The Boy Scouts of America will soon open up its programs, allowing girls to join Cub Scout units and also to become Eagle Scouts, the organization's highest rank. The decision is the result of a unanimous vote of the group's board of directors, following years of requests by families and extended research into the matter.

The BSA's chief scout executive, Michael Surbaugh, issued a statement today:

This decision is true to the BSA’s mission and core values outlined in the Scout Oath and Law. The values of Scouting — trustworthy, loyal, helpful, kind, brave and reverent, for example – are important for both young men and women. We believe it is critical to evolve how our programs meet the needs of families interested in positive and lifelong experiences for their children. We strive to bring what our organization does best — developing character and leadership for young people — to as many families and youth as possible as we help shape the next generation of leaders.

Starting in 2018, families can begin enrolling their daughters in Cub Scout units, called dens. Dens will remain single-gender, either all boys or all girls. Cub Scouts consist of children in first through fifth grade. The next year, an additional program will be made available for pre-teen and teen girls, enabling them to reach the rank of Eagle Scout.

For many years, girls have been able to join various other Boy Scout programs, such as Exploring and Venturing, but this expansion will open all the group's options to girls. It will also bolster the organization's membership ranks, which have been declining.

For years now, a girl named Sidney Ireland has been pushing the BSA to officially admit girls, allowing them to earn merit badges and become Eagle Scouts. "I just want to do what the Boy Scouts do: Earn merit badges and earn the Eagle award," she told NBC. "The Girl Scouts is a great organization, but it's just not the program I want to be a part of. I think girls should have the opportunity to be a member of any organization they want regardless of gender."

In just a few months, Ireland will finally be able to achieve her goal.

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