ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Last October the Boy Scouts of America made the decision to include girls in their two youngest programs. Starting June 1st, Cub Scout Troops across the country will have parallel all-girl dens.
However, for the flagship program open to 11 to 17-year-olds, a name change was in order. Next February, troops, regardless of gender, will fall under the moniker of Scouts BSA.
"The Boy Scouts of America started with the Boy Scouts in 1910 — Cub Scouting came later then Exploring and Venturing, so that's really the core program, the flagship program of the organization," said Stephen Hoitt of the Seneca Waterways Council Boy Scouts of America.
While the two younger programs will be single sex, the inclusion of girls is not a foreign concept to the organization.
"Venturing and Exploring have been co-ed since they rolled out so we've been doing co-ed programs in the scouting organization since the early '60s," said Hoitt.
The Boy Scouts say that the inclusion of girls in their hands-on, outdoor activities was in response to a greater need.
"There's a lot of dialogue of families wanting to have the program available to their daughters that their sons were also experiencing," said Hoitt.
There is one organization who says that they have been providing girls with outdoor activities for years.
"We're not just cookies and crafts. We are a girl leadership development program," said Jerilyn Hickey of the Girl Scouts of Western New York.
Girl Scout leaders say that they will stay independent of their male counterparts while continuing to focus on creating the next generation of female leaders.
"We are the premier leadership organization for girls, we have been for over 100 years and we will continue to be. We're going to stay focused on the girls and the program and making sure that we are the best we are for them," said Hickey.
And while they have grown to add new badges that focus on science, engineering, technology and math, camps like Piperwood in Victor still offer girls the chance to get their hands dirty.
"We're building fires, we're using tools and we've been doing that for over 100 years. I think it can be a misnomer that we're not outdoor focused," said Hickey.
Something that both groups agree on is that involvement in any developmental program is beneficial. Hickey advises parents to do their research before choosing a side.
"We're all wanting to build the next generation, but who is going to do it best and who has the proven results to do it with girls?" said Hickey.