WEST WARWICK — Fifth-grader Justyce Scott was beaming with pride last month, as she crossed a bridge to receive her Arrow of Light patch.
“It’s a big deal,” Christopher Black, a parent volunteer with Pack 13 Centreville, said of the Deering Middle School student’s milestone moment. “It requires a lot of different scouting skills—volunteerism, camping.”
With those skills plus several others under her belt, Scott this week officially became the first female member of Pack 13 ever to earn the prestigious patch, the top rank in Cub Scouts.
Indeed, she has a lot to be proud of.
Given to Cub Scouts “as the culmination of all their achievements,” Black explained, the Arrow of Light is one of the few Cub Scout patches that Scouts can continue wearing as members of Scouts BSA.
“It’s great if you did it, and it’s OK if you didn’t,” Black said of earning the rank. “But it’s not one of those things where you’re given a trophy just because you participated.”
During a crossover and rank-up ceremony Wednesday night, Scott and several of her fellow pack members celebrated their accomplishments as they “crossed over” from the Cub Scouts into Scouts BSA.
The event is symbolic of the transformations of the young leaders throughout their journeys as cubs, Black said.
“It’s really interesting to see as the kids go from the dependency on mom and dad or an adult,” he said. “And as they cross over into the [Scouts BSA], they’ve developed their own independence.”
Before friends and family members, the Arrow of Light recipients made their way over a wooden bridge, crossing various handwritten character traits with each step forward—trustworthy; loyal; helpful; courteous.
“It’s kind of our way of saying, ‘hey, great job,’ and then passing them over to the troop,” Black said of the Pack 13 tradition, which, in his estimate, stretches back more than seven decades.
But despite the 70-some ceremonies that came before it, Black called Wednesday’s crossing over event an “historic” one for the pack.
“Having our first female cross over, and actually have the opportunity to do that, is super exciting,” he said.
Although the pack had always welcomed participation from girls, Pack 13 Centreville last year became one of the first Cub Scouts packs in the country to formally accept girls as members.
And over the last year, female participation in Cub Scouts programs has grown wildly nationwide.
“It’s amazing,” said Dan Friel, a spokesperson for the Narragansett Council of the Boy Scouts of America, covering southeastern New England.
When Cub Scouts launched in the 1930s as an extension of the Boy Scouts, Friel pointed out, just 3,000 boys nationwide joined in the first year.
“At that time a lot of people were against it,” he said. “They thought the boys were too young, and that it wouldn’t be a solid program.”
But the nay-sayers were wrong. And some 80 years later, around 75,000 girls across the country have jumped at the chance to become Cub Scouts since Family Scouting was introduced last year.
Within the Narragansett Council alone, more than 240 girls have joined Cub Scouts.
Then, in February of this year, Boy Scouts of America changed the name of its Boy Scouts pilot program to Scouts BSA, as it officially welcomed girls ages 11 to 17 into the program, which, since its incorporation in 1910, had been open to just boys.
“It’s so amazing now to see not just the boys in our program, but the girls in our program achieving that Arrow of Light and being able to cross over and have the same opportunities,” Friel said.
Since the first week of February, Friel added, more than 10 all-girl Scouts BSA units have formed under the Narragansett Council umbrella.
“It’s great,” Black added. “Having a daughter, myself, for her to have the opportunity to possibly earn Eagle Scout is just as important as for my son to do it. Because, why not?”
And as she crossed the wooden bridge in her plaid neckerchief and khaki shirt, landing on the other side at the Scouts BSA, Scott made history.
“It’s a fun time to be able to extend our reach,” Black said. “These are really, really exciting times.”