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All Girl Troop 363 Launched in New Braunfels

by Lindsey Carnett for The Herald-Zeitung (2/22/2019 Article titled "Girls, now Let's get in formation; first regional girls Boy Scout Troop formed in NB"

Welcome to the Boy Scouts, ladies. In what local scouts are calling a historic night, New Braunfels gained the first regional all-girls Boy Scouts of America - now Scouts BSA - troop Wednesday evening.

As of Feb. 1, Scouts of America opened up its programs for both boys and girls ages 11 to 17 to join or form local troops. The Boy Scouts of America, Alamo Area Council officially celebrated the opening of its programs to older boys and girls earlier this month.

The Alamo Area Council serves a 13-county area, including Comal and Guadalupe Counties, which together make up the BSA, AAC's River District. Included in the River District are the cities of New Braunfels, Seguin and Schertz-Cibolo.

New Braunfels newest formed Scouts BSA troop, Troop 363 is now made up of six girls in fifth grade or  up, said new Troop Leader Celina Garcia.

"Four of our girls who are crossing over from Pack 363 to Troop 363 tonight have brothers who were in Boy Scouts already," Garcia explained. "My daughter Anna Olivia has been coming to the outings with our brother Pack 163 since her                  brother Sebastian was young, but she wasn't allowed to earn recognition for learning the same things. Now she can."

Cub Scouts operate in "packs" and Boy Scouts in "troops," explained Angel Martinez, director of scouting relations and communications for BSA, AAC.

Formerly, once a boy aged out of his Cub Scout pack in the 5th grade, he would take part in a "crossover ceremony" to join the corresponding Boy Scout Troop, Martinez said.

"So in anticipation of allowing girls to be introduced into troops in 2019, we actually opened Scouts BSA to  girls to start forming their own packs in 2018," Martinez said. "However they weren't able to be in a troop until Feb. 1, so this is historic -   tonight, New Braunfels is getting the first all-girls Scouts BSA troop in the AAC."

When asked about why these young ladies wouldn't instead be encouraged to join Girl Scouts, Martinez explained that although the two have a connected history, the organizations are extremely different.

"Scouts BSA is all about being youth-led, youth-driven," Martinez said. "It offers a lot more opportunity for outdoor adventure and to learn survival skills, which Girl Scouts offers some of, but they are completely different in how much of that they offer."

Martinez said allowing girls into Scouts BSA is also a more family-friendly option for parents, who don't have to now split their time between their children being in two organizations -   siblings can now be in the same program, albeit in their own gender­ specific pack or troop.

"Girls and boys are still split up by their pack and troop, so girls are still growing and communing with other girls," Martinez said. "But the local troops operate under the same program so they're together, but separate."

In honor of their sister's becoming official Scouts BSA, the four brothers present participated in their sisters' crossover ceremony by either partaking in it or by awarding their sisters with their official Scout neck kerchief.

''This is a family program, so we wanted to open BSA up  to include  siblings  and daughters to be recognized," said Michael de los Santos, Scout Executive and CEO of  BSA, AAC. "The girls were already coming and learning. Now they can work toward the same goal of Eagle Scout though as well."

New Troop 363 Scout Marlee Lightsey, 10, said she always wanted to be a scout like her two older brothers, so she was excited  when it opened up for her to join a pack last year and a troop this year.

"Both my brothers are working on their Eagle Scout projects," Marlee Lightsey said. "I have started thinking of different ideas for mine - one idea I have is to place retired flag bands around town here and in San Antonio."

Chief Warrant Officer Jeff Lightsey, Marlee's father, said he was incredibly proud when his daughter became an official Scout.

"I thought it was great that she wanted to do it and when they opened it up to allow her to," Jeff Lightsey said. "She's athletic, she loves the outdoors and it's fun for her."

Marlee's mother Molly Lightsey said with their three kids already involved in different sports, clubs and more, it was nice to be able to put them all in Scouts BSA together.

"It is better for our family, we didn't want to have a house divided," Molly Lightsey said. "It's a better balance for our household for sure."

Nine younger girls still make up Pack 363, which has girls from ages 5 through 11, Garcia said.

Parents with daughters in Pack 363 and sons in Pack 163 or Troop 163 also expressed the sentiment that opening the Scouts BSA to girls now allowed the organization to  be more family friendly.

With a son in Pack 163 and a daughter in Pack 363, Pack 163 Cub Master Chris Smith and his wife Pack 363 Committee Chair KaBrina Smith said the organization was now really a family­ friendly program.

''They all meet together, do the same activities and learn the same things," Chris Smith said. ''The only difference is the pictures in their handbooks -     the boys book has boys doing the activities and the girls book has girls. But page for page the words are the same."

Ryan Smith, 11, said he is excited to have his little sister around for Scout activities now.

"She's only 6 though so I still feel protective of her," Ryan Smith said. "Like earlier when we were making the fire I told her to watch first and stay back this time so she wouldn't get burned."

"Now we can do family scouting," KaBrina Smith said.

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