City Councilman John Caron poses with members of Cub Scout Pack 1472 from Elmwood Elementary before the Jan. 7 City Council meeting.

City Councilman John Caron poses with members of Cub Scout Pack 1472 from Elmwood Elementary before the Jan. 7 City Council meeting.

Photo provided by Jeremy Nofs


Elmwood Elementary Scouts break the mold with inclusivity

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 11, 2019

 Members of the pack lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Members of the pack lead the Pledge of Allegiance.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — Standing at attention facing the flag, Pack 1472 from Elmwood Elementary School could be any Cub Scout pack on any given day, leading the City Council in the Pledge of Allegiance.

But look closely at the Scouts in City Council chambers Jan. 7 and some things begin to stand out — namely, the number of Scouts with long hair.

They’re not boys sporting longer locks, however — Pack 1472 includes girls.

Boy Scouts of America made a decision in 2017 to begin allowing girls to join its ranks. Younger children, regardless of gender, were able to join Cub Scouts at the elementary school level in South Lake Schools beginning in the fall of 2018, while older children will be a part of Scouts BSA beginning in February. Whether to allow both genders is up to each individual pack or troop.

“Scouts BSA is allowing girls to join (from) kindergarten to 18 (years old),” said Packmaster Richard Pojeta.

He said that the pack began talking about including girls last year.

“We have sisters of our various existing Scouts that have been participating with us all along, except they can’t earn the badges,” he said. “Last January, they said this is coming for the fall. All of the adults decided that we wanted to do that and let girls come in.”

Not much has changed for some of the girls joining the pack, who are sisters of male Scouts, except that now they can wear the uniform and earn badges for activities they complete. Pojeta said he’s excited that someday there might be a female Eagle Scout.

The decision to include girls in a coed pack with single-sex dens or single-sex troops is made by each individual pack or troop. Once the scouts hit age 11, they transition to troops that will be single sex, per Boy Scouts of America regulations. Pojeta said they have five girls ready to start their first Scouts BSA troop when they are allowed Feb. 1.

The pack had a fifth-grade girl with older brothers who were already in Boy Scouts. Together with another five or six girls, they will be the founding members of the female Scouts BSA Troop 1472.

Pojeta said that he came from a long line of Eagle Scouts and Boy Scouts. He thought he was fulfilling his grandfather’s wishes when he earned his Eagle Scout rank, but as he grew up and had children, he realized that it’s really not about what he can earn for himself.

“My legacy in Scouting is to help spread Scouting to the next generation,” he said.

He has three sons in the pack — a fourth-grader, a second-grader and a kindergartner. But he also has a 3-year-old daughter.

“This feels (like) the right thing to do,” he said. “The more children and youth we can positively impact through Scouting and (its) ideals … the better.”

Eight-year-old Claire Nofs, a third-grader, said that she’s happy to be part of the same pack as her 10-year-old brother, Ryan.

“Every year, we go to D-Bar-A (in Metamora). It’s camp and we shoot bows and arrows and BB guns,” she said. “If it was separate, then we would just be doing, like, separate things and wouldn’t be able to go to the same meetings.”

Claire Nofs’ father, Jeremy Nofs, is committee chair for the pack.

“It’s been really exciting. When I first heard the rumblings of it, I was like, yeah, that would be great, but if it happens, it won’t be anytime soon. Sure enough, it did,” he said.

He said that including both his children in the same pack is “amazing, because we’re already spending so much time doing Cub Scouts with my son, and she’s tagging along already, doing all the same stuff, because she has to come with me … but she’s not earning any of the awards or recognition.

“It’s great that she can fully be involved now and be able to learn all the same things as the boys. She’s always been drawn to doing a lot of the same things as her older brother, so that’s the main gist of it.”

Although Boy Scouts of America is still the overall organization over the Scouts, beginning in February, the younger children will still be in Cub Scouts while the scouts in the 11-18 age group — regardless of gender — will be known as Scouts BSA.

According to the Boy Scouts of America website, “Scouts BSA is a year-round program for boys and girls in fifth grade through high school that provides fun, adventure, learning, challenge and responsibility to help them become the best version of themselves.”

Jeremy Nofs said that only the name has changed. His daughter and the other girls in the pack are Cub Scouts now and, starting at age 11, will be in a new Scouts BSA troop for girls.

“As far as I can tell, it’s been pretty seamless,” he said of adding the girls into the pack this school year. “Boys and girls are in class together. It’s still the same thing. Soccer, they’re coed teams at that age and so on.”

For his family, he said, it’s been a wonderful opportunity. His wife has stepped up to be den leader for the third-grade girls, so the entire family goes to meetings together.

“It’s wonderful that we have one thing the family can be involved with,” he said.

That includes field trips, like when the pack slept overnight on a World War II-era submarine.

“We were able to do all that together, whereas previously it was just Ryan and I going out and doing that stuff,” he said.

Although it is based out of Elmwood Elementary and follows the school schedule, anyone is welcome to join the pack or troop, Pojeta said. For more information, email scoutpack1472@gmail.com or visit www.pack1472.com.

Pack 1472 has committed to inclusivity for all, Pojeta said, explaining that the pack made a proclamation of non-discrimination on the basis of gender, orientation or race, earning it an inclusivity badge.

“Our pack is already that way,” Pojeta said. “We don’t subscribe to any particular faith over another. (We) let families define God. We’ve got a Scout that has two moms; we’ve got a variety of Scouts that we’re welcoming.”

“Our pack has committed to making sure we’re an inclusive bunch of folks,” said Principal Michael Fringer, of Elmwood Elementary School in South Lake Schools. “We appreciate being part of that progressive curve.”

The pack was also the No. 1 pack for popcorn sales this year from the entire state. The top seller in the pack and the Great Lakes Council? Meredith Green, a fifth-grade girl.

“She single-handedly sold over $19,000 herself,” Pojeta said.

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