Stella Perdikis grew up in the Girl Scouts program, but for years she’s pressed for bigger challenges.
“As a girl in high school, we take the same classes with boys and practice in the gym together,” she said. “But when it comes to outdoor survival skills, as a girl I have not been given the same opportunities that the boys enjoy.”
On Friday, the 15-year-old was one of more than 100 girls in Connecticut to collect a Scout badge. It was the first day that the Boy Scouts of America, which has renamed itself Scouts BSA, welcomed young women into the century-old organization. The emblems were handed out during an afternoon ceremony at the state Capitol.
This summer, Perdikis and two other girls will join 20 boys in hiking to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“I am looking forward to camping and hiking and the great outdoors,” Peridkis, a sophomore at Simsbury High School, said. “But the most important thing I expect from being a member of Scouts BSA is becoming a leader that can guide a team during challenging situations, because that’s what life is.”
In a push for inclusivity, the Boy Scouts announced last spring that it would drop the “boy” from its namesake program and begin welcoming older girls, opening a door for them to earn the group’s highest rank of Eagle Scout. February is the first month that girls nationwide are being admitted into the program. The organization accepts children 11 to 17 years old.
Last summer, Cub Scouts, for kids 7 to 10 years old, started welcoming girls. Thousands enrolled.
The Boy Scouts had offered girls limited access to some programs before, but never invited them into its core Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts programs.
“When you get right down to it, it applies to youth regardless of gender,” said R. David Lee, commissioner of the Connecticut Rivers Council, one of BSA’s four councils in Connecticut. “You will have girls learning the same skills that boys have learned for over 100 years and they will now have an opportunity to earn an Eagle rank.”
“I’m kind of sad my daughter couldn’t join when she was younger,” Lee said.
The Boy Scouts has significantly loosened its membership requirements in recent years. In January 2017, the group said it would accept transgender members. It lifted a ban on openly gay members in 2013, and two years later it stopped barring gay Scout leaders.
But not everyone is happy about its latest move.
Last fall, the Girl Scouts of the United States of America sued in federal court, claiming the Boy Scouts’ name change infringed on its trademark, engaged in unfair competition and caused “an extraordinary level of confusion among the public.” The case is pending.
On Friday, that tension wasn’t apparent at the Hartford ceremony. Girls trotted happily to a podium and collected their badges, hugging Troop leaders and parents on the way.
State Rep. Pat Boyd, who earned the Eagle Scout rank as a teen, watched as the girls sported their new patches.
“My sister was an Explorer when I was a Boy Scout,” he said. “We did a lot of the same activities, but she couldn’t earn the same rank recognition that I was able to. This evens the playing field and allows the same achievements for the young ladies that the boys have had for 100 years.”