Buchanan student leads first BSA girls troop in Valparaiso

Published 8:00 am Tuesday, February 19, 2019

BUCHANAN — Buchanan High School and Lake Michigan College student Emily Long, 17, has always wanted to join the Boy Scouts of America.

Growing up, she would attend meetings with her brother, who was a member, and with each meeting, she would fall more in love with the outdoor activities and would dream about having a chance to have a troop to call her own. Even after her brother dropped out of the program, that dream did not go away, which is why when the Boys Scouts of America announced that they would be integrating girls into their program, she knew she would be one of the young women joining.

“Before, I could go to some of the activities [with my brother], but I couldn’t get any of the awards. I could go, but I wasn’t a member,” she said, wearing a tan button-down shirt, with a collection of colorful patches down the left sleeve. “Now, that is different.”

Long is the Senior Patrol Leader for the very first, and currently only, Scouts BSA girl troop in LaSalle Council, Troop 920 of Valparaiso, Indiana. The troop was formed after Feb. 1, when Boy Scouts of America first allowed for all-girl troops of ages 11 to 17 and became Scouts BSA. 

Though Long was a part of Girl Scouts of the USA when she was younger, she said it did not satisfy her craving to be a boy scout and to do the things she saw her brother doing in his troop, things such as rock climbing and camping.

“I never saw why females couldn’t do these things,” Long said. “I wanted to do it in part because of all the activities and the pure fact that I was told I couldn’t do it.”

As Senior Patrol Leader, Long has to travel roughly an hour each way to go to her troop meetings and events in Valparaiso to lead meetings and events. However, she said the long commute is worth it to be a part of Scouts BSA.

“Now that I have the chance to do this, I can’t pass it up,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity, and I’m honored to do this and to lead [my troop].”

Long’s mother, Kate, said she is proud of Long for leading the first girls’ troop in LaSalle Council and for never losing sight of her dream of becoming a scout, despite all the hiccups she has faced over the years, even when it has seemed impossible.

“Her drive is just amazing,” Kate said. “Sometimes I’ve wondered why she keeps doing this, but she loves it. … I’m just so very proud.”

As she goes forward, Long said she hopes to continue to lead her troop and will work toward earning the highest rank in Scouts BSA — Eagle Scout — by September 2020, which will make her part of the first class of female Eagle Scouts in history.

“I’m going to try [for Eagle Scout]. There is no guarantee, but I am definitely going to work on it,” she said.

If any other young girls are in the southwest Michigan area like Long — that love the outdoors and want to be a part of the BSA family, regardless of their gender, she hopes she can set an example for them so that more all-girl troops can spring up in the area. She said her most important piece of advice would be never to give up.

“Why should you let anyone stop you just because you are a girl? You should be able to do all the things the guys do,” she said. “Just do it. Go for it and don’t let anyone hold you back.”