Updated: Apr 15, 2020
Preparing Better Grown Ups—Through Scouting
Laid off and laid up—two unexpected setbacks in life forced Bill Martin onto a different course, one that 18 years later he is still happily following as a volunteer in Scouting. His wife had been helping with their young sons' first two years in the program, but without a job, Bill suddenly had time and took his turn in leadership. Shortly after, he broke his leg in a biking accident. Always a hands-on doer, Bill could have simply quit, but he found himself enjoying Scouting, so he learned to delegate. As a result, a leadership team jelled for the troop.
By the time those temporary setbacks in Bill's life disappeared, he was hooked. Even after his own sons had grown, Bill continued with Scouting. He has participated in all three levels of volunteering with Scouting.
The first level is one that often attracts parents and grandparents—working with their own sons and daughters in a pack, troop, or crew as part of the leadership team. Participating with the Scouts, seeing the young persons, including their own children, experience wholesome camaraderie, grow in their skills, and mature in the values the program emphasizes often keeps the parents and grandparents volunteering beyond the tenure of their own family.
Some volunteers move into various district level Scouting opportunities. Bill is a Commissioner, assisting three troops. As such, he facilitates communication among the three as well as between the district and the troops. He also helps coordinate special events, including camporees and special ceremonies in which all three troops are together.
Bill also volunteers as a merit badge counselor, the third volunteer level. To earn the rank of Eagle Scout, the young persons must complete at least 21 badges. With more than 130 badges possible in Scouting, volunteers with some expertise in the various interests and skills are needed. Bill's specialties are model railroading and public speaking, for example.
While this level of engagement with the Scouts is relatively short, each volunteer must submit an application and go through the program's Youth Protection Training. In fact, keeping the young ones (kindergarten through age 20) safe from predators, abuse, and even cyber bullying is such a priority that all regular volunteers repeat the course every two years.
Scouting is designed to be a mostly outdoors experience. The youth do not have to be physically strong—Scouts learn to help everyone succeed. The active nature of the program is often the hook that brings in the boys, girls, parents, and grandparents. But the mission of Scouting is to instill the values and judgment that are defined in the Scout Oath and Law, preparing them to be responsible, participating citizens—better grown ups, who, like Bill, are also able to deal positively with life's setbacks.
For more information about Scouting in your area, visit scouting.org.
FYI: In 2019 watch for a name change. Boy Scouts of America will officially become Scouts BSA to celebrate the inclusion of girls!