Six-year-old Kara Stubbs, a first grader from Starkville, is one of the first girl Cub Scouts in the Golden Triangle.
Her father, Brice Stubbs, became a Cub Scout when he was 6 and worked through Boy Scouts until he was an Eagle. He’s been volunteering with Boy Scouts for the last 10 years.
He had thought about enrolling Kara in Girl Scouts. But after Boy Scouts of America announced last year it would be accepting girls into its programs in fall 2018, he enrolled her Cub Scout Pack 127 in Starkville, which is piloting a co-ed program this spring. Kara is one of six girls in the program
“It’s definitely a piece of history I’m proud of,” Brice said. “I don’t know if she realizes the nature of it. She’s just excited to be having new friends.”
Jeremy Whitmore, Scout executive of the Pushmataha Area Council that oversees Boy Scout groups in 10 Mississippi counties — including those in the Golden Triangle — said there is national interest in girls being involved in Boy Scout programs at all scouting levels.
But it’s a decision that has disappointed leaders in Girl Scouts of the USA, including Jenny Jones, senior director of community engagement for Girl Scouts Heart of the South, which oversees parts of Mississippi.
“We pride ourselves on being an all-girl organization,” Jones said. “… It is the best situation for girls once they get to the age of 9 and start feeling that peer pressure. They need to feel secure and safe in whatever they’re doing in their activities.”
Jones appeared before the Columbus Exchange Club Thursday to talk to members about Girl Scouts, which she said has been increasingly emphasizing STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) activities since studies demonstrate that as girls age they “shy away” from those subjects.
“It’s about the age (9) that they start to feel like they don’t want to look stupid in front of their friends or the boys or whatever’s going on with them,” Jones said. “And so they start not answering the questions as much and not raising their hands as much.”
She said local Girl Scout groups have begun working with Mississippi State University’s engineering school to host an all-girls day of STEM activities for the organization’s girls.
“(The girls) love it,” Jones said. “They eat it up. They just don’t want to do it where they feel pressure. They want to do it with their friends in a safe environment where they can make mistakes and learn from them.”
That’s one of the reasons, Jones said, the Girl Scouts will not be following in Boy Scouts’ footprints and opening its ranks to boys.
She added Girl Scouts aren’t worried about current Girl Scouts shifting to Boy Scouts, though she said girls who would otherwise have joined Girl Scouts may not now.
“We understand it’s going to be geared toward the families who already have a boy in Scouts that makes it easier for them to just bring their daughter,” she said.
Brice Stubbs said he looked at both Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts programs when deciding where to place Kara. He said both programs had plenty of value, but in the end he thought Boy Scouts would be better for his daughter, particularly because she likes outdoors activities, which Boy Scouts emphasizes more.
“It’s definitely nothing against the Girl Scouts,” he said. “I just thought this program was better suited to my daughter.”
According to numbers provided by Jones and Whitmore, there are about 320 Girl Scouts and 199 Boy Scouts in Lowndes County; 205 Girl Scouts and 291 Boy Scouts in Oktibbeha County; 159 Girl Scouts and 86 Boy Scouts in Clay County.
Other Girl Scout programs
Speaking to the Exchange Club, Jones also took the opportunity to push the local Girl Scouts’ annual fundraiser Women of Distinction, to be held at Starkville First Baptist Church on April 6.
The fundraiser is an opportunity to recognize area women whose efforts at work, schools and churches have benefited the community.
“These are women that we want our girls to aspire to be,” Jones said.
To submit a nomination or purchase a ticket, go to http://www.girlscoutshs.org/en/support/special-events/women-of-distinction.html.
Jones also spoke about other goings-on with Girl Scouts locally, including a new leadership program for women in the workforce and the campaign “Stand Beside Her” which promotes women supporting women in their education and careers.
Jones added Girl Scouts Heart of the South has received support from chapters of the National Association of Junior Auxiliaries, including the Columbus chapter, which was one of the first to support the campaign.
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