Boy Scouts of AmericaBy JENNY WILSON,
Instead of a fake adventure with Fortnite, how about going on a real adventure in the woods? The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) will move your kids outdoors and away from their lives inside and on the screen.
The Greater Jackson area is fortunate to have an organization that provides a quality outdoor program for all youth in Mississippi, according to Tony Haines, CEO of the Andrew Jackson Council, Boy Scouts of America. The Andrew Jackson Council serves approximately 5,000 boys and girls, ages 5-20, in a 22-county area with approximately 1,500 adult volunteers.
“There isn’t another outdoor leadership program in the country that provides youth with what we provide them,” Haines said. “They learn true leadership skills. If you want to be a leader in the community, you start with Boy Scouts of America.”
The BSA is the largest youth-serving organization in the United States, with more than 2.4 million youth participants and nearly one million adult volunteers. The BSA was founded in 1910, and since then, more than 110 million Americans have been participants in BSA programs. The BSA is part of the international Scouting Movement and became a founding member organization of the World Organization of the Scout Movement in 1922.
The Scouting program aims to develop character, citizenship, personal fitness, and leadership, according to Northsider and BSA President Steve Ray, who has been involved in Scouting since he entered the second grade.
The methods for accomplishing those aims include belonging to a Cub Scout Den and Pack or a Scouts BSA Patrol and Troop, learning and practicing leadership, being mentored by adult volunteer leaders, gaining confidence by mastering outdoor skills and going through the advancement program, and obtaining personal growth by living out the ideals of the Scout Oath and Scout Law.
Ray started his scout career as a Cub Scout in Tupelo. As soon as he turned 11 and could join Boy Scouts, he jumped at that opportunity.
“We had a very active Scouting Troop. Our Scoutmaster, Mr. Miles Garber, took us camping or hiking or canoeing every month. Like so many Scoutmasters, he was a great mentor to us boys,” Ray said.
To this day, Ray remembers Garber had a significant disability - a constant full body tremor - but he could still do anything and everything.
“Every day with him was a lesson that a person can overcome a lot, and that we had no excuse ourselves not to get busy and get things accomplished,” he said.
With Garber’s leadership, Ray earned the Rank of Eagle Scout and remained active until college. Once Ray settled in Jackson, he was recruited by another mentor, Tom Groome, to work with Troop 302 at Covenant Presbyterian. Ray became the Scoutmaster and served for about a dozen years.
“I hope I served as a good mentor to many boys and young men, a good number of whom earned the Rank of Eagle Scout,” he said.
Ray also became active with the Andrew Jackson Council in several ways, and this year will conclude his term as Council President.
“We are fortunate to have a strong Scouting program in the Andrew Jackson Council,” Ray said.
In the realm of Duty to God, Duty to Country, Duty to Others, and Duty to Self, the BSA’s goal is to train youth in responsible citizenship, character development and self-reliance through participation in a wide range of outdoor activities, educational programs, and, at older age levels, career-oriented programs in partnership with community organizations. For younger members, the Scouting method is part of the program to instill typical Scouting values such as trustworthiness, good citizenship and outdoors skills, through a variety of activities such as camping, aquatics, and hiking.
The BSA operates traditional Scouting by chartering local organizations, such as churches, clubs, civic associations, or educational organizations, to implement the Scouting program for youth within their communities. Units (Cub Scout Packs, Scouts BSA Troops, and Venture Crews) are led and advised by volunteers selected and appointed by the chartering organization, who are supported by local councils using both paid professional Scouters and volunteers.
Patrick Scanlon, a 2014 graduate of St. Andrew’s Episcopal School, became a Scout when he was 11, in 2006 and was an Eagle Scout by his senior year of high school.
Scanlon garnered a lot of hard skills from his time in Scouting, starting with his first orienteering and pioneering courses in which he learned how to tie knots, construct shelters, read maps, and use compasses, all the way to his Citizenship classes in which he was required to write a letter to his senator and attend city council meetings, all of which indirectly shaped his path in life and work.
