Opened door for girls means change for Lebanon Scouts

Picture this: Three Boy Scouts from Lebanon are sitting at a picnic table during an outing and they’re being asked why they joined the Scouts.

“I pictured Boy Scouts as you go camping in the woods and you have to start fires and survive,” says Ethan Stumbough, 12.

“It sounded fun and I get to play with – not really play, but use – flint and steel, and know how to survive and stuff,” says Efren Robles, 12.

“I want to have more discipline and work on leadership skills. I don’t really have much outgoing skills,” says Kyler Boyce, 14.

Their answers are what one might expect from a boy, but they’re holding back, or they just don’t know what to say. Then they’re asked what they think about girls joining Boy Scouts and what that will look like, and the scene changes.

All three speak up at the same time, like popcorn kernels going off.

“I don’t like it,” say Kyler and Ethan.

“I think (the Girl Scouts) should change their program to have, like, do what boys do. It makes totally more sense,” says Kyler.

“I feel like it’s OK,” says Efren.

The three take some time to have an animated discussion about this upcoming change in their world. They joke that a boy would never want to join the Girl Scouts and go around saying, “I’m a Girl Scout.”

“I just picture girls looking like us, but just different faces,” says Efren. “I don’t see why it’s so bad.”

“It just doesn’t even make any sense if it’s called Boy Scouts,” says Kyler.

“I feel like it should be like The Little Rascals, where there’s like one girl member and then the rest are just boys. At least some girls should get to join,” says Efren.

“I like our small little troop,” says Ethan.

An adult steps in to explain that their troop, Troop 88, will be what’s called a “linked troop,” meaning Troop 88 will have a troop for boys and a separate troop for girls. Since the troops are led by the youths, it’s up to them whether they want to do outings together, and the adult leaders will be there to support them.

Boys and girls

The lively conversation seemed to mirror the responses of people across the states when Boy Scouts of America announced they would finally admit girls into the Boy Scout troops starting February 2019 and change its name to Scouts BSA.

Some have disagreed with the notion that girls should be allowed to participate in an all-boys program, while others have embraced the idea that now their daughters can partake in the same programs as their sons.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, one of BSA’s biggest supporters, has formally disassociated itself from the organization following the announcement, and the Girl Scouts of the United States of America responded with statements that suggest they oppose the change because GSUSA is the leading organization for female leadership development.

“There’s only a few places that are gender-specific,” said Scott Bruslind, Scoutmaster of Lebanon’s BSA Troop 88. “Parents are looking for that, often to let their boys develop in a way because girls develop differently.”

According to BSA, bringing girls into the fold came as a response to parents who indicated a high level of interest in girl participation because today’s busy parents are looking for ways to spend time together as a family.

Maryanne Ewing, Cubmaster for Lebanon’s Pack 88, recently took on the task of leading Cub Scouts for girls, who were allowed to form under BSA this year.

“I always wanted to be a Boy Scout because I had two older brothers,” Ewing said. “For me, as a kid, that was the big thing because that was what my family was all about.”

Just as was her experience, all the girls in Ewing’s pack have brothers in the Boy Scouts. When the parents brought the boys, the girls were right there with them. Allowing girls full access to the BSA program is a natural extension to the family-oriented manner in which the organization runs, she said.

“Personally, I’m very excited at the changes,” Bruslind said. “It puts the Scouting program in a position where it doesn’t exclude anyone for any reason, and gets back to the simple mission of getting outside and developing personal discipline and leadership.”

Both the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts organizations have evolved over the past century according to the demands of societal changes in the United States, but some have asked whether they’re even rele-vant for today’s youth.

Scouts History

The origin of Scouting in America dates back to the early 1900s, involving British Lt. Gen. Robert Baden-Powell, American businessman W.D. Boyce, and American activist Juliette Gordon Low.

Baden-Powell wrote a guide to Scouting so his men could learn basic first aid, elementary outdoor survival, resourcefulness, adaptability and leadership. Later, a version and program for young English boys was created, which in turn made its way to America through Boyce, becoming the Boys Scouts of America.

Meanwhile, Low formed a female version of the program, the Girl Guides (now Girl Scouts), emphasizing inclusiveness, the outdoors, self-reliance and service. Her organization met with some resistance from the Boy Scouts, but over the next 100 years the two institutions pioneered their own path and, ultimately, formed varying approaches to the development of America’s youth.

As families and civil rights morphed in America, so did the BSA and GSUSA. The BSA addressed questions regarding inclusiveness due to sexual orientation, differences of religious faith, and gender, while the GSUSA addressed issues of desegregation and diversity, and female leadership in male-dominated fields.

Scouts Today

Today, BSA focuses on training youth in responsible citizenship, character development, and self-reliance through participation in outdoor activities, educational programs, and, at older age levels, career-oriented programs in partnership with community organizations.

Troops are chartered through a sponsoring organization, and adult leaders guide their charges in learning skills that earn them merit badges. Boys can learn how to start a fire, tie an assortment of knots, survive in the outdoors, swim, and more. They also emphasize physical and mental fitness, and social responsibility.

The highest rank a Boy Scout can earn is Eagle Scout, which is attained by acquiring at least 21 merit badges, demonstrating a Scout spirit, and completing an extensive service project for a nonprofit organization.

BSA has other programs that have included girls for some time now, such as Venturing, for outdoor adventures and real world projects; Sea Scouting, for boating skills; and Exploring, for discovering a variety of careers.

