Wyoming is known as the Equality State. So it's fitting that earlier this year one of its Boy Scout Troops was amongst the first in the country to induct girls. The national organization changed its policy in February to be more inclusive. Since then, Troop 221 in Cheyenne has already seen its female scout number double.
At a recent badge ceremony-officially known as a Court of Order-in a church banquet room in Cheyenne, a group of scouts was nervously chatting before the big ceremony.
"I'm normally pretty calm, but today I'm doing the flags so I'm kind of nervous," said eleven-year-old Samantha Hurst, who goes by Sammy.
In other words, she would be at the front of the room directing the scouts, who would present the troop's flag along with the American flag during the ceremony.
While Sammy stood there before the ceremony, her dad adjusted her uniform by rolling up its sleeves. The family is about to move across the country, and the box with her scout uniform accidently got put onto the moving truck a little too soon. So she was borrowing a uniform that's about four sizes too big. Her dad, James Hurst, was an Eagle Scout as a kid, so he knows how things should look.
The girls' logo is 221 G and the boys are 221 B. And this badge ceremony is one of the few activities they actually do together. So if they're still separate most of the time, why do girls want to join a boy's troop? Sammy Hurst said she grew out of Girl Scouts.
"I did it, and I got to a junior and I thought this is a lot of arts and crafts, and cooking and sewing and stuff," she explained. "I wanted more let's go outside and be adventurous, you know?"
Girls' troop leader Valerie Merriman-Fish said the ceremony is a big deal since this is when scouts receive their badges. That night, she said they would be giving out 102 badges-which is a lot.
"So we have a good group of both the boys and the girls. And they just work their little rears off," she said.
This part of scouts isn't new. Just like before, scouts earn badges by learning new skills or completing goals. And scout Sammy Hurst has been busy. Some of the badges she would be taking home are archery, citizenship in the world, environmental science, and soil and water conservation.
It was subjects like these that attracted seventeen-year-old Taylor Fawcett. She also said Girl Scouts just didn't cut it for her.
"I wanted to join Boy Scouts for my whole life pretty much because I did Girl Scouts and it's basically like turning you into a '50s housewife," she said. "I enjoyed it, but I really enjoy this because it's outdoors and you get to do camping and hiking, and stuff like that."
Fawcett said she was specifically interested in earning the water and soil conservation badge before she goes off to college next year.
"Especially like rangeland conservation, that's what I want to be doing," she added.
Then it was time for the ceremony. Everybody quieted down and took their seats as Sammy Hurst walked to the front of the room to lead the color guard. After two scouts carried the two flags towards the front of the room, everybody joined Sammy in the Pledge of Allegiance.
There was a short skit, a prayer, and then the scout oath, with a candle lit for each of its twelve segments. It included things like to be helpful by volunteering to help others without expecting a reward and to be brave when facing difficult situations, even when you feel afraid.
Each scout was then called to the front to receive their badges. Each of them a little shy, but beaming with pride.
Next week would mean back to scouting for Troop 221. For Samantha Hurst, who is moving across the country, that means a new boys and girls scout troop in Alabama.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City, KUNR in Nevada and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.