Scoutmaster James Hollerback, left
, and Ned Gates, right
, director of programs at Boysville, Inc., talk with Scouts at Boysville in the Alamo Area Council. Hollerback says he has witnessed positive transformations through Scout camping.
No matter what the weather, Scoutmaster James Hollerback of the Alamo Area Council in San Antonio, Texas, can count on his troop's enthusiasm for summer camp. His troop, which is chartered to Boysville, Inc., a home for disadvantaged and traumatized youth, nearly doubles in size at camp time. Such excitement is widespread throughout the council because of its commitment to giving Scouts the opportunity to attend camp.
In 2002, the Alamo Area Council sent more than 700 youth to camp on partial or full camperships, raising $40,000 from the community to do so. Covering a
13-county area with primarily a minority population, the council includes many disadvantaged kids who have never ventured out of their neighborhoods. Therefore, in addition to Scoutreach efforts such as targeted advertising to minorities and a successful districtwide in-school program, the council places priority on offering youth the transforming camp experience.
Scoutreach efforts in the Alamo Area Council have resulted in traditional troops like the one led by M. L. Mendoza. Scoutmaster since 1981, Mendoza has overseen a troop that consistently retains 12 to 18 members. Over the years, the troop has produced more than 100 Eagle Scouts, four of them in 2002. Mendoza attributes much of the troop's success to the fact that it has been "blessed with a lot of parent participation. I've found that they really respond when we treat them as volunteers, finding areas the parents feel confident helping with and then letting them do their jobs." The parents as well as Mendoza see their involvement as an investment. As Mendoza comments, "I believe in investing time and money in the youth now so they're not paid later in negative ways."
The Boysville Scouts have certainly benefited from the experience. "Camp is invaluable to the boys because camp skills can be translated into life skills," notes Ned Gates, director of programs at Boysville. "Camp and Scouting in general teach self-reliance and responsibility. Children's home kids often want to blend in, and Scouting encourages them to take leadership roles."
Cub Scout membership is mandatory for Boysville residents, but participation at the Boy Scout level is by choice. Since the home's ultimate goal is to reunite youth with their families, maintaining unit membership can be a challenge. However, because the home's administration is highly supportive of Scouting, troops usually contain 15 to 20 boys at any time. According to Gates, much of this support can be attributed to the fact that one of the administrators grew up in a children's home and credits Scouting with saving his life.
As Scoutmaster, Hollerback adapted his leadership style to the special needs of the Boysville youth. "I couldn't approach them with the platoon-type Scouting leadership from my own past. It took me a while to realize that it should be a boy-led troop. Once I set up patrols, the boys' energy took off."
The Boysville troop attends Bear Creek Scout Reservation during the last week of summer camp, when the staff is well-practiced and can focus on the troop's particular needs. Hollerback remarks, "I've found that summer camp is the time to really get the boys' attention. It's a time to get the older boys through the ranks and diversify their programs. A lot of successful merit badge work has resulted."
Merit badge achievements are only a portion of the overall camp experience for the Boysville youth. Hollerback has witnessed true transformation in campers. "If only the campership donors could see what the boys get out of the experience," Hollerback comments. "I've seen our troops develop into shipshape, smiling, disciplined, well-mannered groups. I've seen boys get involved in camping and Scouting who go from being F students to A and B students. The boys truly learn how to be leaders and to be part of a team."
Scoutmaster Maude Montgomery, left
, and Percy McKinney, vice president of Scoutreach for the Okaw Valley Council, help supervise a swimming
session for Scouts.
Whether it's in relation to camp or other aspects of Scoutreach, "the key to the program's success is commitment," declares Percy McKinney, vice president of Scoutreach for the Okaw Valley Council of Belleville, Illinois. The council has shown an outstanding commitment through its programs and volunteers to serving a challenging urban community, growing Hispanic population, and special-needs youth and adults.
To reach its urban population, the council is dedicated to bringing the Scouting program to the youth, not the other way around. According to Judge Milton Wharton, board member, the council "accepts the fact that many parents don't want their kids out at night for meetings." To address this concern, the council provides extensive in-school programs and camps at housing projects. The in-school Scouting program "reinforces academics and helps students to work together wholesomely, so it also improves their behavior," observes Dores Massenburg, principal of East St. Louis's Hawthorne Elementary School. Leaders and college volunteers aid with literacy, teach crafts, and take students on field trips. To keep the in-school programs running smoothly, the council hosts two annual meetings for principals and provides a newsletter to keep parents informed.
Outside of the schools, the council has contracted with two major housing authorities to provide Scouting programs. According to McKinney, East St. Louis Housing Authority Executive Director William Wilkins has "stepped up to the plate, promoting programs, bringing in volunteers, and providing both facilities and sources of funding." Youth participation has been overwhelming in the day camps and special programs held at the projects.
The council has also made great strides in reaching its growing Hispanic population through relationship development with community leaders. In 2002, the council launched a Hispanic initiative that will bring even more traditional Scouting programs to the population. Efforts are made possible through a venture grant from the United Way of St. Louis, funding from the Deaconess Foundation, and a partnership with Hoylton Youth and Family Services, a local broad-based social services organization.
Okaw Valley Council District Executive Everette Sherrod, standing
, shows the kids how it's done as Lillian Smith, president of the Ernest Smith Resident
Okaw Valley's Scoutreach program also concentrates on individuals with special needs. Coordinating efforts with special-education directors from local school districts, the council provides adventure day camps for both youth and adults, with 170 adults participating in 2002. Special-needs individuals also experienced Scouting through an area activities day in October. District Chair David Bruchhauser coordinated the event with St. Clair Area Vocational Enterprises (SAVE), which offers programs and employment opportunities for special-needs adults. Held at the SAVE facilities, activities included archery, storytelling, arts and crafts, and COPE team-building exercises. Since the day was such a great success, there is interest in making it an annual event. These types of events help raise the community's Scouting consciousness. According to Bruchhauser, "The more we can take programs into nontraditional outlets, the better. The community often doesn't know all that Scouting has to offer."
In its urban, minority, and special-needs efforts, McKinney sums up Okaw Valley's Scoutreach philosophy when he says, "Our mission goes beyond increasing numbers and raising money. Scouting is here for one reason:
to make a positive difference in what kinds of adults our youth will become."