Girls have an opportunity to join the BSA, formerly known as the Boy Scouts of America, for the first time in Montclair. The newly formed troop, Troop 12G, will restart activities after Labor Day. The troop meets at the Episcopal Church of St. James on the corner of Valley and Bellevue.

The BSA has been a staple in town since 1911 when Troop 13 was created. Troop 12, formed in 1924, was not far behind. For over a hundred years, the BSA only permitted boys to enter its ranks.

Troop 12 marched in Montclair’s 2023 Independence Day parade. (TROOP 12)

In 2018, the BSA officially changed their admittance policy. For the last five years, the national BSA organization has allowed anyone between the ages 11 and 17 to sign up for their program.

Dan Buckley, the Scoutmaster of Troop 12 explained that the pandemic slowed down the efforts to start up a troop for girls.

“COVID-19 upset a great many things in the program. The entire program had to go virtual for a while and coming back was more difficult,” Buckley said. “During that process of coming back and trying to get back into our normal in-person speed, this opportunity came up to think about how we can expand our reach in the community.”

This spring, Troop 12 finally made an effort to recruit girls and to form a new sister troop.

The standards to earn the rank of Eagle Scout are the exact same for all scouts regardless of gender.

Jennifer Bell, the first ever Scoutmaster of Troop 12G, expects that the two troops will hold almost all of their meetings together next year. For the next year, distinction between Troop 12 and Troop 12G will mostly be a technicality.

“Troop 12G is technically a separate troop. We had to do all of the required paperwork to create a new troop. We all wear founders’ bars on our uniforms to signify that we are founding members of a new troop,” Bell said. “We will be planning our year of activities together and doing most of them together as a joint troop. In most situations, we call ourselves Troop 12. Only when we want to distinguish between the girls and boys troops, do we use 12G and 12B.”

Four Montclair girls came together to start Troop 12G. They range from age 12 to age 15.

Buckley gave a lot of praise to the four girls who decided to be the first girl Scouts in Montclair. He sees them as pioneers.

“From the BSA standpoint, they are considered founders,” Buckley said. “For the entire length of time that this troop (12G) will be in existence, they will always be the group of girls who founded this troop. I think it’s a very exciting thing to be known as the founder of something that might exist for another hundred years. They have the potential to create a real legacy. That doesn’t come by very often.”

Troop 12, boys and girls together, spent a week at a sleepaway camp – Camp Keowa in Narrowsburg, New York, where they hiked to “Eagle Rock.” (TROOP 12)

Anya Amin, 13, said her interest in the BSA started at her sleepaway camp in the summer of 2022.

“The sleepaway camp I go to has Boy Scout badges available. That’s what made me start thinking about it,” Amin recalled. “Then, I looked online and we saw that a troop was forming, so we reached out and to be part of it.”

Amin is not intimidated by being in an environment with a lot of boys. She has experience being the only girl in a club or on a team. Amin said there are more girls in the BSA than on her robotics team.

“One example is that I do Robotics Club in my school. I’m the only girl there. I feel like that’s kind of prepared me for being in situations where I may be one of the few girls in a male dominated field,” Amin said. “Actually, when I went to camp [with the Scouts], I saw many girls, so that was pretty cool. Other girls are doing the same thing.”

For girls who cannot decide if they want to join the BSA, Amin offered some advice.

“What’s the harm?” Amin asked. “If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But why not just try something new? If you do like it, you have something to do and that can be really fun. I am a person who really loves trying new things and I like exploring my interests, so I say ‘why not?’”

Amin is grateful that she has the chance to participate in the Scouts. She believes that the world is becoming more open.

“Things have definitely changed a lot in the past couple of years,” Amin said. “In general, our society as a whole is definitely progressing a lot. I think it’s amazing all the new opportunities available to all different types of people. I guess that maybe it wasn’t always like that, but it’s pretty cool that now girls can do Boy Scouts.”

Then, Amin corrected herself, “I mean, Scouts.”

Buckley acknowledged the BSA was behind the curve in terms of being accepting of all people.

“The BSA has always been a pretty slow moving conservative program,” Buckley said. “In the past, it has been a bit difficult to work around gender and sexuality issues. We’re very happy that they did come around on a number of different fronts with admitting girls in and with being more open to the LGBT community. They’re slow to move, but eventually they’re moving in the right direction.”

Bell highlighted one way that the BSA has tangibly changed.

“The BSA actually took a pretty drastic turn to become much more inclusive,” Bell said. “They’ve recently created a new merit badge that’s required for becoming an Eagle Scout. It’s called Citizenship in Society. It’s about diversity, equity, and inclusion. It’s about the importance of society being inclusive and welcoming and how Scouts can reflect on that. I think that surprises people. I don’t think people have that impression of the Scouts.”

Troop 12G is welcoming any girl who wants to participate in the BSA. To sign up, Bell recommends writing to

Troop 13 does not yet have a troop for girls, but a second option for girls is on the horizon.

“Troop 13 is a boy troop,” said Troop 13 Scoutmaster Michael Bateman. “We are working on starting a girl troop.”