In the Great Hall of All Saints Church in Chevy Chase, Md., the members of Boy Scout Troop 52 recently planned a trip to Shenandoah National Park. They talked about what clothes to wear, what food to bring and their campsite's expected elevation.
And, as usual, they recited the Boy Scout law. But it wasn't just boys participating in the meeting and preparing for the trip — girls were a part of the group too.
While the Boy Scouts of America announced on Oct. 11 that it will be fully inclusive for girls for the first time in its nearly 100-year history, Troop 52 may be one of the few groups that already knows what inclusion looks like. Though the girls are technically part of a Venture Scout crew, which is a co-ed program, they've been participating in activities alongside the boys since 1997.
"The rest of the world is going to catch on to what we're doing here," Scoutmaster Will Stone, 55, told the group during a recent meeting.
This is 15-year-old Cadyn Harrington's second year in the venturing crew, which she joined after deciding that her Girl Scout troop was no longer a good fit for her interests. Since joining the group, Cadyn said there isn't anything separating her from the boys — aside from the different uniforms and rank advancements.
"It's a really cool experience because you're out with the girls doing your own thing, but you're also interacting with guys," she said. "We're just a part of the troop."
In recent years, Boy Scouts of America has changed membership rules, lifting the ban on openly gay scouts and troop leaders and allowing transgender boys.
Even with the latest change, Lidia Soto-Harmon, the chief executive of Girl Scouts Nation's Capital, says she thinks Girl Scouts will continue to be the best choice for many.
While the national Girl Scouts organization serves 1.8 million girls, Girl Scouts Nation's Capital serves 60,200 girls, specifically in the District and counties in Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. This program is "tailor made for girls" and a co-ed program, Soto-Harmon argues, benefits boys more than girls.
"Parents should have lots of choices about what's best for children and my hope is that they will look at the ways their children learn and pick what is best for their daughters," she said. "I think that Girl Scouts is best for their daughters. . . . When they say girls want to do the same things boys do, it's happening at Girl Scouts."
Stone said the co-ed program has been good for everyone in his 70-person troop. Sixteen of the members are girls.
The troop camps and hikes and participates in service projects. During the meeting they passed out plastic bags for the upcoming Scouting for Food project, an annual food drive.
Meredith Sherman, 19, served as Venture crew president and assistant senior patrol leader while she was in Troop 52 and said some of the boys resisted her leadership. But she stuck with it, and eventually, she said, the boys learned that women deserve the same respect.
Sherman went to an all-girls high school and now, studying at Tufts University, she reflected on her experience in Troop 52 and said it was "really rewarding."
"By the end of the year they accepted my leadership, that it's a totally normal thing for a girl to have a leadership position over boys," Sherman said. "There's a really important element to young boys being exposed to girls doing all the same things as them, having leadership positions over them, so I think it really cultivates a sense of acknowledgment and respect."
Troop 52 has never been one to wait around for the national organization to officially permit a change.
An openly gay scout, Pascal Tessier, belonged to the troop before the ban on gay troops was lifted and he then became one of the nation's first openly gay youths to achieve the Eagle Scout ranking under the changed policy.
Senior patrol leader Camaran Gaillard, 17, said it's been normal for him to participate alongside the girls and he's glad the national change will allow girls to work toward the same recognition as the boys who achieve the highest rank of Eagle Scout.
"They've always been doing the same Scout skills as we've been doing. They've always been a part of this troop," Camaran said. "We've grown so accustomed to them being there so it's not a big deal to us. All the craziness going on, it seems foreign to me."
Despite the integration, there are moments when the girls are aware that they are not full members of the troop.
Before Stone wrapped up the meeting, he explained certain next steps needed to work toward the Eagle Scout award, and Larissa Sakaria, 16, zoned out. No matter how far she advanced, as a girl she had never been granted the access to achieve that goal.
Stone, noticing she had lost interest, approached afterward and asked, what did he always remind her?
She replied: "Anything that a guy can do, a girl can do — and probably better."
An earlier version of this article misstated the number of Girl Scouts in the D.C. area. It has been updated.