Senior pushes boundaries with Boy Scout troop

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Courtesy of Clarice Hill

Hill (far right) and her troop go on regular nature trips, a quality which drew them to Boy Scouts in the first place.

Katherine Esterl and Ava Smith

What are little boys made of? Snips and snails and puppy-dogs’ tails. What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice and everything nice. 

Although this nursery rhyme may sound old-fashioned and simplistic, it represents what motivated Clarice Hill to join the Boy Scouts last year. Hill, a senior, wants to be one of the first girls to earn an Eagle Award and become an Eagle Scout, the highest regarded accomplishment by the Boy Scouts. 

For the past year, she’s been tackling the process most boy scouts take a few years to complete — one that includes earning merit badges, holding leadership roles and completing an original community service project — in less than two years. 

Compared to her scouting peers, Hill is late to the game. A year ago, the Boy Scouts opened their doors to girls for the first time. They also changed their name to Scouts BSA. 

Hill has been a girl scout since elementary school and remains one today. But the Girl Scouts and the opportunities presented by her troop failed to satisfy her desire to adventure outdoors. 

“Personally, I always want to do all the camping things,” Hill said. “Other people weren’t so enamored with that idea.”

Some scouts think Girl Scouts has acquired the reputation of being overly rigorous with paperwork and less rigorous with adventures.

“My joke is, for Girl Scouts, you have to sign seven pieces of paper to hold a pencil. For Boy Scouts, I think I signed up, and I signed two pieces of paper, and they gave me a shotgun,” Hill said. 

Before joining Boy Scouts, Hill participated in Venture Scouts, a co-ed offshoot of Boy Scouts that offers nature outings for teens. Since then, she’s built up her own female Boy Scout troop, Troop 29, that achieves the same goals in a more organized way. 

At first, Hill’s new troop worked closely with neighboring Troop 455. Once, Hill led an especially efficient joint meeting, according to Amber Ackerman, Troop 29’s parent leader. 

“She went in there organized with a plan and with activities and a level of organization that I have not seen any of the boys in the boys’ troop have,” Ackerman said.

But eventually, Troop 29 grew weary of “boy nonsense and disorganization,” Ackerman said. Now, they hold their own meetings. Hill was Senior Patrol Leader until this January.

Boy Scouts is required to offer outdoor outings eight months a year. Most recently, Hill visited the Okefenokee Swamp with Troop 29. There, she was in charge of cooking all meals. She also roughed nights under the stars, sleeping in a hammock. 

Boy Scouts Lawson Crutcher and Henry Edmeades are glad girls are now able to participate in the kinds of activities that they enjoy so much. 

“I’m actually glad that girls can join because I always thought it was a really fun thing,” said Lawson Crutcher, who is Senior Patrol Leader of his troop. 

However, according to Edmeades, there is still de facto separation between girls and boys. Part of this is due to the Boy Scout policy that girls can only join as an individual troop of at least 10 girls. 

Senior Cate Crutcher, who joined Hill on Venture outings last year, remembers spending a camping trip separated by gender. 

“It was all of these 20 or 30 boys in this big area at the camp, and then it was Clarice and me in a small tent at the edge of the camp,” said Cate Crutcher. 

Junior girl scout Erin Taylor has grown up in a house full of scouts. Her dad was a boy scout and her mom is the troop leader for her sister’s girl scout troop. She isn’t against the move to incorporate girls but believes it is not needed. 

“They are different organizations built on different things, and so having them stay separate is special,” Taylor said.

Compton thinks “every single person” should have access to the Boy Scouts’ opportunities. Some scouts, though, are pushing against integration. 

Compton said he knew some boy scouts who left the organization after the inclusion of girls, and some scouts who choose not to participate in joint outings. Hill said she’s noticed opposition from some parents of Troop 455 members. 

“Americans are very fearful that teenage guys and teenage girls together with hormones is going to end badly,” Hill said. 

Girl Scouts, concerned about losing members to Scouts BSA, has also been vocal in its opposition.

Regardless, Hill is focused on receiving her Eagle Award, which she wants to benefit Morningside Nature Preserve or the BeltLine. Until she gets there, she’s getting her fill of adventuring. This past trip to the Okefenokee, she canoed, camped and met her fair share of alligators. 

“I was sort of pushed to try something new, and I would totally do that again,” Hill said.

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