NORTH EAST — Carlee Parrett traces a circle in the air around her with a saw, making sure nobody and nothing that could be hurt is within her immediate perimeter. With the coast clear, she pulls the saw slowly across a log three times, creating notches in the wood before she begins sawing.
The 11-year-old was among several other girls practicing the safe handling of knives, saws and axes on Wednesday at Camp Rodney, the local Scouts BSA summer camp in North East.
But it was only earlier this year that the 109-year-old Boy Scouts of America organization officially began allowing girls to participate in the program, now branded Scouts BSA.
Ida Parrett, scoutmaster of BSA Troop 111 in Middletown, Del., and Carlee’s mother, said that before the change Carlee would attend her older brother’s Scout meetings and participate in activities — but she never received the merit badges that her brother did.
“She came to all his Cub Scout meetings, so she was very frustrated doing all the same stuff that the boys were doing but then not getting the recognition and credit for it that they were,” Ida said.
As of February though, Scouts BSA welcomes all children 11 to 17 years old, regardless of gender.
Fellow Troop 111 member Julianna Eddis, 11, was happy to be able to join the program.
“It’s been really fun and I’m very happy that finally girls are allowed to be in [Scouts BSA] … Now we get to experience a lot of more things. We can do more fun things,” she said.
During a weeklong stay at Camp Rodney, the troop worked on various merit badges and skills such as a swimming merit badge, a nature merit badge, and a tote chip — which will grant them the right to carry a pocket knife and use a hatchet to create firewood on their own when camping.
With each of those skills, Ida said the Scouts go through a rigorous learning process. For the swimming merit badge, for example, they have to learn different strokes and lifesaving skills, and pass a swimming test.
Carlee and Julianna agreed that their favorite part of being in Scouts BSA is spending time with friends, and that their favorite skill they have learned so far has been swimming.
Ida said she is glad to be able to give these kids the opportunity to learn these skills and be able to do things on their own.
“For me, it’s empowering because I’m giving them the confidence that they need to be able to do what they want to do, to let them know that there are no boundaries for what it is they want to do,” she said.
Although Scouts BSA offers her daughter new opportunities, Ida said they are also still big supporters and participants in the Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. program.
“I love both programs and I personally think they work very well together,” said Ida, who was a Girl Scout herself growing up.
Rachael Weaver, program director at Camp Rodney, is in her ninth year of Scouting. When she was 14 years old, she joined Venturing Crew, which was another co-ed program within the Boy Scouts that preceded the recent change.
Weaver, who has an older brother who was a Boy Scout, said allowing girls to join Scouts BSA opens them up to more learning opportunities.
“I think it just opens up an opportunity to grow together in a troop, to grow in leadership and to be able to show people what they’re able to do. Whether that is rank advancement, earning merit badges or just being prominent in a camping setting,” she said.
As a member of Scouts BSA, Carlee said she feels like she can do more on her own when needed.
“I think that just being here this week has made me more capable of doing stuff by myself, more independent,” she said.
For Ida, that independence is everything she could wish for both of her children.
“I want them both to have a very strong sense of confidence and just the belief in themselves that they can do anything that they set their minds to,” she said. “For my daughter specifically, I like the fact that she will be able to go out and do stuff on her own and not feel dependent on anyone else to help her out … Same thing with my son: I like that he has that ability to have the mindset to know ‘OK, this is what I need to do. This is what my training has told me throughout my entire Scouting career.’”
If any kid is thinking about joining Scouts BSA, Carlee encourages them to go for it.
“I would definitely suggest doing it,” she said. “You get to learn a lot of stuff that’s really fun.”