Climbing the ranks

Sanaa Mehta is the first girl to be a member of Washington Township Scouts - BSA

Munira and Yusuf Mehta stand behind their children Shiraz and Sanaa at the annual Blue and Gold Banquet on March 24. At the banquet, Sanaa crossed over from Webelo to Scout-BSA as the first girl to do so in Washington Township. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

Last year, Washington Township Cub Scout Pack 220 was chosen as a pilot program to allow girls to join the Boy Scouts. While there are 11 registered girls in Cub Scouts, Pack 220 had its first girl cross over from Webelo II to Scouts BSA on March 24.

A Cub Scout becomes a member of Scouts BSA at the annual Blue and Gold banquet when they are 11 and/or in fifth grade. Sanaa Mehta is Washington Township’s first girl to cross over.

“I wanted to feel good about myself and be able to learn about all the things Boy Scouts do in Cub Scouts,” she said about why she joined. “I wanted to be included.”

Sanaa and her younger brother Shiraz were both members of Pack 220 and shared similar interests – camping and exploring.

“I like the adventures and trips to different places. I love being outdoors and in nature,” Sanaa said.

“I like that the camping and hiking trips are fun because you get to explore the outdoors,” Shiraz said.

Yusuf and Munira Mehta are grateful for the opportunity for their daughter to be involved in Scouts.

“I think it’s great that the Scouts BSA has included girls and giving the girls an equal opportunity to do the activities because it’s really good life learning skills that they learn all throughout the years,” Munira said.

“I have been in Scouts since I was in Bombay and I’m so glad both Sanaa and Shiraz are in Scouts. It’s a great opportunity for my daughter to be involved in Scouts, she just happened to be in the right place at the right time, and on top of that she’s very interested. That’s the most important part, she’s enjoying it.” Yusuf said.

Sanaa has found a perfect home in Troop 123 – her affinity for the outdoors is the cornerstone of what Troop 123 is about, according to troop leader Stephen Brown.

“We’re more outdoor as to what we do,” he said. “When we held the open house, that’s what we presented to all of the Webelos. It gives them a chance to see what we offer.”

“Our troop is unique, we like camping, we’re very adventurous,” assistant troop leader Marty Smullen echoed. “Some troops are non-camping. That’s why you have so many troops, each troop caters to a certain lifestyle or what they like to do.”

Brown and Smullen are excited for the opportunity to have a girl in their troop, saying they both have daughters they would have liked to have shared the experience with but were unable to.

“We’re not going to treat her different than the boys,” Smullen said. “She’s going to feel the trials and tribulations the boys go through. The boys don’t see anything different. They’re looking at it as another Scout to welcome into our organization.”

Brown said the lessons in Scouting are universal for life itself, it’s not just something boys should benefit from.

“What we’re doing is preparing you for life, making you a good, productive adult,” Brown said. “The boys you’re dealing with, your counterparts, these are the people you’re going to be working with. Nothing changes, you’re just going to get older.”

While the lessons learned in Scouting are beneficial for boys and girls, integrating girls with boys is something that benefits parents as well. For example, a family with boys and girls can now attend the same meetings and camping trips.

The Renner family is a prime example of this. Mattison Renner will be Washington Township’s second girl to cross over from Webelo II to Scouts BSA at next year’s Blue and Gold Banquet. Mattison’s brother Evan was a member of Cub Scouts, which sparked Mattison’s interest. Now, Scouting is something they can do as a family.

The future is bright for Scouts in Washington Township. Despite being a member of Scouts BSA for a short amount of time, Sanaa has one goal in mind.

“I’m looking forward to moving up the ranks to become an Eagle Scout,” she said.