One of the boys: Boy Scouts of America goes co-ed; new troops slowly getting established in Becker County
The Boy Scouts of America went co-ed last year, a decision that caused contention for some and excitement for others across the states.
According to news outlets NPR, The New York Times, and Buzzfeed, the Girls Scouts of America were initially upset with the announcement. The organization's national president, Kathy Hopinkah Hannan wrote a letter to the Boy Scout's national president wondering why the organization "would choose to target girls." Parents also raised concerns of co-ed camping excursions. On the ground floor, though, in everyday communities, the change has been slow-going, as local Boy Scout troops are still working out the logistics of allowing girls to join.
Brett Drevlow, Boy Scouts district executive for the area, says currently, Detroit Lakes has one co-ed Cub Scouts troop that started in Sept. of 2018. It's a small group of 15 kindergarten through fifth graders, four of which are girls.
"Whenever we start a new troop, the first year, it's always a little small," he said, adding that he thinks the troop will probably double by next year.
How many more girls will join the new troop, though, is anyone's guess.
The entire organization went co-ed with the change, not just the Cub Scouts, meaning girls can now join Scouts BSA (formerly known as Boy Scouts), Venturing, Sea Scouting, and Exploring, the various groups that focus on different aspects of character development and outdoor leadership under the Boy Scouts of America umbrella.
As for navigating the new co-ed aspect, Drevlow says there seems to be some misunderstanding. People seem to think that allowing girls into the organization means boys and girls will be camping together, but that is simply not the case.
In the co-ed Cub Scout troops, like the one in Detroit Lakes, Drevlow says the group splits up to do age-specific activities, and they come together every three or four meetings and do a big, group activity, like their pinewood derby or boat races.
In the Scouts BSA, which encompasses kids age 11 to 17, those troops are not co-ed at all. There can be all-girl Scouts BSA troops and all-boy Scouts BSA troops, and that's it.
"Scouts BSA troops have absolutely no opportunity to be co-ed .... Who would want 15-year-old boys and girls camping together?" said Drevlow, adding that having the separate troops prevents any co-ed camping or other fraternizing that people may be concerned about.
Detroit Lakes has a boy's Scouts BSA troop, which has been around for a number for years. A Scouts BSA troop for girls has not been established in the area yet, but that's not for lack of interest.
"We're working on setting up a scouts BSA female troop," Drevlow said. "I've talked with the current leaders of the existing Scouts BSA group ... they know seven or eight girls who are interested in starting the group."
Drevlow says he's also received a number of applications from girls who are interested in joining the organization.
The struggle they are having is finding a troop leader and getting organized that way. Going co-ed doesn't happen overnight, particularly for an organization that has been all boys for over a century. At least, they have been all boys on the books.
Drevlow says when he was in Cub Scouts years ago, his sisters would come along and do the activities right along with him. The group has always been inclusive in that way, to accommodate for families with many kids and single-parent families. The girls who have been tagging along with their brothers just haven't been official members, and now they can be.
"Girls have been involved in cub scouting for 50 years, since its inception .... Those girls that have been participating for decades can now be recognized," said Drevlow, adding that the change really came from those families wanting to consolidate their family programming. "This is going to allow full families to be involved."
Drevlow says they are excited about the change and the potential they haven't quite unlocked. He says officially allowing girls into cub scout troops will make a big difference for small towns that may be struggling to keep up their membership.
"I think there's a lot of opportunity to be had in Lake Park, Audubon, Detroit Lakes, and Frazee alike .... They can unlock a greater population and experience a greater program," said Drevlow.
Currently, the only co-ed troop in those communities is the one started last fall in Detroit Lakes, but Drevlow says the opportunity is there just waiting to be explored.
For more information, people can contact Brett Drevlow at 701-499-0659.