In 2017, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) decided to allow girls to join the organization, and Forest Park’s Troop 4107 Scoutmaster Matt Brown established a new troop, 4107G, for girls. His sons were active members of scouts, and his daughter Cassidy Brown joined the girls’ troop.
Now, Petek Arikan-Demirtas is scoutmaster for Troop 4107G, and Brenda Rakers is the chair of the troop, and their goal is to make sure girls are represented equally in the organization and to recruit more girls locally for their troop.
Troop 4107G currently has six girls as members, three working on their scout rank, two working on their tenderfoot requirements, and one who is currently a tenderfoot.
“We would love to have more!” Arikan-Demirtas said in an email. “We hope to build our program as more girls find out how much fun it is to be in a scout troop.”
The girls in Troop 4107G do the same activities and earn the same ranks as the boys, and focus is placed on the same skills, such as fire-building, camping and hiking. Some of the events are done together, with the girls’ and boys’ patrols intermingling; some are done separately.
In Forest Park, the girls and boys meet at the same location on the same day and time, and the opening and closing of the meeting is done together. But the meetings are held separately. Both boy and girl troops are invited to council or district sponsored events, such as camporees, merit badge forums and sporting events, and the troops are often linked together to work on projects and events and may share equipment, resources and transportation, said Arikan-Demirtas.
Both Arikan-Demirtas and Rakers work to integrate the girls into the troop as much as possible.
“Character building is one of the scouts’ primary goals, and another one is leadership,” Arikan-Demirtas said. “As adults, we hope to mentor the girls and make sure they have a voice in scouting. And help them to achieve their main goal: to become an Eagle Scout, which can offer lifelong academic and professional benefit.”
They also hope to ensure that “the girls become an integral part of what has traditionally been a male dominated organization.”
One of Troop 4107G’s scouts, Eleanor Herlihy, is the first girl to officially cross over from Cub Scouts to Scouts BSA. Herlihy, who is 11 years old and in sixth grade, joined the troop around this time last year.
Herlihy, who was previously in Girl Scouts, said she made the switch because she wanted to more than crafts.
“I wanted to do something different,” Herlihy said. “Like, I love to do crafts, but I do it a lot at home.”
When the Girl Scouts troop she was in disbanded, she decided to join Cub Scouts instead.
Girl Scouts of America offers more than crafts to its members, from science and technology to hardcore camping. But it’s highly dependent upon the individual troop to determine activities.
Herlihy, who loves climbing trees, said she enjoys camping and wants to get into wood carving and building; she plans to learn how to tie knots.
“I don’t really know how to do much of that stuff. And it’s really fun,” she said. “I like that it’s really focused on outdoors stuff and important things like first aid and such. Like, how do you use an axe?”
She said she’d recommend joining BSA to a girl who was considering it.
Eleanor’s father, Doug, said the BSA organization has done a lot to help find alternatives for kids to stay active even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scouts can work with their scoutmaster to advance their rank, and merit badges can be done as independent study. It’s part of the scouting experience of “creating their own experience and pushing through their advancement,” Doug said.