Earlier this year, Boy Scouts rebranded as Scouts BSA and allowed girls to join. WFAE visited one of the first girl troops in the region to see how their first year of scouting has gone.
The second and third grade girls of Cub Scout group Den 11 are at a rock climbing gym in Mooresville. And they’re excited: They’re climbing with an older group of middle- and high school-aged girls today. After about an hour, they decide to teach the older girls their group cheer.
This event is a chance for the younger girls to see the group they might eventually join: Girl Troop 58, in Davidson. Also called GT58, it was one of the first girl troops chartered in Mecklenburg County in February. That’s when the program now called Scouts BSA first allowed girls to join. There are now at least 14 girl troops in the region.
Fifteen-year-old Sophie Dellinger leads the troop as senior patrol leader. She has a reputation for completing lots of different badges. But she’s always learning more about how to be both a Scout and a troop leader. She flips through her well-worn Scout handbook.
"I was never in a leadership position before Scouts, so this is a really new experience for me," Dellinger said.
Dellinger is working toward Eagle Scout. She leads more than 20 Scouts as part of getting to that rank — and because she believes in the mission.
"The thought that we could make a difference and that everyone in the Troop could go away from Scouts and have this thing that they remember, and that they could be a better person in the future, and make an impact," Dellinger said.
Tanya Chartier, Scoutmaster for GT58, explained that recruitment has mostly been done by the Scouts themselves.
"Basically it’s been a lot of word of mouth, and it’s girls recruiting girls," Chartier said. "And that’s honestly the best way, because it’s the experience speaking for itself.
Chartier co-founded the Girls Troop after seeing the impact Scouts had on her son and other boys. She felt girls needed that opportunity, too.
"There’s bonding with friends, there’s outdoor opportunities and being in nature and appreciating nature, there’s learning the Scout skills," said Chartier. "And then the last piece is leadership opportunity, that is very unique."
Chartier said that, unlike many other extracurriculars, Scouts lead their troops. They run their meetings and decide collectively what they’re going to do. Parents are there to provide guidance and ensure safety. Chartier says that setup pushes girls to take risks, learn how to confront challenges, and deal with setbacks. She’s seen over the past year how these girls have developed skills and built strong relationships with each other.
Assistant senior patrol leader Lainey Thompson is 15 years old and wants to become a doctor.
"While we may have older people, we can never have more experienced people than us," said Thompson. "We have no one to tell us what they built off of, or what their own experiences showed. So, it’s a little bit difficult building our little world for ourselves, and just creating an environment that can push other people forward, because we don’t have any past experience to build of off."
Some of the Scouts in GT58 had brothers or cousins in Boy Scouts. Four of them had been in Girl Scouts, which is a separate organization, but decided to join Scouts BSA. They were excited by the adventuring opportunities the program offers and the chance to become an Eagle Scout. That’s partly why Thompson joined, and she points out that nearly everything GT58 does is a first. Over the summer, she went to Scout camp, where she completed a special wilderness survival badge.
"Which was very exciting, because I could be the first girl from that camp to receive that," Thompson said. "It was super fun, because I got to do a bunch of stuff that I had read in books, but I had never really gotten to experience. And it was something that was really cool, like, ‘This is really Scouts to me.’ So, it felt very empowering. I loved it.”
And the girls of GT58 are building a troop with its own culture. Eleanor Franzen, who’s also working toward Eagle Scout, says that organizing meetings and going on camping trips has helped build that culture in a short amount of time.
"I’ve really formed some strong connections with some people," Franzen said. "And now, in Scouts, there’s some people that I really, truly trust. And a few months ago, in February, I would not have thought that."
In everything that they do, these girls are the first. They’ve built a troop of more than 20 girls who camp together, hold meetings together and work on skills together. And they’re building a culture not just for themselves, but for the girls that will come after them.
Lainey Thompson and her fellow Scouts read the Scout Law:
“The Scout Law is: ‘A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful...
Lucy Franzen: “...friendly, courteous, kind….”
Eleanor Franzen: “...obedient, cheerful, thrifty...”
Sophie Dellinger: “...brave, clean and reverent.’”