Historic decision creates opportunity for WL girls
Growing up as a Girl Scout, West Linn resident Julianna Cimral was always a bit jealous of her twin brother Nathan.
Sibling rivalries are natural, of course, but Julianna's feelings had little to do with Nathan and emanated instead from the gender-based barriers she faced in the scouting world.
"When he was going through Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, it was always more interesting than what I was doing in Girl Scouts," Julianna said. "So I always had a fascination with Boy Scouts, because I'm really into outdoors and adventure-y things."
Change arrived just in time for Julianna, as BSA announced in 2017 that it would allow girls within its ranks for the first time in its 108 year history. Just a few weeks ago, Julianna and Nathan helped create BSA Explorer Post 555 — a precursor to Scouts BSA Troop 555, which will be formed when BSA officially drops the "boy" from its name and becomes "Scouts BSA" in February 2019.
"These girls are the first girls who are starting their own troop in West Linn," said Claire Osterman, the director of family scouting for Cascade Pacific Council: BSA. "The change started with girls being invited into Cub Scouts this spring, and now we're preparing for older girls — so girls who are 11 and older — to join what has traditionally been called the Boy Scout Program. ...We made this an opportunity as early as we could through a program called 'Exploring.'"
As "explorers," girls like Julianna and fellow West Linn resident Zoey Leisey will spend much of this year learning leadership skills to prepare for prominent roles in their future troop. Once the all-girl Troop 555 is formed, Julianna, Zoey and others will set their sights on earning the coveted Eagle Scout rank as early as 2020.
"I wanted to be able to earn Eagle," Julianna said. "So when they opened it up to girls, it was like an automatic thing to start a troop and get into it as fast as I could."
Since the announcement that BSA would open for girls, interest has exploded throughout the region, according to Osterman. The hope is that the Cascade Pacific Council — which oversees Scout troops in northwest Oregon and southwest Washington — will add between 75 and 100 new girls troops come Feb. 1.
"We've already got 47 troops in waiting," said John Cimral, Julianna and Nathan's father and adviser for Explorer Post 555.
"The desire is very apparent," Osterman added. "There's 40 girls registered to attend national youth leadership training this summer. ... Last summer there were 12."
For Leisey, Scouts BSA will provide opportunities she hasn't found elsewhere. As she spoke, the Explorer Post was preparing to depart for a weekend camping trip alongside Boy Scout Troop 396.
"I really never get to go exploring outside, and I've never been to the places (we're going)," Leisey said. "I thought it was an opportunity of going places and exploring more."
John Cimral, a full-time BSA volunteer who serves on the executive board of the Cascade Pacific Council, said he was thrilled that his daughter would be able to follow in her brother's footsteps and become an Eagle Scout (Nathan was expected to earn that honor in late June).
"I'm very proud of (Nathan) in terms of everything he's done, but I'm going to be especially proud of my history-making daughter in 2020 when she earns this," John Cimral said. "It's personal to me, it's very personal, and it's just exciting to see how many girls want to get outside, want to learn character-based leadership in the outdoors. And the reception has been amazing."
Cimral's wife, Laura Schwerin, is also a Scout volunteer and said she was happy that others wouldn't have to face the pangs of envy her daughter once felt watching Boy Scout activities.
"Some of these girls had been going to Scout meetings with their parents, sitting there while their brothers had all this fun," Schwerin said. "So it's like, 'Finally I don't have to sit on the sidelines anymore.'"
To learn more about local troops or scholarship opportunities, contact Osterman at 503-225-5750.