SYCAMORE – Lexi Lawrence of Sycamore has grown up camping with Boy Scouts and watching her older brother, Derek, move through the ranks of Boy Scout Troop 40 in DeKalb County.
Derek, 17, said he’s “extremely close” to achieving the highest rank of Eagle Scout. By the end of the month, Lexi will get to start her journey toward that summit, as well, after she joins a new Scouts BSA troop for girls.
Lexi, 14, a member of Girl Scout Troop 1219, is working on her Silver Award – the second-highest award a Girl Scout can earn. In addition to joining the first all-girls troop through Boy Scouts of America in DeKalb County, she and fellow Girls Scouts plan to stay involved in their troop, she said.
“We thought it would be really cool if we got both our Eagle Award and our Gold Award,” Lexi said.
That prospect was what convinced Lexi and three fellow members of her Girl Scout troop to join the all-girls BSA troop, according to Lexi’s mother, Elaine.
“They’re just super-ambitious, and they want to do both,” she said.
She’s the troop leader for Girl Scout Troop 1219 and said she is in the process of becoming an assistant scoutmaster for the new Scouts BSA girls troop, as well.
Although Derek does not have the same opportunity to earn both awards, he said being involved in just Boy Scouts has given him all the opportunities he needs to continue to grow and learn.
“I think it’s good for the girls that they’re experiencing that,” Derek said.
Ron Wentzell, field director for the Three Fires Council through Boy Scouts of America, said individual troops will not be co-ed, but rather will operate as all-girls or all-boys troops under the new Scouts BSA umbrella, which became effective Feb. 1 nationwide. He said research done with middle school-aged children has shown that since girls develop at a different rate than boys, children in that age group prosper more in gender-separated groups.
“And if we have single-gender troops, we double the leadership opportunities for both boys and girls,” Wentzell said.
Ben Mahlke, also a field director for the Three Fires Council through Boy Scouts of America, said the all-girls troop the Lawrences are trying to help create will be the first of its kind in DeKalb County. He said another reason for having separate troops for boys and girls is so the two troops can be linked through the same sponsor and do joint activities with both groups.
Shawn Lawrence, Lexi and Derek’s father and scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 40, said he anticipates all the paperwork being done to make the all-girls troop active by the end of the month. He said allowing girls to be involved in groups for younger children and for women to be scoutmasters through Boy Scouts of America isn’t new, but allowing girls to earn an Eagle Scout award is.
He said this is a new opportunity that Scouts BSA has created for young ladies, since a number of girls have expressed the desire to do both.
“You don’t have to pick between band and chorus, you don’t have to pick between football and track, and you don’t have to pick between the two scouts organizations,” Shawn Lawrence said.
Jazlyn Pitman, 13, of Cortland said she is also planning on staying involved in Girl Scout Troop 1219 as well as joining the developing Scouts BSA girls troop. She said another appeal of joining the new troop is the opportunity to participate in more outdoor activities.
“I think it would be really cool to be the first person, or at least the first group of girls, to do it,” Jazlyn said.
For more information on getting involved in the new troop as a member or leader, call the Three Fires Council at 630-584-9250.