and we are the experts on girls, their growth and their lead­er­ship devel­op­ment. That’s what we do and what we’re best at.”

Sean Basinger, cub­mas­ter of Pack 471, was an­gry when he heard about the Boy Scouts’ de­ci­sion. He couldn’t un­der­stand why boys should have to share their ex­pe­ri­ence.

His son Jonathan, an Ea­gle Scout, didn’t have a prob­lem with the change. He sug­gested that his fa­ther ask his sis­ter, Emma.

Basinger asked her if she’d like to con­tinue with the Girl Scouts or join the Boy Scouts with other girls. She said which­ever pro­gram al­lowed her to spend more time with him.

Her answer caused him to re­think his po­si­tion. Emma is plan­ning to cross over to a Scouts BSA all-girl troop.

“I went from be­ing very much against it,” Basinger said, “to be­ing very much for it.”

“Scout­ing is a fam­i­ly­ori­ented pro­gram. Strong fam­i­lies, strong Amer­ica.” Michael De Los San­tos, Scout ex­ec­u­tive/CEO

Josie Norris / Staff pho­tog­ra­pher

Erin Heil­brun, 10, left, moves down as Kather­ine “Kat” Nick­els, also 10, goes up the climb­ing tower at McGim­sey Scout Park dur­ing Scouts BSA Girls Fun Day.

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