Girls Stepping into Scouting Shoes
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
February 6, 2020
DIOCESE—Girls now have another option in addition to Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girls.
 
In 2018, the Boy Scouts of America became Scouts BSA and began accepting girls into the program. 
 
A May 2018 communication from the national office said, “The tagline, Scout Me In, celebrates the BSA’s historic decision to serve families and welcome girls and boys into Scouting so they can experience the character-building fun and adventure the program brings to life in communities across the country. ... For families, Scout Me In is a call for togetherness.”
 
The change has not been without its bumps in the road. One thought from an online blog seems to sum things up well: “Cub Scouts has been around for more than 100 years. No one can expect to flip a switch and have a high functioning girl program overnight. It will take patience.”
 
This year a few packs in the Diocese of Rockford are welcoming girls. Others remain only-boys, and still others are willing to welcome girls but either had none express interest or lack volunteers to lead the girls’ dens.
 
Others are finding success.
 
“Our committee unanimously decided to allow girls,” says Pete Pechotta, Cub Master of Pack 657 at SS. Peter and Paul Parish in Cary. Last year, after parish approval and getting the word out, no one expressed interest. 
 
But, “this year we got two, and I think it will continue to grow,” he says, adding that he has been hearing from parents who would rather go with Cub Scouts for the practical skills they teach as well as the organization of the program.
 
The two girls in Pack 657 are part of a Tigers (first grade) den along with four boys, two of whom were Lions (Kindergarten) last year. The Scouts organization requires a female leader for any dens that include girls, Pechotta explains. The Tigers’ den leader is Lynette Etter, mother of one of the boys. She led the Lions’ den last year.
 
“They all like being together,” Etter says. “They all interact. At this stage, they just want to have fun.”
Someone spoke about Scouting at SS. Peter and Paul School, and the two girls, who are friends, decided they wanted to join, Etter says. The program and goals are the same for boys and girls, who at this stage earn belt-loops instead of badges, she adds.
 
Hers is a Scouting family. Her oldest son, a sophomore in high school, is in Boy Scouts, and her husband has long been active in his son’s dens and troops. Their daughter, grade six, is one of a bunch of girls who decided last summer to join Scouts BSA. 
 
They are in what is called a “linked troop” in Fox River Grove. The boys’ and girls’ groups are under the same charter and in the same troop that meets at the same time and location – but which have different leaders. Etter chuckles as she describes how the girls, unlike the boys, are “all about business” and focused on getting requirements for badges checked off.
 
Her youngest son, now in the coed Tigers den, attended all the events of his older siblings, she says. With his move into Cub Scouts, she now is able to be more involved in Scouts, helping with fundraising (oldest son), with advancement (daughter), and as den leader for her youngest.
 
Scouting, she says, provides “many lessons that are going to help them forever,” noting things like responsibility, well-roundedness, becoming more confident and meeting kids who like the same things.
 
The addition of girls, she says, “just seemed natural. It didn’t seem like a big change to have the girls in there.”
 
“Cub Scouts has always been family oriented,” Pechotta says. “In years past the younger sisters always came along for the outings, the campouts. In Cub Scouts, parents have to be with the kids for any overnights.”
 
Much of the same is happening at St. Mary Parish and School in DeKalb where Karen Malak-Rocush serves as the den leader of an all-girls’ den. 
 
Pack 173 started last year with six girls in one den, and five continued on for this second year. Rocush’s daughter is one of two fifth-graders; two third-graders and one first grade girl round out the den. 
To accommodate the various ages, Rocush explains that the den will do art or first aid or go on a hike together, but the girls work on different projects to meet their grade requirements.
 
Rocush’s husband has worked with the pack since their fourth grade son became involved as a Lion. 
“My daughter saw how much fun my son was having in Scouts,” Rocush says. “She was a Girl Scout for three years, (but) everything we do as a pack was where she got the camping and hiking” (and) she asked about joining just when Scouts BSA opened up to girls. Through a recruitment night for parents, they attracted other girls whose dads had been Scouts in their youth.
 
“They as families like to camp and do outdoor things,” Rocush explains, “and were looking for an organization to do those things with their kids.”
 
When the pack became coed, “I honestly think the younger boys didn’t notice at all,” Rocush says. The fourth and fifth grade boys did notice, but since some were already friends at school, she says, it was “not that big of a transition.”
 
Like the boys, when the girls have gone through Lions, Tigers, Wolves, Bears, Webelos and the fifth grade Arrow of Light, they can cross over to the Scout Troops. 
 
“At that level, Scouts camp independently (without their families). My understanding is that (then) girls will camp with female, certified camp leaders,” Rocush says.
 
She does not think the two fifth graders in her den plan to move up, although there are a few girls’ troops in their area.
 
“Right now my daughter is not thinking she will go on,” Rocush says. “She can still get all the (camping, etc.) benefits (through Scouts) because of her little brother.
 
“It’s more fun when there are more people; she’s not sure if there are enough girls (at the troop level) to make it fun.”
 
She believes the national Scout organization needs to change some things to attract girls, including a more stylish uniform for them to wear. If her daughter had not gone to lots of pack meetings, she would not have known what was offered  to make a conscious choice for Scouts BSA.
 
“It’s a good program. It teaches life skills ... good stuff, fun stuff,” Rocush says. “I do hope more girls get a chance to experience it.”