Traditional Scouting, which includes Cub Scouting, is the core bond between local communities and the Boy Scouts of America. The 2002-2005 National Strategic Plan addresses traditional membership along with four other issues critical to the organization.
"A community builder" is how volunteer Dan Eckstrom describes the Scoutreach program of the Catalina Council of Tucson, Arizona. "It's encouraging to see something positive that makes skills and leadership training available to kids, and teaches them the importance of service." Basing its Scoutreach units on geographic isolation, lower economic means, and ethnicity, the proactive council has met with tremendous success with its rural and urban initiatives.
Forty miles southeast of Tucson, the rural Sonoita/Elgin area boasts a dynamic Scoutreach program that tripled its Cub Scouting membership and presented its first four Eagle Scout Awards in 2003. The program's pack and troop have also maintained Quality Unit status over the years. Such success stems from "a strong outdoor program, keeping Scouting in the public eye through local newspaper coverage, having values-based adult leadership training, and ensuring the boys are both learning and having fun," explains Gail Corkill, an active leader in the pack and troop. Corkill adds, "We've also established a mentoring relationship with a larger Scoutreach troop in a neighboring county. We go on outings together, and it's inspiring to the boys." She further credits their accomplishments to "strong Scoutreach commitment at the district and council levels. They help keep us going with encouragement and solutions."
A familiar scene, camping has always been an attraction and a learning experience for Scouts.
Encouragement and solutions have also benefited the council's urban Scoutreach program, especially in South Tucson. According to Eckstrom, who was mayor of the lower-income city for 17 years, "The council people go beyond the call of duty to get involved in the community. I'm impressed by their 'stick-to-it-iveness.'" As a result, doors have been opened to the city's dominant Hispanic and American Indian populations. Scoutreach Chair Rodrigo Silva secured strong support from the local Catholic diocese, a relationship he sees as essential in reaching the Hispanic community. Using the area's Spanish-speaking media, Scoutreach literature in Spanish, and promotional materials targeting the American Indian market has also helped gain a hold in these communities. Silva is determined to do whatever it takes--"It's our duty as adult leaders to do everything we can to bring the program to at-risk youth so they can have a better chance at life."
A particularly effective urban Scoutreach solution has come through the council's relationship with Operation Weed & Seed. A national program administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Weed & Seed is designed to "weed out" violence, drug abuse, and gangs in at-risk neighborhoods and "seed" them with prevention, intervention, and local business revitalization. The South Tucson chapter funds three safe havens for youth, which provide after-school mentoring, computer literacy training, and fun activities like break-dancing lessons. Working with safe haven mentors, the Catalina Council arranged for Weed & Seed to charter three Scoutreach troops and one pack. According to program director Benny Gomez, "There's been a lot of interest and backing from everyone, including the city council. They're eager to help because of Scouting's history: It's always a success at teaching youth responsibility and leadership and benefiting their future."
Cub Scouts and a Webelos Scout hit the skating trail. Scoutreach strives to bring Scouting's values-based programs to youth who otherwise might not be served.
Echoing this sentiment is Napoleon Demps, Anderson Elementary School principal and former Cubmaster and Scoutmaster in the Tall Pine Council of Flint, Michigan: "Scoutreach is a force in developing young people for the future." With the bulk of the 85-year-old council's program serving urban areas, Scoutreach has made major strides through relationships with the religious community and local public schools.
LUNCHTIME SPORTS PROGRAM
The Catalina Council's urban Scoutreach initiatives include in-school programs. Based on the Cub Scout Academics and Sports awards, the initiative takes the form of a weekly lunchtime sports program. Martha Miranda, Craycroft Elementary School PTA president, remarks, "It's used instead of an after-school program because this way all the students can attend. The kids really enjoy it, and it makes them want to join Boy Scouts."
Local clergy involvement with Scoutreach increased in 2003, due to the view that "Scouting is an extension of pastors' ministries," comments the Rev. James Kennedy of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church, who is also a council board and urban Scouting committee member. "There has to be an ongoing effort to keep clergy engaged and supportive." One such effort is the council's one-on-one approach to local pastors. Weekly, Scout Executive Jeff Isaac and Assistant Scout Executive Nate Marshall meet with ministers regarding Scoutreach financial support and commitment to start troops where none exist. Unit leader and urban Scouting committee member Robert Rawls says, "With their hands-on approach, local pastors have been an integral part of the Scoutreach program."
Beyond the religious community, the Tall Pine Council has succeeded in nurturing a unique relationship with the local public school systems. Both Flint and Beecher schools direct federally funded summer migrant programs for the children of Hispanic workers migrating into the area for seasonal employment. District Director Davy Smith Jr. facilitated a joint effort with Scouting and the summer migrant program. Over 200 youth have the opportunity to build positive values through Scouting and enjoy summer camping, crafts, games, American heritage lessons, and basic academics. The council also obtained Spanish-language materials from the National Council and assigned a bilingual worker to each classroom to better serve the youth.
Awareness and appreciation of the natural world are reinforced as Cub Scouts learn about plants.
The summer migrant program led to the establishment of the council's first all-Hispanic pack and troop, and now 10 units serve migrant programs in the Baden-Powell and Blue Heron districts. Grants fund registration costs and associated fees for camping, and service clubs provide support for program supplies. Smith claims that the guiding principle of the project is that "making a positive difference in the life of a child is the true meaning of success."
NAPOLEON DEMPSPrincipal Napoleon Demps declares that the Tall Pine Council's Scoutreach program in his urban school "improves students' sportsmanship, etiquette, and social skills." The program is designed for the school's emotionally impaired and learning disabled students. On a weekly basis, they work on crafts, behavior modification skills, and learning the Scouting creed. A year-end Scouting Fun Day provides students day camp enjoyment, including swimming, obstacle course contests, and more.
In-school Scoutreach efforts involve nearly 600 youth in 20 elementary schools in Flint and Beecher, promoting self-esteem and ethical decision making. A varsity sports program has been introduced to 150 youth in five local junior high schools. The sports-emphasis program teaches team building, career development, and a "stay in school" attitude. Rawls notes, "In Scouting it's important to do things inner-city kids want to do. We're also sure to emphasize reading and writing in conjunction with Scout manual guidelines, and we provide meals."
It's obvious that the Tall Pine Council's Scoutreach program has made great advances. Unit leader Kenneth Henderson remarks, "It takes boys in a direction in their lives that's wholesome. Leaders work with the kids to help them grow up to be good citizens." And it's not only the youth who benefit. "Everyone involved in the program benefits," Henderson declares. "My involvement has made me a better person."