For the past few years, 14-year-old Maddie Peacock watched from the sidelines as her four younger brothers had adventures with their Boy Scout troop. She helped them make Pinewood Derby cars and joined in the family camp-outs but was unable to earn recognition for her efforts.
“They would go off and do the fun scouting things and I was always upset because I knew that I could do all of that stuff — I just didn’t have the chance to,” said Maddie, who attends Innovation Middle School in Orlando, Fla. “Eventually, I got tired of going to the campouts because there was nothing there for me.”
But everything changed when the century-old Boy Scouts of America announced that, as of Feb. 1, girls ages 11 to 17 would be eligible to join girl troops and work to earn — like boys — the highly coveted rank of Eagle Scout.
The Boy Scout program’s name was changed to Scouts BSA when it opened to girls. Boys and girls are now referred to as “Scouts” under the Scouts BSA umbrella in troops restricted to each gender.
“We’re one of the leaders in the country for this whole movement right now,” said Chris Crowley, director of field services. “There is a lot of enthusiasm.”
Last year, girls were also welcomed in the Cub Scout program for children ages 5 to 10 and more than 77,000 girls nationwide have joined so far, according to the organization.
The Venturing, Exploring, Sea Scouts and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) Scouts programs have been open to boys and girls for more than 50 years.
Maddie was too old for Cub Scouts when the program’s expansion happened. After she couldn’t find a female troop near home to enroll in, her father, Dale Peacock, stepped up to lead as Scoutmaster of Troop 202 girls — a counterpart to an established boy troop.
“I’ve been around Scouting my entire life and I’m really excited to take part in it now,” said Maddie, whose troop currently has 12 girls.
“I think it’s awesome that we have so many girls that are really interested and want to learn this stuff and are willing to put time into it.”
The girls in Scouts BSA — not to be confused with Girl Scouts of the USA which is a separate girls-only organization that has been around for more than 100 years — are held to the same standards as the boys for earning merit badges and ranks. Girl Scouts, however, don’t offer the Eagle Scout rank. The highest achievement in the organization is called the Gold Award.
The troops are single-gender and may share a charter organization or be identified by the same number but have individual Scoutmasters and activities.
The U.S. organization said it expanded its iconic Scouts programs after hearing positive feedback from the majority of parents surveyed, many of whom said it was easier to manage a family’s schedule within one organization.
The Peacock family has a long lineage of Scouts, dating back to Maddie’s great grandfather who earned the Eagle rank in the 1930s.
Maddie, a member of her school’s engineering team and debate club, said she is determined to balance her academic life while working on completing the requirements to achieve the Eagle rank by her 18th birthday, the deadline.
“I’m going to have to hurry,” Maddie said, “because I only got four years.”