The new, all-girl BSA Troop 219 based in El Segundo is building itself from the ground up. The troop is one of the first of its kind in the South Bay.
By Maureen Kingsley
You may have heard that the 109-year-old Boy Scouts of America (BSA) organization is now open to girls, and you may wonder what that looks like and how it works. You may also have heard rumblings of an all-girl troop taking shape here in El Segundo over the past couple of months, and you may be curious about the details. I certainly was, so I recently spoke with El Segundo resident, parent of two, and BSA Troop 219 Scoutmaster Kendra Walther about her all-girl BSA troop, formed in early spring of this year and made official in April.
The Back Story
Two full years ago, in October 2017, the national BSA organization announced it would officially welcome girls into Cub Scouts, its program for younger children, and rename its Boy Scout program for 11- to 17-year-olds “Scouts BSA,” which would accommodate boys and girls and invite female scouts to pursue the coveted Eagle Scout rank along with the boys.
At the time of this announcement, Kendra and her family were already familiar with scouting, as her son Bryce, now 12, was a member of El Segundo Cub Scout Pack 773. Kendra’s daughter, Eridani, was eight years old at the time of the change and immediately and with great enthusiasm joined her brother’s pack. She was, in fact, the first girl to join Cub Scouts on the West Coast of the United States.
Eridani, then in third grade, enjoyed Cub Scouts. About 18 months later, however, she and two other local girls, Lilyanna Kvitek and Josie Gardner, became interested in forming their own all-girl BSA troop. “Five interested girls aged 11 and up are required to obtain a charter to officially create a troop” from scratch, explains Kendra, “and the adult leadership must be in place, too.” Michael Lipsey, a local BSA Assistant Scoutmaster, former Cubmaster, and member of Kiwanis, one of several local BSA chartering organizations, worked with Kendra and Josie Gardner’s mother, Jenny, to get the two women the training and information they needed to apply for their charter and start a troop.
By mid-March of this year, the required five interested girls were accounted for, and the adult leaders were set. By the beginning of April, the charter for the brand-new troop was processed and made official, and a new, all-girl BSA troop in El Segundo was born.
The Dawn of Troop 219
With official BSA status reached, the girls, Scoutmaster Kendra, and Committee Chair Jenny set about building their troop identity. First up: choosing a number. “The girls decided on ‘219’ for a few reasons,” Kendra explains. “To start, it reflects our year of origin, 2019. Additionally, the number 219 is a ‘happy number,’ according to number theory and mathematics.” (Kendra is a computer-science professor. According to Javatpoint.com, a happy number is one that “will yield 1 when it is replaced by the sum of the square of its digits repeatedly.”)
The girls also chose their troop colors, dark purple and gold, which are now incorporated into their uniforms, and they are “currently designing artwork to represent who they are for their neckerchiefs and BSA shirts,” Kendra says.
Beginning in the spring of this year, the troop met once per week at the El Segundo Scout House and continues to do so on Sunday evenings.
Scaling the Ranks
Troop 219 operates independently but in the same way a traditional BSA troop does, working to meet requirements and obtain ranks as set forth in the BSA Handbook. “Each rank has skills associated with it,” Kendra says, “such as cooking, first-aid, and outdoor survival. It’s a very structured program with specific requirements, as well as optional merit badges and the 21 merit badges required to earn Eagle Scout status.” It’s the exact same program as the former boys-only Scouting program, she reiterates. Troop 219’s BSA Handbook contains the very same content as the traditional BSA Handbook, just “with photos of girls and gender-neutral pronouns” included, Kendra explains.
On the weekends, Troop 219 has been busy, going on hikes, participating in their first backpacking camping trip, at Musch Camp in Topanga; running a campfire recruiting party in September; and leading a map-and-compass activity in the WEBELOS Woods district-wide BSA event in Long Beach in early October. Upcoming plans include a November camping and rock-climbing trip to Joshua Tree, hosting a community craft event on Dec. 7 at the Scout House, and another backpacking trip in January 2020.
The girls also have some leeway to plan additional recreational events, such as movie nights and video-game nights, as do their counterparts in traditional BSA troops. “It’s about ranks and requirements, but also about having fun,” Kendra says.
Troop 219’s senior patrol leader, eighth-grader Ainsley Gulden, is a member of both BSA and Girl Scouts, and explains the differences this way: “Each teaches valuable life skills. Girl Scouts teaches community service, leadership, and cooperation. Scouts BSA emphasizes leadership, outdoor safety, and preservation of the environment.” She believes it is “very beneficial to be a part of one or both of these organizations.”
Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Josie Gardner adds that the troop shares a “sisterhood and bond that will last for years to come.”
For more information about El Segundo’s Troop 219, visit its website.
Troop 219 scouts include: Michelle Bergdahl, Rhea Bickerstaff, Bella Cotrufo, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader Josie Gardner, Senior Patrol Leader Ainsley Gulden, Maiyah Harvey, Bella Kim, Marie Kuntz, Madeleine Limuti, Audrey Limuti, Olive Nelson, and Alexandra Rahmel.
Troop 219 adult leaders: Kendra Walther, Michael Lipsey, JP Kuntz, Kim Bergdahl, Jenny Gardner, and Tim Nelson.
This story appears in the November 2019 issue of The El Segundo Scene.