Boy Scout troop in Arlington Heights accepts girls
A look at the first Boy Scout troop in Arlington Heights to accept girls
A patrol group called the Spartans led the flag ceremony at the recent meeting of Boy Scout Troop 32 in Arlington Heights. It was notable for this reason: Girls carried the flags and led the ceremony, including reciting the Boy Scout oath and law.
As of Feb. 1, Troop 32 became the first in Arlington Heights to accept girls. Of their 40 Scouts, nearly a dozen are girls, who range in age from fifth through seventh grade.
Officially, Boy Scouts of America accepted girls into Cub Scouts last summer and older girls into Boy Scouts in February. Nationally, more than 77,000 girls have joined Cub Scouts, while 13,000 have joined Boy Scouts over the last few months, said Allison Dietz, with the Pathway to Adventure Council.
The local council takes in troops in Cook and DuPage counties, as well as the city of Chicago and in Lake County, Indiana. Of its member troops, some 419 girls are participating in 100 Cub Scout units, while 163 girls are involved in 20 Boy Scout troops, she added.
As a result, the 109-year old organization has changed its name to Scouts BSA to reflect the change.
"We're opening the program so more people have options," Dietz said. "It's just a great leadership program."
At their recent meeting, the girls met separately with their patrol, where they held their first election to choose a senior patrol leader and scribe. They also reflected on the badges they had earned so far -- engineering, chemistry, mammal studies and disability awareness -- and all the fun at campouts.
"It's just more outdoorsy," said Saira Degala, 12, of Arlington Heights.
Her fellow patrol members agreed, pointing to all the skills they've learned, from setting up tents and planning meals to mastering knots.
"You get to experience stuff you've never experienced before," added Ella Venegas, 13, of Arlington Heights, "like camping and new skills."
Several said they were excited to attend Camp Napowan this summer, a Boy Scout camp in Wild Rose, Wisconsin, where they will hike, canoe and explore.
"It's a whole week of Scouting," said Rachel Weintraub, 11, of Buffalo Grove.
Madeline Painter, 12, of Arlington Heights quickly taught herself to tie a variety of knots, which she demonstrated to the other girls at their last campout as they worked to assemble a rack for drying boots.
"It's good to know that when you tie a knot right, it has a function," said Madeline, whose father, Patrick, is the Scoutmaster.
Dan Sioui, assistant Scoutmaster, said the girls conceived the rack as a way to solve the problem of drying their boots at a campout earlier this month.
"Addressing adversity is a key benefit of participating in Scouts," Sioui said. "It's this type of problem-solving that builds character and confidence."
At that same campout, held in downstate Bonfield, the girls' patrol won the Silver Fork award for coming up with most creative dinner using a Dutch oven. They came up with a cheesy quinoa and broccoli dish that impressed even their leaders.
"I think it's the first meal at one of our campouts that featured quinoa," Patrick Painter said.
Painter says he has been involved in a number of youth and adult leadership programs, and he sees Scouting as one of the strongest he has experienced.
"It's important that we make this program available to the other 50 percent of the population," Painter said.
Both Painter and Sioui are amazed at how quickly the girls are motivated to learn new skills and work together. Some are even planning to attend "merit badge" universities in order to advance in rank.
"They've jumped right in," Sioui says. "They're eager learners."