COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For the first time, girls will soon be able to earn Boy Scouts of America's highest honor, the Eagle Scout Award. This after the organization announced plans to welcome girls to parts of their program, in the near future.
This does not mean the Boy Scouts will become a co-ed organization, but instead that they're expanding their operations to include more programs for young girls. The change seems to be well-received among the Boys and Girls Scouts here in the Midlands.
Doug Stone is the Scout Executive with the Boy Scouts of America Indian Waters Council in Columbia.
"The timeless values of scouting are needed today more than ever for our young people," Stone said.
And soon the Boys Scouts of America will offer opportunities, previously only available to young men, to both boys and girls.
"And this is not outside organizations or groups. We've heard from our own constituents that we should be offering more programs for girls that could benefit from the same character building that boys currently do," Stone said.
Beginning in 2018, families will have the option to sign their son or daughter up for Cub Scouts. In 2019, a separate program for girls in middle and high school will be offered, allowing girls to earn the organization's highest rank for the first time.
"The Eagle Scout Award is what some have called the Ph.D. of boyhood, but you know what? There was a time not too long ago when only men could receive a degree at Clemson University, when Harvard University – to get a Ph.D. there, you had to be a man. Times have changed. Scouting has changed, too," Stone said.
The expansion will still mean separate programs for girls and boys, and of course, there are still the Girl Scouts.
"Girl Scouts is the girl leadership development organization, period, for more than 100 years. We're girl-led," says Karen Kelly, the Director of Communications and Marketing with the Girl Scouts of South Carolina.
She says while Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts often work on projects together, there is a difference between the two.
"Girl Scouts has the experience and the research-backed knowledge to prepare girls to empower themselves for a lifetime of leadership."
Stone says even with the changes, the mission of the Boy Scouts remains the same.
"The core values of the Boy Scouts of America are not changing and they never will, but what is changing is the way that we're adapting to societal changes," Stone said.
Again, there will be new programs added in 2018 and the year after, but ultimately, in order to become a Boy Scout, you still have to be at least 10-and-a-half years old.