The Boy Scouts of America doubled down Wednesday on their quest to become the scouting program of choice for boys and girls, announcing it will drop “Boy” from the name of its signature program.
Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh also unveiled the group’s new “Scout Me In” marketing campaign aimed at promoting inclusiveness.
“As we enter a new era for our organization, it is important that all youth can see themselves in Scouting in every way possible,” Saurbaugh said.
The umbrella organization will retain its name, Boy Scouts of America or BSA. The term Cub Scouts, for kids 7-10 years old, is gender neutral and also will go unchanged. Boy Scouts, which includes kids from 10 to 17, will become Scouts BSA in February.
Change has been coming quickly to the iconic if shrinking organization. In October, it announced it would provide programs for girls. Several months before that, the group announced it would accept and register transgender youth into its organization.
In 2015, it ended its ban on gay leaders.
Cub Scouts will formally accept girls starting this summer. But Saurbaugh said more than 3,000 girls nationwide already enrolled in the BSA’s Early Adopter Program and are participating in Cub Scouts ahead of the full launch.
Allowing girls into the organization allows busy families to consolidate programs for their kids, BSA says.
“Cub Scouts is a lot of fun, and now it’s available to all kids,” said Stephen Medlicott, BSA marketing director. “That’s why we love ‘Scout Me In’ – because it speaks to girls and boys and tells them, ‘This is for you. We want you to join!’”
Boy Scouts of America claims almost 2.3 million members, down from 2.6 million five years ago. That includes Venturing and Sea Scouting programs, the latter allows membership up to 21 years of age. In its peak years, Boy Scout of America had more than 4 million participants.
Adults play a major role in the program, with almost 1 million adult volunteers serving as the backbone of the organization.
The program for the older boys and girls will largely be divided along gender-lines, with single-sex units pursuing the same types of activities and providing a path to the prestigious Eagle Scout award.
Girl Scout, alarmed by the encroachment of BSA, are developing their own campaign to recruit and retain girls. Girl Scouts, founded two years after Boy Scouts, currently claim a membership of about 1.8 million.
Among the initiatives is creation of numerous new badges that girls can earn, focusing on outdoor activities and on science, engineering, technology and math. The organization is expanding corporate partnerships in both those areas, and developing a Girl Scout Network Page on LinkedIn to support career advancement for former Girl Scouts.
The overall impact of the BSA’s policy change on Girl Scouts membership won’t be known any time soon. But one regional leader, Fiona Cummings of Girl Scouts of Northern Illinois, believes the BSA’s decision to admit girls is among the factors that have shrunk her council’s youth membership by more than 500 girls so far this year.
She said relations with the Boy Scouts in her region used to be collaborative and now are “very chilly.”
“How do you manage these strategic tensions?” she asked. “We both need to increase our membership numbers.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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