Profiles in World Scouting – Jean Perea

Welcome to the brand-new Profiles in World Scouting series, where the BSA International Department and Committee will be sharing the stories of leaders in the World Scouting community to engage and inspire Scouts to get involved with the International Scouting community at large. Through this series, we hope to bridge the gap between Scouts in the United States and the World Scouting community, in doing so helping to foster greater cultural awareness and understanding.

Welcome to the brand-new Profiles in World Scouting series, where the BSA International Department and Committee will be sharing the stories of leaders in the World Scouting community to engage and inspire Scouts to get involved with the International Scouting community at large. Through this series, we hope to bridge the gap between Scouts in the United States and the World Scouting community, in doing so helping to foster greater cultural awareness and understanding.

To kick this new series off, we will be interviewing one of the Boy Scouts of America’s very own – Jean Perea! An active leader in Venturing, the Boy Scouts of America, and the World Organization of the Scouting Movement, Jean wears many hats in his life. But rather than me listing them all off, let’s hear from the person themself!

Conner: Tell us about your current role in Scouting and what does it entail?

Jean: On the professional side I’m the Dialogue for Peace intern at the World Scout Bureau based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. And on the volunteer side, I’m an Associate Advisor for my crew as well as involved in a couple of national committees such as the National Venturing Communications Committee as well as the BSA Alumni Committee as well.

Conner: How did you first get involved in Scouting?

Jean: So, I actually first got involved when my brother was involved. He’s younger than me, five years younger than me. I always wanted to be involved in Scouts, but we just have enough cash to do so. So, we finally saved up a bit and we were able to get my brother [involved in Scouts], I did sports, so my brother was able to do Scouts instead. I got really jealous, but we still couldn’t afford to send off two people to Scouts. So, at 16 I got a job, and at 16 ½, I saved up to get a car so I could drive myself to meetings. And that was my first introduction to Scouting. I was just a regular old boy scouts heading to troop meetings every week and hiking every other week.

Conner: Love to hear it! Along the same lines, walk us through your Scouting career. Tell us about the turning points in your Scouting career.

Jean: I think my biggest one was when I found out I couldn’t get Eagle because of time requirements, as many of you out there will understand, there are quite some time requirements to getting Eagle, and I just didn’t have the time before 18 to actually achieve it. So, I got a little less involved for a few months, but then one of my friends introduced me to this lovely thing called Venturing program and I got very quickly involved in that. A few months after I got involved in that we went to the 2017 National Jamboree, I found out what the Venturing Officers’ Association was, I got very plugged into that very quickly, and through that I just kept getting tapped on the shoulder for different roles; one thing led to another and I ended up becoming a Regional Vice President for the Southern Region, and I think that specifically when I realized “ok this is something I can really sink my teeth into and I can really get involved in and make a really big impact.” Just from there I think that was my biggest turning point was I realized Scouts helped me. The other big turning point was in NYLT. I was the oldest participant we had at NYLT, I was 19 years old, almost 20, and it helped me to understand basic leadership and basic communications skills, a lot of things I take for granted now, but I just did not know they existed before hand. And it was through NYLT that made me realize I could make an impact at the regional level, at the area level, and it was those skills I learned at NYLT that really helped me develop my confidence as a young citizen. And I think NYLT, and the regional VOA are my really big turning points, and we obviously have international turning points but we’ll get to those later.

Conner: What an incredible journey! This may be a difficult question but tell us about some of your favorite Scouting memories!

Jean: One of my favorite Scouting memories of all time was when I was very young at 16, it was my first outing; one kid had access to those yearly memberships to a community pool, he had access to the clubhouse there because his mom was on the advisory board, and we just stayed there overnight, we had an all-night pool party, we baked potatoes, we put them in aluminum foil (which probably isn’t the greatest idea), and we just threw them in the fire for a few minutes. And we ate out of those and it was really nice; I felt a strong sense of community. I think that was the big hook, that was the big snapshot that I remember ingrained in my memory that “Scouts is great, this is actually really fun, it was worth all the hype, and I do want to stay involved with it.” And then, another snapshot was probably when I got surprised with an award. Spoiler alert: I helped, sort of kind of, helped save a life on the way to the World Jamboree, actually in the car that I saved up for from my first job to get to Scouts. I was driving up alone and a vehicle overturned in front of me, I called 911 and helped get them out, and one of my mentors from Scouting years ago was actually driving behind me and saw this happen, and so they reported it and a few days later, I was surprised by a few of the people from the World Jamboree with the National Medal of Merit and that was very nice. I really appreciated that, but I genuinely felt like it was just the right thing to do. I did not see the award coming at all, I just thought it was something you learned in wilderness first aid and all the other first aid classes. It just seemed like the right Scouting thing to do. I think those are two of my other snapshots that are ingrained in my memory, besides of course the National Jamboree, the World Jamboree – those are stellar events, multi-weeklong events that are just so ingrained in my head that I’ve taken so much away from them, from new experiences that I never would’ve gotten in my hometown, and new connections all over the world.

