Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

April 19, 2013

Boy Scout Jamboree to include girls

Associated Press

— For the first time, some of the 50,000 attendees at the Boy Scouts of America National Scout Jamboree will be girls.

This year's jamboree, which will be held at its new, permanent home in Fayette and Raleigh counties, will allow Venturers, as well as Scouts, leaders and staff, to take part in the activities at The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve.

The Boy Scouts of America's Venturing organization is a youth development program for boys and girls 14 through 20. Those 13 who have completed eighth grade also may join.

"This is the first year that the BSA has extended an invitation to attend the Jamboree to all members of the Venturing program ... The fastest growing program in the BSA, Venturing is designed to reach as many young adults - male and female - as possible," said Larry Pritchard, the National Jamboree director.

"While working to shape its members into well-rounded and responsible individuals and leaders, the program uses a theme of high adventure to create a learning environment based on individual preferences, making it a great addition to the Summit," Pritchard said.

The Venturing program is an option for girls interested in the Boy Scouts of America or for boys who want to remain involved after age 17 - when Boy Scouts generally must become adult leaders.

"It's also co-ed, so it gives an element of proper social atmosphere to interact with girls. In the Boy Scouts of America, there are no youth girl members, but there are in co-ed programs," said Jeff Purdy, the scout executive for the Buckskin Council in Charleston.

"The program is also used by a lot of churches for their youth program. They can use the outdoor element to add value to their youth programs.

"Also if a Boy Scout has become an Eagle Scout and conquered leadership roles and fulfilled those duties, Venturing can be a new adventure."

Four local girls will attend this year's Jamboree, and two are twin sisters who attend George Washington High School.

Perry McGhee, 16, president of a Venture crew, became interested in the program as a child.

"My dad, brother and grandfather were all Eagle Scouts. Scouting was big in my family," she said. "My older brother - I watched him growing up and doing these fun activities. When I was in middle school, I asked if there was a way I could get involved.

"My dad said, 'When you're in high school, you can start a Venture crew for you and your friends.' So my family has had a history with it."

She has been involved with her Venture crew for two years now. McGhee was never a Girl Scout but had enjoyed watching and going to Boy Scout events since childhood.

And now she will get to join fellow Scouts at the Jamboree.

"I'm thrilled; it's going to be a great experience. I'm excited for the high adventure and meeting people from all over. It's a rare experience, especially since it's the first year for it in Fayetteville - in our state - and being one of the first girls ever to experience it."

Perry's sister, Virginia, is the treasurer of their Venture crew.

"I love the whole camping aspect; I love the outdoors," Virginia said. "I'm looking forward to spending 10 days in the woods and excited to meet everybody. I don't have the opportunity to meet people from across the nation very often."

As far as being outnumbered by the boys, Virginia is looking forward to the challenge.

"Being one of the few girls there might be difficult, but I think we can handle it because my sister and I are headstrong enough to hold our own," she said.

Registration is still open, so officials do not have a final number of attendees. They expect about 30,000 Scout and Venturing participants and 8,000 staff and adult leaders. During the course of the Jamboree, officials are projecting more than 50,000 visitors will attend.

"For the female Venturers, I think it is a tremendous step for them to finally be allowed to come to the Jamboree as participants," national Venturing President Dustin Readenour wrote on the Summit blog.

"Many of the females are beyond excited for the opportunity to be a participant at the 2013 Jamboree. They understand that this first jamboree at the Summit - the now permanent site of the national jamboree - will be one to never forget, and with that, they are jumping at every opportunity to attend the national jamboree."

Scout officials had to consider accommodation of girls when constructing the new home to the Jamboree.

"As the Summit begins to grow, the BSA is making sure each of its members in the Scouting and Venturing world feels welcome to attend. To do this, the site is being constructed so every participant's privacy is respected, including different sleeping quarters and bathhouses that are located in separate areas," Pritchard said.

All activities featured at the Summit will be open to all Venturers. As The Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve touts high-adventure activities like zip lining, mountain biking and skateboarding, the Venturers seem to have found a niche, as the program used to be part of the Exploring Division before coming into its own in 1998.

"One of the key focuses behind the Venturing program is high adventure, and with the addition of the Summit - the home of high adventure - this is a perfect breeding ground for the foundations of Venturing," Readenour wrote on the blog.

"That being said, I think that Venturers at the jamboree will add a dynamic that will never be forgotten."