Boy Scouts changing its name as girls join ranks
After more than 100 years the Boy Scouts of America have announced that it is changing a century of tradition by not only allowing girls to join but also changing its program's name.
Staring in February, the Boy Scouts will be known as Scouts USA. The announcement comes at the same time the organization, which will not change its official name, introduces a new program called the "Scout Me In" campaign.
"As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible," Michael Surbaugh, chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts of America said. "That is why it is important that the name for our Scouting program for older youth remain consistent with the single name approach used for the Cub Scouts."
The Cub Scouts program's name change will not change. The Boy Scouts of America announced last year that girls would be accepted into the Cub Scout ranks. Wednesday's announcement means that girls who join the Cub Scouts will be able to continue through to Scouts BSA with the boys in the scouting program.
Girls will be allowed to join the Cub Scouts of the Jersey Shore Council of the Boy Scouts in June, according to Scout Executive and CEO Jim Gillick. As his organization prepares to welcome girls into its ranks, Gillick said he looks forward to the changes.
"This was really an opportunity the Boy Scouts of America had looked at over a couple of years," he said. "How do we better serve America's families and really kind of create, for want of a better phrase a one stop shop. How do we create a program that serves the needs for the entire family. This is a way for us to do that."
Much like the parent organization, Gillick said he does not expect the local councils to change their name, only the name of the Boy Scouts program. He also said the addition of girls to the Boy Scouts is not a reflection of the Girl Scout programs that thrive across the state and the country.
When it was announced that girls would be allowed to join the Cub Scouts, Girl Scouts chief customer officer Lisa Margosian said the organization has "always existed in a space with competitors." She added, "What happened is that we have a new competitor.
"We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts Provides," the Girl Scouts of the USA said at the time.
Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore CEO Eileen Higgins also said at the time that her organization has always had a great relationship with the Boy Scouts.
"We're trying to continue that," she said. "We've done events together. Each group has a curriculum that addresses the children we work with. Ours is built around girls and geared towards their development and we're going to continue to provide that."
Surbaugh described the process of determining a new name for the program as being lengthy and "incredibly fun."
"We wanted to land on something that evokes the past but also conveys the inclusive nature of the program going forward," he said. "We're trying to find the right way to say we're here for both young men and young women."
The program for the older boys and girls will largely be divided along gender-lines, with single-sex units pursuing the same types of activities, earning the same array of merit badges and potentially having the same pathway to the coveted Eagle Scout award.
Surbaugh said that having separate units for boys and girls should alleviate concerns that girls joining the BSA for the first time might be at a disadvantage in seeking leadership opportunities.
So far, more than 3,000 girls have joined roughly 170 Cub Scout packs participating in the first phase of the new policy, and the pace will intensify this summer under a nationwide multimedia recruitment campaign titled "Scout Me In."
The Boy Scouts claim to have 2.3 million members, which is down from 2.6 million in 2013, and a peak of 4 million in the past. The girl Scouts have around 17.6 million members, down from over 2 million members in 2014.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.