For the first time ever, the Boy Scouts of America organization changed its policies earlier this year to allow female members in the Scouts BSA program — piquing the interest of at least one member of the Mitchell clan.
With two boys already in Troop 0127 (one an Eagle Scout and the other working to attend that rank currently), Newton's Mandy Mitchell has plenty of exposure to the program run out of Trinity Heights United Methodist Church — as does her daughter, who was the prime instigator pushing for the formation of an all-female troop.
"My daughter has been around it the whole time and has always wanted to be involved. When she learned that girls could be in there, she asked me to help get it going. That's kind of how it got started," Mitchell said.
Having at least one potential member, Scoutmaster Mitchell is organizing a field day signup on April 28 at Trinity Heights (1200 Boyd Ave., Newton) to recruit other interested females, ages 11 to 17, in the Newton area.
Previously, co-ed troops were allowed through the Boy Scouts programs aimed at older youth (e.g. Venturing), but female inclusion was opened up at the Cub Scout level last fall before expanding to the Scouts BSA program in February. While that opportunity to officially participate as members of the Boy Scouts may be new to young girls, the goals of the program will be familiar — especially for those with family members already in the Boy Scouts.
"We have the same mission. They use the same book. Everything will be exactly the same except for it will just be females meeting together," Mitchell said. "We go on monthly campouts. We'll be doing monthly community service projects. It's youth-led, where the girls will make all the decisions and the adults are there to guide them and make sure they're making safe decisions and helping them learn leadership skills."
Since the policy just changed, this troop would be the first all-female group in Newton. Currently, Mitchell noted such troops exist in McPherson and Wichita. While Boy Scout troops are normally fairly local, starting out, Mitchell said, enrollment would be open to girls interested from around the Harvey County community.
Getting the adult support has been no problem, but at least five members are needed to form a troop, which is part of the reason behind the signup event.
Being involved in the Boy Scouts previously, Mitchell is aware that girls have been around the program for some time, but the recent changes now allow female members to earn advancements (through merit badges) and take ownership of their experience — something she is using to build interest in the new troop.
"I want to reach out to the girls in the community who love to be outdoors, because that's what this is focused around, and to help them learn leadership skills that will help them the rest of their lives," Mitchell said. "Even though it says Boy Scouts, it's not just for boys. It's for any youth who wants to develop leadership skills and be outdoors."
The all-female troop will meet weekly from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Mondays. Any girls with an interest are encouraged to come to the field day signup from 2 to 4 p.m. April 28 outside Trinity Heights United Methodist Church (with the event to be moved inside in the case of inclement weather). Questions are welcome.
For more information on the event, contact Mitchell at troop1127scoutsBSA@outlook.com or call the Trinity Heights office at 316-283-6410.