 

Conner: Jean, you’re a lifesaver, literally! Aside from your many endeavors in Scouting, can you tell us about yourself? Tell us about Jean the person!

Jean: I’m a social entrepreneurship major with a concentration in global issues at Georgia State University; that basically means I want to start businesses that help alleviate global problems. And like 90% of the people watching this, I am really into rock climbing; I’m really into hiking; I also work on cars in my free time just as a hobby; and I love spending time with friends. I love going out with friends; I have four lovely roommates and we do tons of activities together from impromptu photo shoots in the living room to just taking a drive up to North Georgia to go hiking.

 

Conner: Jean the person sounds awesome! Circling back to your involvement in international scouting, can you tell us more about your work as a staffer/
“Pinkie” at Kandersteg and as an intern for the Dialogue for Peace Program and why it’s so important for Scouts?

Jean: Sure thing, let’s talk about Kandersteg first which is actually the scarf that I’m currently wearing; this is the scarf you get once you complete a full season at KISC – Kandersteg International Scout Centre – KISC for short. So I first applied for KISC when I was staffing NYLT, funny enough, and then on the actual week that we were staffing I found out a few months later that I got in, so Scouting loves Scouting. And I went there for the Autumn season, so from Autumn 2019, which is [from] September to December, I was there for three months on-contract, and then a month and a half afterward off-contract during the Winter season. And I was there during the low season, which is basically when there aren’t a ton of guests, but there is still a lot of work to be done. So, we were deep cleaning, we were cooking for staff, we were making sure the chalet was up to par for when we have a ton of guests for high season during Winter and Summer. So we were chopping wood for campfires, we were deep cleaning the entire chalet, and basically we had the entire centre to ourselves, which is an insane feeling because right before then, I was participating in International Rover Week during [the] high season in Summer, and it’s a completely different place, and so I then was there for a month and a half off-contract working as a Winter staffer, and it transforms from this beautiful international permanent mini-jamboree-type feeling during the Summer to this unbelievable Winter wonderland in the Winter when everything is covered in snow and it’s gorgeous. I can’t describe it well enough in words, but it was a gorgeous feeling, and I was the only person from the USA there while I was working in the Autumn season, which was a massive culture shock. And I learned – I thought I was a pretty worldly person before then, I studied global issues, I have tons of sociology classes about globalization, I thought I knew a lot about the world – I was so wrong until I got to Kandersteg because I realized out of 40-something staff as the only person from the USA, there’s so much out there that you just don’t know exists until you’re really there. And there’s only one representative from Brazil, one from Colombia, a few from Denmark, one from Uganda, and those are just one people, one person, one representative that’s heavily involved in Scouts that you get to see. And it just shows you how much there is out there that we just don’t know about unless you get out there, and a similar thing happened to me while I was at the 2019 World Jamboree as well – you just don’t know what’s out there until you experience it. Moving on to the Dialogue for Peace Internship at the World Scout Bureau. Essentially my role is to revamp the Dialogue for Peace Program, it’s kind of been dormant for the past few years, but we would like to bring it to the forefront of World Scouting programs and initiatives. Essentially what it is [it’s] a program initiative to make sure that Scouts and people in general have a better understanding of each other, because once again there’s so many opinions out there; there’s so many different life stories; and we all experience something different; and there’s lots of miscommunication and misunderstanding in the world as well. So, the Dialogue for Peace Program aims to alleviate that by furthering the Sustainable Development Goals (which are sitting back here [pointing at his wall]), a bunch of goals created by the United Nations in 2015 to make the world a better place by 2030. Some of the goals we push specifically are Goal #4 – Quality Education – or Goal #16 – Peace, Justice, and Stronger Institutions. And so that’s essentially my job, to revamp [and] rework the activities that are associated with it, really fine tune it so that it is applicable to any Scout age, whether you’re five years old to 25 years old.

