Cub Scout leaders prepare to welcome girls to program

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Toni Pagliarini, a mother of four and the Committee Chair of Cub Scout Pack 20 at St. Robert Bellarmine Church, is thrilled that the Boy Scouts have decided to allow girls into the program.

“I’ve had a party every single day since I’ve heard the news. I have celebrated with everyone I’ve spoken to and come into contact with,” said Toni, who has been involved in Scouting for four years. “Honestly, it’s one of the best Christmas presents I can ask for.”

On the International Day of the Girl last Wednesday, the Boy Scouts of America announced that they would begin to allow girls into the Cub Scout program beginning in September 2018. By 2019, girls will then be allowed into the Boy Scout program for their chance to earn Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scout program.

Toni and her husband, Gregory, are the proud parents of David, 11, Evelyn, 8, Sean, 4, and Andrew, who is 3. Greg has been involved with Boy Scouts for 28 years as a member of Pack and Troop 20 Johnston, where his father, Steven, served as a longtime leader. Both Greg and his brother Peter have earned the rank of Eagle Scout through the troop, and Greg now serves as Cubmaster for the pack and Assistant Scoutmaster for the troop.

“We are ecstatic about it. It’s a great opportunity for us to include the other family members of our boys that are here now,” said Greg about the change. “A lot of them have sisters that are of Scout age that enjoy doing this type of stuff, like my daughter for example. They’re really interested in learning about first aid, knife safety, fire safety, wilderness survival and going camping and hiking.”

Greg and Toni have made Scouting their primary family activity. Their oldest son, David, has completed the Cub Scout program and has crossed over into Boy Scouts. Once the program becomes available for their daughter next year, they plan on signing her up.

“Here it’s all inclusive now, the whole family can come. Bring your children,” said Toni. “I’m over the hills, and we’ll have our daughter join next year, I’m over the moon with this decision.”

Toni explained that the new scouting program being implemented is a one-gender program, which means packs and patrols, sub-groups in scouting, will be separated by gender.

“They’re going to be separate, it’s not coed. It’s together but separate,” she said. “This is what we know of the change at this point.”

While there are concerns about the logistics of keeping boys and girls together, Toni stated that she believes the program is safe with safeguards put in place to protect all children.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for the family to bond in unity on events and adventures, for your daughter to learn the Cub Scout Oath, to be a good citizen in the community, and most of all to be able to learn every skill you’re going to learn about the wilderness, the basic survival skills,” said Toni. “Most of all, one of the best parts is that she can now earn Eagle Scout, and the weight that carries not only as a child and a young girl in high school, but as a woman in college and in her career, it’s monumental.”

Greg added, “I think that our program here has so much to offer. Our organization has been around for well over 100 years now and there is nothing in the Boy Scout program that is not compatible for young women as well. Our Oath, our Law, even the mission of the Boy Scouts of America are all outstanding and compatible for all young people, not just for boys.”

Evelyn Pagliarini, Greg and Toni’s daughter, gave a resounding “yes” when asked if she will join next year. “I like camping and I like hiking,” she said.

At last week’s meeting, Greg dressed in full Class A dress uniform, including his Eagle medal, to show his support for the decision the Boy Scouts made. This Eagle medal is typically only worn on special occasions. He said that since the announcement, his Cub Scout Pack has five or six young girls who are interested in joining, mostly sisters of boys that are already involved.

“We will have all-boy dens and all-girl dens, which will be part of the same pack. And they will be doing their advancement separately. Any overnighters that we go on the will be done separately. But we will be doing joint events together like hikes and outdoor activities, stuff like that,” said Greg. “And we will be doing our pack meetings together where we give out our awards. It will be separate but together.”

The troop leaders continue to be involved with the Narragansett Council and discuss how the changes will work for them.

Representative Stephen Ucci, who represents the people of Johnston and Cranston as a State Representative for District 42, has been involved with Troop 20 since the 1980s. There, he earned the rank of Eagle Scout and for years has presided over Eagle Scout award ceremonies, serving as master of ceremonies. Initially, he was hesitant when he heard of the change.

“At first, like any change, you’re taken aback because every time things change you have that reaction of why can't things stay the way I remember them because of the fond memories you have,” he said.

Ucci compared the change to his experiences at La Salle Academy, where he was part of the second class to graduate as coed class. He recalled the reaction when that school decided to make a similar change, and how some said it would “ruin the school” and things “wouldn’t be the same.” But he found that the experience was fantastic and enhanced his time there.

“If I look it now, and also being the dad of a ten-year-old girl, why shouldn’t my daughter have the opportunity to experience what I did when I went through scouts,” said Ucci. “I loved it, and when you think of it, there is nothing there that should prohibit or could prohibit what a girl can do, and get the same enjoyment and experience out of it that a boy does.”

Ucci said he expects some changes to accommodate girls, but that he believes those accommodations will not detract from the overall strength and mission of program.

“Next to being a dad, being a lawyer, and a state representative, I’m an Eagle Scout, and that’s a big deal and half the population can’t say that,” said Ucci. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”

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