Girls in Cub Scout uniforms, image from the updated Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout National Handbook. Two of these three girls are from "56."

Scouting Collective 56

Scouting Collective 56 thrives, buoyed by the news in 2017 that the Boy Scouts of America will make official a practice we have done for the past 14 years: admit girls into its programs. Collective 56 launched its co-ed policy in 2003, under the leadership of St. James parishioner Dr. Michelle Holmes. When the BSA announced its change this fall, our nationally-known efforts, including the experience of our first girl, Hannah Lyons-Galante, were featured on WGBH and WBUR radio. Parishioner (and Michelle’s husband) Derrick Jackson also wrote about “56’s” experience in the Boston Globe.

Collective 56 has 23 active Scouts and 35 registered in the Cub Pack. Officially, the BSA is starting by admitting girls to Cub packs, with plans next year to admit girls to the full BSA, with the chance to be an Eagle Scout. Collective 56 will continue to have co-ed Scouting at all age levels, with girls registered through the Venturing and Explorer Post programs. Two of “56’s” girl Cubs served as models for our Spirit of Adventure Council in its newsletter on the gender policy change.

Our current Leadership is:

Youth President – Henry Donaldson (Fall 2017), Gwei Strong-Allen (Spring 2018, Parishioner)
Adult Troop Committee Chair – Andrés Ballesteros
Scoutmaster – David English
Venturing Advisor – Liz McNerney (Parishioner)
Chartered Organization Representative to St. James – Michelle Holmes (Parishioner)

The Collective continues its program of high adventure, with plans for the 2017-18 year to end with a Maine High Adventure wilderness canoe expedition on the Allagash River or another major northern waterway. In the fall, the Scouts went whitewater rafting on the Kennebec River in Maine, hiked Mt. Greylock in the Berkshires and performed trail maintenance for the Appalachian Mountain Club. Early this winter, despite 20-below nighttime temperatures, Scouts spent the post-New Year’s polar vortex weekend at the base of Mount Washington. This spring, the Scouts plan canoe trips in preparation for Maine High Adventure, including a Memorial Day journey on the Lake Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge, home to bald eagles, loons and moose. Also planned is a farm experience and wilderness first aid.

Scouts continue to thank St. James's for the privilege of their meeting space and undercroft storage space by serving at the Parish Retreat, in the Food Pantry, at the St. Nick Fair, and an occasional coffee hour after the 10:30 service. Please attend the Feb 25th church coffee hour, which will be prepared by the Cooking Merit Badge class. The class will be taught during February School Vacation by Eagle Scout and once-upon-a-time a member of the St. James's Sunday School, Tano Holmes.

One member of “56” who is also a member of St. James, Gwei Strong-Allen, earned a special distinction in 2017. She traveled to New Mexico last summer to the BSA Philmont Scout Ranch, the 215-square-mile “national park” for Scouts, with summits surpassing 12,000 feet. At Philmont, she completed the 21-day Roving Outdoor Conservation School (ROCS). She traversed more than 100 miles with a team of teenagers that started off as total strangers, performing conservation projects around the ranch. This summer, Gwei plans to return to Philmont for its 21-day Rayado Trek. She will likely hike another 100+ miles with another team of teens in a program meant to promote “intense teamwork” and to challenge them to “overcome mental barriers by facing and adapting to unexpected conditions. You never know what adventure is waiting over the next mountain.”

The next time you see Gwei, ask her what adventures she found. They are indicative of what youth in Scouting Collective 56 experience. In the last two decades, members of 56 have gone on to become or are studying to be transportation researchers, farmers, engineers, sports agents, chefs, teachers, landscape architects, computer analysts for major companies, and childcare providers. Some Scouts became the first in their family to graduate from high school.

Yours in Scouting,

Derrick Z. Jackson

For more information: Contact Robin Bonner, Crew Advisor, at 617-497-8463 or visit

Weekly meetings: Held from 7:00-8:30 on Tuesday evenings, St. James's Episcopal Church, 1991 Massachusetts Ave. For ages 11 and up -- younger Cubs meet on Thursday. We invite all youth and adults who are interested to drop by and meet our members. 

Monthly organizational meetings for adult leaders: held on the last Tuesday of every month from 8:00-9:00 PM