 

Conner: Can you elaborate more on the short and long-term goals for the Dialogue for Peace Program and what they mean for Scouts?

Jean: So, some of the short term goals that we have right now, like some of my personal goals that I have to have done by the end of the month, is we need a complete, we don’t have any, implementation manuals for Scout leaders and we don’t have any actions kits for the young people to actually work with. And so those are the things I am personally, me and my team – no one’s an island, I have a fantastic team supporting me, once again I’m one of the only people from the USA – and what we need to do is, short-term, we need to create new implementation manuals and action kits, and then we need to have those prepared for the World Scout Conference coming up in a few months. Then we are going to hopefully be able to translate those into numerous languages so that way the rest of the world has access to it. We want huge accessibility; we want to make sure that everyone who is curious about Dialogue for Peace is able to get access to the Dialogue for Peace Program. Long-term goals, we are trying to measure how is Dialogue for Peace actually impacting people’s lives – what are they taking away from it? And so, some of the things we’ve built into the program that are, basically the lifeblood of it, the long-term goals is how are we impacting the world, how are we making this world a better place? And we do that through self-assessments. So, at the beginning of the program, sneak peek for all of you, we are going to see “ok, this is what I think I know about Dialogue for Peace, about understanding other people, about critical thinking, about being empathetic, about emotional intelligence,” and then you’re going to go through the actual program. And then at the end you do another self-assessment, and you realize “oh gee, well I wasn’t as strong in these certain areas or maybe I was stronger than I expected.” And so it’s that growth and it’s that better self-awareness that we aim to target in order to make sure, to see how this program and initiative is actually bettering the lives of young people out there.

 

Conner: Putting the emphasis on the individual Scout, incredible! Let’s put ourselves in the mind of a 14- or 18-year-old who’s eager to take their Scouting journey to the next level but are unsure of the opportunities available in World Scouting. What would you tell them to take that next step?

Jean: Yes absolutely. So, while they super life changing events and I know so many people who have had absolutely mind-blowing experiences with them, they are expensive, especially if you live in the USA. That’s ok. What I would advise you to do is you would be surprised at how many people want to support you, and so reach out to the aunt and uncle and see how they can support you; make a fundraiser out of it. Not just focusing on World Jamborees – you don’t have to travel for an international experience. I know this sounds counterintuitive, but you have the opportunity to meet international camp staff at your council they might be supporting or might be sponsoring. Or, on the flipside, you could become one of those international camp staff and go to Kandersteg International Scout Centre as a short-term staff or even as a long-term staff (that’s for those 18 and up by the way). I also know a friend who was supposed to be working as an international staffer for a camp in the Czech Republic, but unfortunately due to COVID, I think their plans got a little derailed. But there’s tons of opportunities out there for international scout camps, if you have any questions, please ask me – I would be more than willing and happy to explain my journey a little bit more in depth or field any questions you might have in terms of how to get more involved with KISC. But once again, another emphasis on the you don’t have to leave the country for a massive international experience and to get your feet wet with this stuff, because maybe you don’t want to send yourself all the way to France or maybe all the way to Malaysia first-thing, maybe you just want a little bit of a taste of it. I would highly recommend that you get involved with your council’s International Committee or have a conversation with your council’s International Representative – those are going to be your best bets, because their entire job is to bring international Scouting to the local level. And so of course national will have a ton of activities to do and internationally you can apply to work at the World Scout Bureau or work at Kandersteg International Scout Centre, but you don’t have to uproot your entire life all at once just to get involved.

 

Conner: What’s next? Whether with Dialogue for Peace, Scouting, or Jean, what comes after this?

Jean: That’s a good question; I wish I knew. On a serious note, I’m currently finishing my internship around September-ish and I will start back school, I currently took a year off just to focus on to focus on my professional development, and I will enter my senior year of college this Fall. So as one ends [another] one will begin, and then hopefully by May I will be fully graduated, and hopefully before then I will already have started making progress on my first international community-building welfare-improving business that hopefully I can get up and running by the time I graduate. If not, who knows? Maybe I’ll still be working for the World Scout Bureau in a different capacity, or maybe I’ll try to apply back to KISC because there are tons of positions that need to be filled; we’re always looking for more volunteers. On the volunteer side of things, I’m going to be working my hardest on National Venturing Communications Committee – one of my favorite committees I’ve ever worked for. But in terms of local stuff, I will be here in Atlanta, just as a student hoping to support my crew as well. That’s Jean for right now and hopefully Jean in the future.