GSUSA focuses on empowering girls through leadership development, personal growth and service. Their programs center around STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the outdoors, life skills and entrepreneurship.

“They’ve really been growing the STEM things, trying to get girls more interested in science and math and all that stuff,” said Colette Smith, troop leader of Lebanon and Lacomb GSUSA troops 21317 and 20326.

Girl Scout troops are not sponsored, but, rather, can be formed by any person so inclined to start a troop. In fact, even individual girls can become a Girl Scout of their own accord.

Adult leaders help their girls earn badges in numerous areas based on almost whatever suits their fancy, from babysitting to archery to movie making, and more. The ultimate goal is to promote confidence, and prepare girls for service to their community through leadership and strong careers.

“The Girl Scouts really has a large variety of things in their program to teach the girls different things,” Smith said. “They’re trying to broaden the girls and give them more leadership skills and make them feel comfortable in what can sometimes be a male-dominated field.”

But it depends largely on the leadership in each troop, noted Jill Rankin, troop leader of Lebanon’s GSUSA Troop 20051. Some focus mostly on crafts, while others go above and beyond with a variety of projects and field trips.

Some of the local troops have been on field trips across Oregon, done geocaching, and studied local history, Rankin said. Some of Lebanon’s Girl Scouts have turned into business owners (Janelle Jackola, owner of Sugar Vibes) and powerhouse volunteers (Jami Cate, Strawberry Festival board chair). And several local Girl Scout alums have achieved the Gold Award, the highest rank a Girl Scout can reach. The Gold Award is earned by identifying a problem, creating a solution, and taking action to implement the solution.

Local look

Scoutmaster Bruslind is eager to start one of Lebanon’s first female troops under BSA.

“I’m really behind the fact that the Scouts, after all these years, are being very inclusive,” he said. “I’m gonna make sure Lebanon knows there’s at least one place that’s welcoming of girls.”

Bruslind said they’re not yet sure how girls in BSA will be given the same exposure to the outdoors and leadership and introduction to citizenship – all the core values Scouts pride themselves on – but it comes down to one thing: just getting outside.

“You can do other things, like you can learn leadership and citizenship in 4-H, but the thing that gets our family out camping and out into some of the best places in the world in the east Cascades is the Scouting program.”

GSUSA seems to take a different approach to its style of leadership development. Smith believes GSUSA gives girls opportunities to do things outside of their family unit, such as volunteering, learning business management skills, or taking field trips to manufacturing or water treatment plants.

“I think doing things like that, that maybe you would not necessarily do normally, gives you a little broader spectrum of the world,” she said. “That’s what I think – for me and the troop – what the girls are kind of looking for.”

Rankin’s troops have volunteered at the soup kitchen, done food drives, collected blankets for the fire department, sorted toys at the Christmas toy drive, and made shoe box packages for soldiers.

A lot of what they do teaches girls to overcome their fears and misgivings. Some of Rankin’s girls have been afraid to go places without their moms, but learned it’s okay. And some of Smith’s girls had to go down into very dark places during a field trip to the Oregon Lava Caves.

“Some of them, that was a fear they had to overcome, but man, all they talked about after we did that was how cool it was to go down in there and explore,” Smith said.

Though they don’t understand exactly how Boy Scouts functions, the women agreed BSA might be a good fit for some girls who prefer to do more of that stuff.

Relevance today

Though the Scouting programs were started to teach survival and leadership, its function today may be as much, if not more, relevant than it was 100 years ago. Surveys and statistics have shown an uptick in adolescent depression and suicide rates that correspond with time spent on social media and electronic devices, according to an article in Clinical Psychological Science.

“The biggest thing about technology is the separation between us and nature. That’s what this creates,” Ewing said, tapping at a cell phone.

She’s heard parents talk about the need to get their children off phones and games, and their desire to communicate with their kids.

“They’re seeing the downfall of being involved with technology all the time,” she said.

In Boy Scout programs, kids learn how to manage their money and develop skills that, for some, even resulted in saving a life in their adult years, Ewing said.

“The confidence they get from learning all these things is phenomenal,” she said. “It’s for everybody. You see the kids building their confidence and be able to say, ‘I can do that. I can start a fire.’ Those are basic needs that every human needs.”

For Kyler, one of the boys at the beginning of the story, his life changed because of Boy Scouts, said his mom, Nadine Heathman. His world revolved around video games, she said, but after he got into Scouting, the games are less of a priority for him. He learned discipline, she said.

“He’s been stepping up and wanting to be a leader, which is totally outside of his box.”

Kyler saw potential in himself through Boy Scouts and thrives on it, said James Heathman, Kyler’s step-father.

“This opened up an entire new world for him,” he said.

For more information…

  • Boy Scouts (Scouts BSA) costs $36 a year per child, plus troop activity fees
  • Find a troop near you by contacting the district office through https://www.cpcbsa.org/
  • Troop 88 is chartered by the Oregon Veteran’s Home
  • Troop 350 is chartered by Southside Church of Christ
  • See https://www.scouting.org/ to learn more about Boy Scouts


  • Girl Scouts USA costs $25 a year per child, plus activity fees
  • Find a troop near you by contacting the district office through http://www.girlscoutsosw.org/
  • See https://www.girlscouts.org/ to learn more about Girl Scouts