(And It’s Good News for Girls)
Belonging—the desire to belong to something larger than ourselves—is a fundamental human need. Science has shown that our desire to belong begins in infancy. It’s well-documented that belonging to a group is beneficial to children and young people because it can play a significant role in developing essential personal and interpersonal skills. Being part of a group can foster critical thinking and problem-solving skills and help young people gain self-confidence and self-esteem.
As one of the largest premier youth organizations, Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has witnessed first-hand the many valuable aspects an organization provides to young people, serving more than 130 million young men and women since its 1910 inception.
Belonging to a group, such as BSA, leads to building and strengthening social connections and friendships. We all know that friendships are good, but what you may not know is that social connections could even lead to a longer life—increasing longevity by as much as 50 percent!
We’re hardwired for connection, and decades of neuroscience research has shown that belonging, having human connections, is critically important for numerous reasons. The pandemic stressed the necessity for connection, and thanks to technology, we found new ways to stay connected.
Social connections have also been shown to mitigate harmful stress levels, which can adversely affect coronary arteries, gut function, insulin regulation, and the immune system. Existing medical research points to evidence that social connection substantially impacts many health categories, from weight management, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and depression.
Change Isn’t New to The Boy Scouts of America
Like most successful organizations, BSA has recognized the necessity of change and the need to adapt over its 111-year history. For example, early in its development, BSA created the Wolf Cubs for boys under the age of eleven, which eventually became known as Cub Scouts.
The change also introduced a new identity. The umbrella organization will retain its name, Boy Scouts of America or BSA. The term Cub Scouts, for kids 5 to 10 years of age, is gender-neutral and will go unchanged. Boy Scouts, which includes kids ages 11 to 18, became Scouts BSA in February 2019.
Scouting Evolves to Welcome Girls
You may have noticed that the number included girls. One of the most notable changes for BSA in recent years is girls’ inclusion into the ranks. In 2017, girls, ages 5-10, were welcomed into Cub Scouts, and in 2019, membership in Scouts BSA became available to girls ages 11-18. In February 2021, nearly 1,000 girls marked a significant milestone earning the hallowed rank of Eagle Scout.
From making new friends and building Pinewood Derby® cars as Cub Scouts to learning the fundamentals of camping and exploring the great outdoors as an older Scout, gaining invaluable leadership skills in the Venturing program to focusing on a career path in the Exploring program, Scouting programs offer exciting opportunities to learn and grow.
And let’s not forget about the fun element! Like all BSA participants, residents of Western Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, and parts of West Virginia who participate in programs offered by The Boy Scouts of America, Laurel Highlands Council, receive all the great benefits of belonging in a way that’s fun and often filled with adventure.