It’s six p.m. on a sweltering summer evening and the heat and humidity show no sign of abating. At Curtiss Park in Saline, Scouts BSA Troop 290 tramps through the grass. They’re prepared for the heat, and anything that could go wrong during their time outside. Their Scoutmaster, Leah Nehls, tests their preparedness as she rattles off a list of items each scout should have: water, sun protection, extra food, dry socks, just to name a few. The list is extensive, but after each item the scouts erupt in a cacophony of shouts, trying to one up each other with the supplies they have brought. They stand out at the park, each girl dressed in a uniform bristling with patches and sporting a brightly colored neckerchief tied neatly.
A more inclusive BSA
Granted, there are only five of them, but this troop couldn’t have existed a few months ago. Troop 290 got its start on February 1, 2019, when the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization officially opened the Scouts BSA program to girls. This followed the 2018 rule change that allowed girls in grades 1-5 to join Cub Scouts (BSA programs for youth over fourteen have been coed for many years).
Troop 290, with their own meetings, leadership and patrols, is affiliated with a brother unit to form the linked Troop 290. Scouts BSA Troop 439, a standalone female-only unit sponsored by the Tri-County Sportsmen’s League, also got its start on February 1. “Right when we could join we started,” said Gabby Mayrend, a patrol leader and den chief in Troop 439. According to her scoutmaster, Tammy Mayrend, the inclusion of girls into the Scouts BSA program has been a long time coming; it just took a few years to work out the logistics.
Why choose scouts BSA?
When Mayrend saw her brother having fun with his troop, she thought “I want to do that.” “Quite a few of us did stuff with Girl Scouts,” adds Taylor Vehrenkamp. “It’s more entrepreneurship-focused,” Mayrend chimes in. “Scouts BSA has more outdoors opportunities and more camping.” Some girls in Troops 290 and 439 are members of both Girl Scouts and Scouts BSA. According to Nehls, the important thing is to find the right troop for you. When you find the one, you’ll think: “I want to camp with them. This is the troop I want to join.”
The BSA experience
It’s not readily apparent that Troops 290 and 439 have only been operating since February. The scouts are knowledgeable and enthusiastic, exuding confidence in their ability to handle any situation. They’re also good friends. “We have a lot of fun together,” says Mayrend. “Scouts is mostly about stepping out of your comfort zone, says Nehls. “It’s taking responsibility and stepping up and confronting your fears head on.”
Scout must have a leadership position in their troop if they want to progress through all of the ranks. Mayrend, for example, is a den chief, responsible for recruiting new members (either youth graduating from Cub Scouts or those joining Scouting for the first time). Vehrenkamp is Troop 439’s webmaster. Troops are often in charge of flag duty at their schools and provide valuable services to their communities and sponsor institutions. Programming is more robust in the fall, and both troops are looking to welcome new members into the fold, so if you’re interested in community service and weekend camping trips across Michigan, consider Scouts BSA.
Beyond opportunities for leadership, outdoor activities, and community-building, it means a lot to be part of the legacy of the Boy Scouts of America.
“Every time I put on the uniform,” says Grace Chartier, “I’m reminded to have some professionalism.” “There’s pride in that uniform,” echoes Nehls. The uniform is a reminder of who a scout should be.
Girls and boys interested in joining
the Boy Scouts of America organization can find
a troop by visiting beascout.scouting.org.