PHOTO: Isabelle Nesmith holds her Arrow of Light plaque, the rank Cub Scouts must reach before transitioning to the BSA Scout. / Photo by Alexander Willis
By ALEXANDER WILLIS
At just 10 years old, Spring Hill resident Isabella Nesmith has become the first girl to officially become a member of the Scouts BSA (Boy Scouts of America) in Middle Tennessee.
A former Girl Scout, Nesmith joined the Cub Scouts, one of five of the BSA’s main divisions, in late 2018. After earning her Arrow of Light Rank, the highest rank in the Cub Scouts, she was officially welcomed into the BSA last month during an honorary ceremony.
In October 2017, the BSA formally announced that they would be accepting girls into its scouting programs, something many citizens have been asking for for years.
“With it being the first year that girls are actually being accepted into the scouts, I thought it was a really big accomplishment,” said Crystal Newstead, Nesmith’s mother. “She tried Girl Scouts, and she just didn’t feel like she was challenged enough, that it was too much of cookie sales than actually learning survival skills, learning how to build fires, and how to actually fend for yourself.”
The ceremony that would see Nesmith become an official Scout was held by the BSA Middle Tennessee Council on March 13, officially moving from a member of Cub Scout Pack 417, to BSA Troop 15.
Newstead said scouting had been a part of her family for more than a decade, with her two sons and daughter having always shown an interest in the outdoors. It was after watching her brothers for years earn awards and achievements that Newstead said her daughter wanted to join the Boy Scouts.
“Her older brothers have always been a part of scouting, it’s been a part of our life for 13 years, and so when it became available that she could actually earn the same things that her brothers were able to earn, then she was excited,” Newstead said. “We would go out on campouts as families, so she would go out on hikes with them, but she would sit there and see her brothers getting awards, but she didn’t earn anything out of it… so she was completely excited [to join the Boy Scouts].”
Newstead said when she first heard that her daughter would be accepted into the Boy Scouts, she was “was excited, [but] a little nervous.” As with most parents, the idea of sending your child away to be with a group of teenage boys and girls could understandably be a little concerning. After learning of the transfer process, Newstead said her concern changed back to excitement.
While Newstead did note a lot of positive things young girls can learn from the Girl Scouts, she still applauded the BSA’s decision to allow girls into its ranks, arguing that basic survival skills are universally useful to both boys and girls.
“I don’t think Girl Scouts gives exactly the same quality as Boy Scouts does with everything,” Newstead said. “Boys… they’re learning how to cook, they’re learning how to sew. Girl Scouts… they’re not learning how to hunt, they’re not learning how to build fires and be on their own. They’re learning business skills, and how to work with a community, but I think that young adults today should be well-rounded in everything, and BSA offers it now, and they offer it to boys and girls.”
As the Boy Scouts continue to accept girls into their ranks, more stories like Nesmith’s are sure to begin pouring in across Middle Tennessee. Even so, Nesmith will still likely enjoy the honor of being the first of her kind in Middle Tennessee.
“You cannot put a child in a box and say that one sex is going to do something more than another sex,” Newstead said. “We have single fathers raising kids now, we have stay at home dads now, and 40 years ago we had never seen that happen. It would have been unheard of. Now we have female CEOs leading companies into the future, and that was something never heard of because there was never the opportunity to have that push. I’ve seen the girls, and they’re excited that they can do this now and get recognized.”