FARMINGDALE— The Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore is confident their "girl-centric" program will continue to grow and stay strong.

New CEO Eileen Higgins said the Boys Scouts announcement about accepting girls as Cub Scouts starting in 2018 did not come as a complete surprise, although the announcement was not expected to come on the international Day of the Girl

"There has been some conversations they were looking at this," Higgins said.

The new challenge from the Boy Scouts is only the latest in a string of difficulties faced by the Girl Scouts over the past 15 years. There was a significant realignment from 2006-2009 that slashed the number of local councils from 312 to 112. There have also been layoffs at many councils and at the national headquarters as the organization grappled with a large deficit. And, there have been deep rifts between leadership and grassroots members over the direction of programming and efforts by many councils to sell summer camps.

Higgins is confident that the addition of 70 new badges will help Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore withstand any challenge for the interests of girls from the Boy Scouts.

Some new programs have curriculum that revolves around STEM (Science, technology, engineering and mathematics and cyber security.) "I have a CEO advisory board where the girls come in and sit with us and talk about what they'd like to see us do," Higgins said.

Higgins said that she does not understand criticism of the GSA programs as being less active than the Boy Scouts with less outdoor activities available.

"Here at the Jersey Shore we have two camps: We have a 144 acre camp in Monmouth County, and a 60 acre camp in Ocean County. We have a 10 week summer program of camping, we have year round camping, we have year round outdoor activities like archery, zipline, rock climbing and wall climbing. We do geo-spacing where the girls go out in the fields and learn the GPS. It continues to develop as the girls identify what the they'd like to learn," Higgins said.

The BSA's initiative, announced Wednesday, has already chilled what had been a mostly cordial relationship between the two youth groups since the Girl Scouts of the USA was founded in 1912, two years after the Boy Scouts.

"We have always existed in a space with competitors," the Girl Scout's chief customer officer, Lisa Margosian, said. "What happened is that we have another new competitor."

Rather than altering its message, the Girl Scouts will "double down" with a commitment to empowering girls, Girl Scouts Chief Customer Officer Lisa Margosian, said

"We believe strongly in the importance of the all-girl, girl-led and girl-friendly environment that Girl Scouts provides," the GSUSA said, describing itself as "the best girl leadership organization in the world."

Higgins said she can't speak to what the Girl Scouts will do on a national level, but said the Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore enjoys a great relationship with Boy Scouts.

"We're trying to continue that. We've done events together. Each group has a curriculum that addresses the chilrden we work with. Ours is built around girls and geared towards their development  and we're going to continue to provide that," Higgins said.

The biggest difference between the organizations is how each gender works and learns. Higgins said girls work better in a co-operative environment, Teamwork and collaboration are the foundation of the Girl Scouts curriculum.

"Boys tend to learn differently and I assume their curriculum is built around that," Higgins said.

"We have a great program. We have a program that's been around for over 105 years.  It's girl centric, it's led by girls, the programs we develop are designed by the girls or with the girls input. We're going to work with what we've been doing an continue to grow." Higgins said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.