ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
Starting next year, the Boy Scouts of America will include girls. The decision comes after years of lobbying from families and direct pleas from girls themselves. WNYC's Yasmeen Khan spoke with some of them.
YASMEEN KHAN, BYLINE: For the past few years, Sydney Ireland, who's 16, has been writing letters, op-eds and speaking out for this change because the Boy Scouts is an organization she loves. Like a lot of girls, she got hooked when she started tagging along to activities with an older brother.
SYDNEY IRELAND: And I saw that he got to build model boats, he got to learn first aid, go camping. And I really wanted to do the same things that he got to do.
KHAN: And she basically did. Sydney has been an unofficial member of a New York City Boy Scout troop since she was 4, even earning the highest Cub Scout rank off the books. This felt unfair. She couldn't get recognition for the sole reason of being a girl. So she spoke up and wasn't the only one.
ELLA: I'm a girl - so what?
KHAN: This is Ella Jacobs. She's 12 and lives in Sebastopol, Calif.
ELLA: When I'm older, I'm going to grow up and be around guys. In school, I'm around guys. So what's the difference?
KHAN: And here's 9-year-old Elena Lynch from Maplewood, N.J.
ELENA: I mean, like, just because I'm a girl doesn't mean I don't like Cub Scouts.
KHAN: To these girls and their parents, the idea of separate activities for boys and girls was offensive. Ella even tried the Girl Scouts, but says it just wasn't her style. She was interested in archery and hiking, and the local Boy Scout troop already offered that. After a long fight, Sydney says she's thrilled the Boy Scouts will let girls in.
IRELAND: Because that's just the next step towards greater inclusion of everybody.
KHAN: But she does see it as just a step. The Boy Scouts' decision does not compel local PACs to allow girls to join. And if PACs do enroll girls, boys and girls would still be separated by gender. This is a red flag for even 9-year-old Elena.
ELENA: Like, if girls made cards while boys went to a insect place where they got to study insects, I would be really mad.
KHAN: Coed scouting is common worldwide, but there are strong feelings about the issue here, including from the Girl Scouts. Andrea Bastiani Archibald is a developmental psychologist with the national organization.
ANDREA BASTIANI ARCHIBALD: I'm particularly disappointed by their membership decision.
KHAN: She contends the Girl Scouts are not worried about their own group, but about what's best for girls.
ARCHIBALD: We know that girls thrive in single-gender environments. We also know that our national program, our curriculum is the best leadership experience for girls in the world, period.
KHAN: But if the mission of the Girl Scouts is to empower girls to go after the change they want to see, then it's fair to say girls like Sydney, Elena and Ella have done that and are now seeing results. For NPR News, I'm Yasmeen Khan in New York.
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