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Education

ScoutReach Program Aims To Get Disadvantaged Children Involved In Scouting

A girl pulls back a sling shot.
Keren Carrión
/
KERA News
Allison Valencia, 8, shoots her sling shot during the Cub Scouts “Chill-O-Ree” event on Saturday.

ScoutReach is a Boy Scouts of America program that aims to help eliminate the barriers some children of color and children from less wealthy families face, so they can access the character development and leadership opportunities scouting is known for.

KERA's Rebekah Morr spoke with Lawrence "Ty" Washington Jr., the director of ScoutReach for the Circle 10 Council which covers much of North Texas.

Rebekah Morr: So traditionally the Boy Scouts has been a predominantly white organization. The most recent data from 2018 shows about three-quarters of youth membership is white. So why is it important to the BSA to reach communities of color and disadvantaged young people through the ScoutReach program?

Lawrence "Ty" Washington Jr.: You're correct, it has probably been a predominantly white organization but African Americans have had a great history in scouting. I don't know when exactly, but around 1970s there was kind of a fall off. And so there's a lack of history.

A lot of our current Scouts have a legacy; their parents were in scouting, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. What I found is in a lot of the African American communities, there's not a lot of legacy there. And so the outreach program, we want to create an opportunity for the young African American youth [so they] can get exposure to the character development and also the leadership training and opportunities that the older scout program provides.

A little boy aims a BB gun.
Keren Carrión
Isaac Reyes, 8, shoots a BB gun with the Dallas Cub Scouts, at Camp Wisdom, on Saturday, Dec. 12.

RM: You mentioned the legacy thing. I'm curious if there are any other challenges or barriers that you faced when trying to reach those communities who may not be as familiar with scouting?

LW: Yeah. I mean, you know, optics are one thing where, you know, people perceive scouting to be one thing, but I think exposure is another thing. If you don't see a lot of that reflected in your community, you probably wouldn't gravitate towards that. So I think there are African American Cub Scout and Scout BSA programs there. They're just not everywhere. So we need to be out there and letting people know that these opportunities are available.

RM: What all does the ScoutReach program cover for the scouts that are involved in it?

LW: We alleviate a lot of the financial burden to those that can't afford it. We want to make this program attainable for everyone that wants it, and so if financially it's out of your reach, we eliminate that barrier. Currently, right now we take care of some membership costs, if they need books, if they need uniforms and also we have avenues to provide transportation as well, to alleviate all the normal barriers that would prevent them from being part of our program.

RM: Is there a specific age group that you're targeting with these events?

LW: I would say a huge number of the scouts that we service in ScoutReach are between Kindergarten and fifth grade, but we definitely want the older boys and girls in the middle school age from sixth grade, all the way to high school to come on out and participate.

Three girls pull arrows from targets.
Keren Carrión
Three girls in Cub Scouts retrieve their arrows from the targets at Camp Wisdom.

RM: I'm glad you mentioned girls because, you know, as girls have been integrated into the ranks of Boy Scouts in the last couple of years, I'm curious how this ScoutReach program has evolved to attract young women to join as well?

LW: Well, I think when they decided to make that change and involve and invite the young ladies to join, we took a hard look at our program and it doesn't speak to young boys or young girls. It speaks to children and how can we increase character in a child? And so, especially with the leadership development at the Scout BSA level is huge, and we're super excited that the first class of Eagle Scout girls will be happening early next year.

RM: Was there ever an issue of like representation when you were involved in the Scouts? Like, did you have Black leaders that you could look up to in the troops that you were a part of?

LW: Yeah. I think that's one of the things I'm trying to find here in Dallas. So when I started my career as a district executive in Detroit, I managed the entire city of Detroit and that was made up of nothing but African American leadership, you know.

We had black cubmasters and scoutmasters and venture crew leaders. And so when I go to other councils where that's not prevalent, I think, you know, there was a gap there. I'm sure that there was some group of Black leadership in the Dallas area before, we just need to reinvigorate that and identify them.

Got a tip? Email Rebekah Morr at rmorr@kera.org. You can follow her on Twitter @bekah_morr.

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