Sacramento area girls take aim at becoming first female Eagle Scouts

Katherine Anne Boggs, 16, wants to be one of the first female Eagle Scouts.

Starting this month, girls like her between the ages of 11 and 17 can join Scouts BSA — formerly known as the Boy Scouts — to camp out, learn to tie knots, start fires and work their way up to the coveted rank of Eagle Scout.

“Pretty much ever since I saw my brother and my dad doing it, it just seemed like a lot of fun and it was kind of annoying that I didn’t really get the same opportunity just because of my gender,” Boggs said.

Boggs and more than 40 other girls from the Golden Empire Council, which oversees Scouts BSA troops in 16 Northern California counties, met at Nelson’s Grove in Woodland for a weekend campout and a crash course in scouting.

Her father, Michael Boggs, who serves as the president of the Golden Empire Council and is a scoutmaster of a boys’ troop in Folsom, said he was at a national Boy Scouts of America meeting last year during discussions on allowing girls in. Leaders there agreed there was nothing in the content of the program that should limit it to only boys. The proposal was approved on Oct. 11, 2017.

“We have 17,100 youth in our program and we are ultra-thrilled to have the girls there,” he said.

Scouts BSA will be split into boys’ troops and girls’ troops, which will meet separately, though there will be times when the troops come together for special events. The content of the program will remain the same for both boys and girls, according to Ron Ellis, Golden Empire Council BSA board member for family scouting.

“There is something to be said for it just being all-girls, all-boys,” said Whitney Salis, scoutmaster of Scouts BSA girls’ Troop 389 in Yuba City. “I cannot tell you the empowerment that goes on when you have a group of girls backpacking out in the middle of nowhere and not even the dads are there; it’s all female.”

Maddie Salis, Whitney’s daughter, who turns 17 in a week, said she had always been involved with the scouts, as several of her brothers — one of whom is an Eagle Scout — have gone through the program.

Salis said she often volunteered and joined in on some camping trips with her brothers’ troops to get a chance to experience part of the fun.

“They were always so adventurous and hard core and doing all these crazy things that not many people get the opportunity to do, so that’s why I was like, ‘I really want to do that,’ ” Salis said.

She went on to join the Girls Scouts, which is not affiliated with the BSA, and later the Venturer Scouts, a coed program offered by the BSA for boys and girls ages 14-20, but jumped at the chance when she heard the Boy Scouts was opening up for the opportunity to achieve Eagle Scout status.

Although Salis is too old to make it to Eagle Scout before she turns 18, which is the standard deadline to earn the highest rank in the scouts, the BSA is offering an extension for older girls who join this year, according to Ellis.

“I think just joining BSA would probably be the coolest thing ever, and just getting to go through all those steps and you have to have a certain dedication and devotion for it all, and I think that’s just a really awesome experience that everyone should go through,” Salis said.

Dianne Cooper, who has been volunteering with Boy Scouts for many years and now serves as the scoutmaster of Scouts BSA girls’ Troop 219 in Rocklin, a new troop for girls in Placer County that Katherine joined, said the girls she has spoken with have been incredibly enthusiastic about the big change.

Many of the girls, Cooper said, are more prepared to join the scouts than the boys, partly out of sheer excitement at finally being able to join. On Feb. 1, the first day girls were allowed to join, Cooper said she had a line of girls eagerly asking her to sign off on their entry requirements.

“I really enjoyed the time with my son being out camping and hiking,” Cooper said. “For me, I’m 52, so watching women step into the world ... and feel the confidence that they have, that ability to manage themselves, that was really what attracted me: giving young women the chance to grow into that leadership model that scouts represents.”

Ellis said there are at least 24 girls troops in the Golden Empire Council, with at least 120 scouts between them.

Brian Meux, scoutmaster of both Scouts BSA girls’ Troop 1625 and Girl Scout Troop 625 in Davis, said he has seen many of his Girl Scouts joining ranks with Scouts BSA so they have an opportunity to experience both programs.

“As time goes on I’m sure it’ll kind of shake out and they will figure out which organization they are most served by,” Meux said. “Most of the girls that we currently have in our troop have come to us in the last year seeking the Scouts BSA program when they heard that that’s what we would be doing.”

Michael Boggs said bringing girls into Scouts BSA will not only make it easier for families to grow together, but it will finally allow girls to receive the lifelong benefits that the program imparts.

“There’s some of us who think we should have done this some time ago,” he said.

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Vincent Moleski covers business and breaking news for The Bee and is a graduate student in literature at Sacramento State. He was born and raised in Sacramento and previously wrote for the university’s student newspaper, the State Hornet.