“Scouts introduced me to a tactile learning environment that I really responded to, and I have that to thank in part for my chosen career path, working in film production, which has a similarly hands-on (and deskless) approach to the work,” he said.
In Troop 1, their monthly camping trips would often be geared towards specific merit badge achievements like horsemanship, fishing or SCUBA-diving.
The most valuable thing he got out of Scouting, though, was not included in any merit badge lesson, not directly, according to Scanlon.
“The best thing about Scouting is giving a young person the opportunity to get out into the world,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be part of a troop in which most kid’s parents could afford out of state trips, but the opportunity I’m talking about is indifferent. It does not matter if the trip is to Cimarron, New Mexico or to Crystal Springs, Mississippi, as long as the place is different from a young person’s house and bigger than the dimensions of an iPhone.
“The Scouts introduced me to what I love most, traveling and having new experiences. I hope that many girls and boys take the opportunity that the Scouts gives them to experience the world for themselves.”
St. Andrew’s graduate Ryan Abusaa also was very involved with the Boy Scouts and was able to serve as a Patrol Leader, Scribe, and Senior Patrol Leader.
A graduate of University of California, Davis, Abusaa said that being involved in Scouting was a huge part of his growing up in Jackson.
“I made some of my absolute best friends through Scouting, both members of my Troop and members of Scouting entities from all over,” he said. “It helped me overcome a lot of my internal anxieties, build my skillset to become an educated and productive member of society and build a strong sense of self around a set of ideals geared at becoming a better person.”
Abusaa believes anyone who is interested should get involved because of the benefits one gets for personal development.
“The physical and mental challenges are excellent for anyone looking for whole-person improvement,” he said. “You learn to work well alone or in a group, how to approach and critically analyze problems, meeting all sorts of incredible people, expanding your point of view through incredible experiences and merit badges, and above all - learning to be prepared.”
Northsider and former Steve Zachow was a Scout as a youth starting at age 6 until about 24 years old. He took a break until his son, Zac, turned six and joined Cub Scouts. “I started back as a leader and we both continue to work with the Scouts,” he said. “He is now 25.”
Serving as Scoutmaster and other Adult leader roles as well as on the Andrew Jackson Council Executive Board and Council President, Zachow also serves as VP Endowment for the BSA Southern Region and as a Trustee for the National BSA Foundation.
“Scouting is the only organization that embodies and promotes several important themes. Citizenship, Service to others and, most important, Leadership,” he said. All this is done through the encouragement of adult leaders and via a program based on the outdoor experience. We need as many good leaders in our communities, state and nation both men and women. Scouting offers everyone that opportunity.
“Scouting is a lot of fun and you get to meet many different people that often become some of your best friends, all the while learning new skills and having fun. Scouting has provided me with many of the basic values and leadership training that has allowed me to be successful.”
Another benefit of being involved in the Scouts, according to Haines, are scholarships offered by universities and colleges to Eagle Scouts. These include $6,000 in scholarships to colleges including Ole Miss, Mississippi State, and Southern Miss. Millsaps offers a $64,000 scholarship to Eagle Scouts.
Mississippi’s Boy Scouts of America continues to surprise many others around the country by offering year around camping opportunities at Hood Scout Reservation, in Copiah County. It is now one of the best Scout camps in the country, recognized as a Top Ten Scouting camp by both Boy’s Life and Scouting magazine. Since 2011, use of the camp has quadrupled, and during the summer, Scouts from Texas to Florida now come there for camp.
BSA recently made its program available to girls, both in Cub Scouts and Scouts BSA.
But the program is not co-ed; instead, each Cub Scout den is all boys or all girls, and each Scout Troop is either a boy troop or a girl troop.
“These are exciting times as all youth can now experience the leadership, citizenship and character-building experiences we offer,” Ray said.
To join Boy Scouts, visit http://www.bsa-jackson.org.