Standing at attention and making the traditional three-finger salute, Olivia Luttrull recited the Boy Scout Law to open the Scouts BSA Troop 3013 Tuesday night meeting at First Christian Church.
"A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent," the 11-year-old scout said.
Olivia is one of six girls in the first female Scouts BSA Troop in Hopkinsville and Christian County.
Led by Scoutmaster Virginia Poland, Troop 3013 is the first all-girls troop in the Tecumseh District, which is part of the Boy Scouts of America Lincoln Heritage Council. Tecumseh serves Caldwell, Christian, Crittenden, Hopkins, Lyons, Muhlenberg, Todd, Trigg, Union and Webster counties in western Kentucky.
Last fall, Cub Scout Pack 3013 welcomed 10 girls into its den after the Boy Scouts of America opened Cub Scouts membership to girls from kindergarten to fifth grade.
In February, the Boy Scouts of America opened its membership to young women, as well as young men, ages 11 to 17, "all of whom will have the chance to earn scouting's highest rank, Eagle Scout," according to the organization's website.
Using the same curriculum as the Boy Scouts program, Scouts BSA is single gender - all-girl troops or all-boy troops.
"This unique approach allows the organization to maintain the integrity of the single-gender model while also meeting the needs of today's families," according to www.scouting.org/ScoutsBSA/.
Starting Troop 3013
Scoutmaster Poland's long history with scouts started when her son, Cameron, became a Cub Scout in second grade. When leadership changed in the group, Poland became his den leader.
"He wanted to become an Eagle. I worked with him in his den and pack. We started Troop 13 for the boys. He received his Eagle Scout in August, three days after his 16th birthday," Poland said. "My daughter (Catie) was a tagalong. She wasn't in the scouts, but she was a sibling and she got to tagalong to everything."
In March, Scouts BSA Troop 3013 started meeting with Poland at the helm and her 12-year-old daughter, Catie, as a scout.
"Since she was in second grade (Catie) has asked me, 'Mom, when can I be a scout?.' So when Scouts BSA opened up, it was important to me to give her the same opportunity that I gave him," Poland said.
Although there has been some controversy nationally about Boy Scouts welcoming girls, Poland said she respects both the Boy Scout and Girl Scout programs.
"It's not an 'us or them' or one is better than the other. It's just a different program," she said of Scouts BSA. "Boy Scouts is traditionally more of an outdoor program. Some girls just want more of an outdoor experience than what they were getting in Girl Scouts."
Scout Nichole Cruz, 13, decided not to choose between the programs. She is active in both Troop 3013 and Hopkinsville's Girl Scout Troop 304.
"I've been in Girl Scouts since I was in kindergarten," the teen said. "Beforehand I had been tagging along with Cub Scouts anyway (because) my mom's a den leader. I just wasn't earning (merit) badges."
Nichole said there are distinct differences in both scouting groups, but she enjoys both.
"One thing I learned immediately is that Boy Scouts you earn your ranks, while in Girl Scouts you progress in ranks as you age," she said.
"Boy Scouts is definitely more outdoorsy, more adventury. Girl Scouts is definitely tamer, more based on building relationships. If you're an outdoorsy person, Boy Scouts is definitely the way you want to go."
Like boys in Boy Scouts, Troop 3013 must earn merit badges and advance through the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life to reach Eagle.
Most of Troop 3013 said they are striving for the Eagle rank to earn scholarships for college -- or even bragging rights, like Scout Catie Poland.
"My goal is to beat my brother (Cameron) because he got his Eagle three days after his 16th birthday," she said. "I want to get my Eagle before I'm 16."
One of the first Troop 3013 activities to earn merit badges was a camping trip at the Poland farm.
"We did just a single night because a lot of our girls had no experience camping out," Virginia Poland said. "Some of these girls have never spent the night in a tent before."
Olivia said she enjoyed camping with the other scouts in her troop.
"I liked the camping because we made our own breakfast, lunch and dinner, which was really fun. We got to cook it ourselves," she said. "We learned how to Totin' Chip with saws, axes and pocketknives."
Troop 13 Eagle Scout Cameron Poland taught the girls how to safely handle specific wood tools needed to achieve their Totin' Chip certification.
Earlier this month, Scout Shelby Skipworth, 11, scaled the indoor climbing wall at Fort Campbell. The obstacle was designed to teach individuals how to rock climb or to improve one's skills.
"I like the wall-climbing activity," she said. "It was an outdoor activity, but it could be indoors too, depending on where (you are)."
Catie, however, was nervous about the climbing challenge.
"I'm terrified of heights, but I faced my fears and did it anyway," she said.
Becoming a scout
To be in Troop 3013, girls pay a $40 joining fee and buy a scouting book. Poland also recommends they buy a uniform.
The troop meets weekly at First Christian Church. To earn merit badges, they plan outings during the week and on the weekends.
"We have a full summer of activities planned and we're looking forward to it," the scoutmaster said.
Poland said scouts are also fundraising to help pay for summer camp and supplies. They are selling Discount Camp Cards at Tractor Supply and Kroger and a T-shirt with "Girls do that too" logo. For more information, visit the Troop 3013 Girls Facebook page.
Shelby said being a part of Troop 3013 offers her a chance to learn and grow with her friends.
"It's fun, interactive and social," she said.
Troop 3013 will add two more scouts from Cub Scout Pack 3013 at the end of April. Poland said she would love to see the troop's membership increase even more.
"I think girls around here are waiting for this opportunity," Poland said. "Every youth should have an opportunity to be able to have an experience like this to help them grow and be that more successful adult."
Reach Michele Vowell at 270-887-3242 or email@example.com.