STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some other news now. Today is the day that the Boy Scouts program begins calling itself instead Scouts BSA and will allow girls to earn the rank of Eagle Scout. Seventy-six thousand girls have already signed up for Scouts BSA. Here's Katie Blackley of WESA.
KATIE BLACKLEY, BYLINE: On a recent morning at the Laurel Highlands Council headquarters in downtown Pittsburgh, 12-year-old Elly Riegner rummages through containers of small circular patches. She picks up a red badge with gold lining and shows it to her mother, Abby. This one's her favorite, she says. And she's done the sport before.
ELLY RIEGNER: Archery. It has a bow and an arrow.
BLACKLEY: Who has the bow?
ELLY: Oh, Vincent.
BLACKLEY: Who's Vincent?
ELLY: My brother.
BLACKLEY: Do you know what he is in Cub Scouts? What's his rank?
BLACKLEY: Elly's brother Vincent is 9 years old and has been in Cub Scouts since he was eligible to join at 6. Elly says in those three years, she'd often go to her brother's pack meetings and watch activities like the well-known Cub Scouts' pinewood derby.
ELLY: It's where you paint cars, and you race them down a track.
BLACKLEY: And this year, for the first time, Elly made a car of her own.
ELLY: I did blue and black, and I did not have any problems. And, yes, I went down the track.
BLACKLEY: This isn't the only first Elly will take part in this year. Younger girls have been able to join Cub Scouts for nearly a year. But now older girls have a path to earn the highest rank of Eagle Scout. Elly's mom, Abby, will be the scoutmaster for the new all-girls troop. She says she's glad girls can take advantage of the Scouting program.
ABBY: I was just like, that's awesome. I was the kid who wanted to be a Boy Scout, and my daughter kind of missed out on all of that. And I wanted to give her an opportunity to do the things that I know she really likes.
BLACKLEY: She says they'll model the new older girls troops on the boys, combining the two for things like opening pledges and announcements. But for the majority of activities and outings, troops will be single sex. That's something Laurel Highlands Council Scouting Executive CEO Sharon Moulds says she wants people to understand.
SHARON MOULDS: It's not a coed program. There's boy troops and girl troops.
BLACKLEY: It's important for the development of young men and women to have separate troops, she says, especially in their early teenage years when they're learning leadership skills. There has been criticism from Girl Scouts USA who filed a complaint against the Boy Scouts name change last year. Moulds says Scouts BSA isn't discouraging girls from joining the 107-year-old Girl Scouts. Within Boy Scouts, there was also some resistance with allowing girls. But she says most members have come around.
MOULDS: It's kind of a mix because we have some that - they're grandfathers, and they're saying, oh, I can get my granddaughter in. And I think, generally, what they're concerned about is they think they're going to merge together and be coed, which is never going to happen.
BLACKLEY: The decision to invite girls into Boy Scouts was not an easy one, Moulds says. Families told the organization it would be more convenient for their increasingly busy schedules to drop their children off at one meeting. Moulds says girls are already telling her how much they're looking forward to being involved.
MOULDS: They're excited about having the opportunity to do what they've seen their brothers do or the other boys do. I think a lot of them what we're seeing is they just want to be Eagle Scouts.
BLACKLEY: That's the case for 12-year-old Elly Riegner. With her first official day as a Scout coming up, she's been reading up on the ranks in her future.
ELLY: Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle.
BLACKLEY: For NPR News, I'm Katie Blackley.
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