For years, Rachel Peck watched with pangs of sadness and envy as her brother, Andrew, worked his way up to Eagle Scout, proudly filling his sash with merit badges.
“It was kind of disappointing,” the Bayview teen said Wednesday. “Ever since I was little I’ve tried to copy my big brother. When it came to Scouts, I couldn’t.”
Their dad, Phil, was the scoutmaster of Andrew’s troop, Troop 141 in Sagle, and mom Bobbie Jo served as treasurer, so Rachel was always in the background, participating without recognition.
“She always went along on all the campouts and all the activities; she just didn’t get an award for it,” Bobbie Jo said. “I’m glad she’s going to get the awards now.”
When the Boy Scouts of America launches its inclusive Scouts BSA program for 11-to-18-year-old girls and boys Feb. 1, Rachel, 16, will be able to pursue everything her big brother did — even the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
“I think it’s a great change,” said Andrew, 21, who began as a Cub Scout in second grade. “I know my sister, when she was young, always looked at the things I did and she was jealous, so I’m glad she’s finally getting to experience some of those same things.
“It will be fun for our parents to say they’ve got two Eagles in the house.”
In October 2017, the Boy Scouts of America decided to introduce girls into the organization starting in February 2019. According to Karen Meier, CEO of BSA’s Inland Northwest Council, the area’s 1,322 Scouts already includes commitments from 128 girls. There’s plenty of room for more, Meier told The Press.
The entire Peck family is celebrating.
“I couldn’t be more excited. What Scouting offers — leadership skills and character development — isn’t gender-specific,” said Phil, who will serve as the scoutmaster of his daughter’s troop.
“My daughter has been an honorary Scout since she was 2 and hanging out with her older brother,” he said. “She’s never been able to earn the badges. She’s always been there. Now she gets to work on it on her own.”
Other youth activities never caught Rachel’s interest the way Scouting has. The inclusive Venturing, Exploring and Sea Scout programs of the Boy Scouts of America just weren’t for her. After so many years of tagging along with her bro, she’s found the Scouts BSA program to be the right fit.
“I want to be able to be ready for anything, to be able to do knots and fire-starting and not be like a girly girl,” she said. “I’ve never been to a Klondike (Derby) before because I wasn’t allowed, or summer camp because I wasn’t allowed to go. It’s going to be a whole new experience for all of us. It’s a little scary, but I think it will be fine.”
It’s a change that won’t be without challenge or controversy. Rachel has already heard naysayers sharing their opinions on this historic shift.
“I worked at a summer camp last summer. I got told a lot that girls shouldn’t be in Scouting. A lot of older scoutmasters came up to me and said plainly, I shouldn’t be there,” she said. “It’s a little frustrating that there’s a little bit of that (sentiment) left, but the most you can do is say ‘thanks for your opinion’ and move on.
“Other than that, I feel like it’s a good step toward a different era.”
Phil said this decision isn’t about “boy” or “girl.” It’s about raising leaders.
“If you have questions about how we’re doing it, come to a meeting, see those boys or girls becoming leaders of their troops,” he said.
The female Scouts will be members of all-female troops that will participate in jamborees and compete in big Scouting events, just like the other troops. They’ll be expected to fulfill the same responsibilities as the male Scouts.
“All the rank requirements will remain the same,” Phil said. “My son earning his Eagle will be the exact same thing my daughter will have to do to earn hers, no changes.”
Nicole Adamson-Wood, director of marketing and philanthropy for the Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho, said this change for the Boy Scouts of America isn’t a concern for the Girl Scouts.
“We’ve always had a great relationship with the Boy Scouts, and we continue to do that,” Adamson-Wood said. “Honestly, I think we’re going to lose some members, but we’re going to gain other members. There are certainly going to be families out there where that option is going to work for them.”
It’s not a matter of trying to compete, she said, “it’s making sure girls from all communities and all backgrounds have opportunities to participate.”
“Nationwide, youth organizations are struggling to keep those members. There’s so many things for kids to do, especially when they hit that middle- and high-school age … The end game is we want to engage youth and we want to complement what they’re learning in school and prepare them.
“We’re not worried there’s going to be that mass exodus,” she said. “I think it will be interesting how it plays out.”
From Feb. 1 forward, youths of both genders will be welcome to enroll in Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA, Venturing and Exploring. The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, but “Boy Scouts” will change to “Scouts BSA” to reflect the new era while containing a piece of the past.