DETROIT — The head of the Girl Scouts says that while the organization is disappointed that the Boy Scouts have decided to accept girls it is focused on helping "parents understand the benefits of Girl Scouts."
"At Girl Scouts, we're going to stay completely focused on girls. The 'girl' is going to stay in Girl Scouting," Sylvia Acevedo, the CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, told The Associated Press on Wednesday. "We were disappointed that an organization that we had partnered with for 100 years decided to accept girls, but you know what? Our focus is on what we do really well."
Acevedo was in Detroit to attend an evening ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new headquarters for the southeastern Michigan chapter.
Her visit comes at a time of strained relations between the Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts of America, which last month announced a new name for its Boy Scouts program: Scouts BSA. The change will take effect in February. The parent organization will remain the Boy Scouts of America, and the Cub Scouts — the program that serves children from kindergarten through fifth grade — also will keep its title. But the Boy Scouts, the program for 11- to 17-year-olds, will be known as Scouts BSA. The organization already has started admitting girls into the Cub Scouts, and Scouts BSA will begin accepting girls in 2019.
Girl Scout leaders have said they were blindsided by the move, but Acevedo stressed Wednesday that her group has a strong case to make to parents.
"A lot of times people think Girl and Boy Scouts are similar," she said. "We have programming that has been focused on girls for over 100 years, with these amazing outcomes."
As part of the Girl Scouts' campaign to recruit and retain girls as members, it is creating a number of new badges that girls can earn and concentrating on outdoor activities and on science, engineering, technology, and math.
The Girl Scouts are among a number of major youth organizations in the nation that are seeing declines in membership in recent years due to competition from sports leagues and busy family schedules.
According to Acevedo, the key is getting across the Girl Scouts' message.
"A lot of times, parents haven't understood the lifetime benefits of a girl being in Girl Scouts, so we're going to do a much better job explaining that to parents," she said.