“On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.” — The Scout Oath, Boy Scouts of America
With today’s challenging political and societal climate, the need to instill and live out the words of this oath could not be more necessary. A war is being waged against our youth and we must step up and step in to ensure that we are providing the very best opportunities for sustainable success. One of the most significant ways we can offer this is through mentorship.
Growing up in Baltimore, my upbringing was rough. There were plenty of distractions vying for my attention. I don’t have to tell you about all of the “opportunities” or lack thereof readily available for our youth. I will say that it was my fortunate experience to have spent over a third of my life between the ages of 5-18 years old as a Cub and Boy Scout. I credit much of my success to the experiences, teachings and training that I received during those times.
Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has a long history of providing the building blocks of success, providing lifelong experiences that enhance the character and integrity of Scouts. The leadership, teambuilding and life skills that are gained are everlasting. More than 70% of adults who served as Scouts credit their experience as having helped them to become better leaders, team players and more empathetic to the needs of others. That is what Scouting does. It teaches youth to live out the values of giving and service and these values in turn become part of the very fabric of who our youth become. We need that. Our nation needs that. Our world needs that.
While BSA has a well-established program with a history of successful outcomes, the challenge we face is ensuring that our youth have access to these offerings. More importantly, we must ensure that they have opportunities for continual mentorship where they are able to advance through all stages and ranks, from Cub Scouts to Eagle Scouts. We want them to get the full experience, and that requires a commitment from each of us as community members and leaders.
Whether you have participated in BSA or not, chances are that most of us have been connected to it in some form or another. We have likely all bore witness to the fruits of Scouting. It is these fruits exhibited by my friends and colleagues that influenced my decision to join the board of directors for BSA. While we all know the value of mentorship, we often fail to prioritize our ability to give of our time, talent and treasure towards this effort. But we cannot continue in this way.
Whether you realize it or not, one of the most well-organized mentorship opportunities in this country is that of gang culture. Gangs have the greatest access to our youth and they have the time to cultivate and nurture those relationships. As we busy ourselves with our various career and familial obligations, gangs are taking the time to feed, house and clothe our youth, providing the familial support that many of them lack. They are providing hands on training to cement their investment for nefarious purposes. It is imperative that we take every opportunity to present a sustainable and continual pathway for success that outshines all others.
In spite of the odds stacked against Black boys and girls, Scouting has a strong impact on their lives and tips the scale in their favor in terms of raising families, continuing education, holding jobs and overall success. BSA provides an avenue to serve the entire family, allowing mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to all learn, grow and give together. We encourage you to think deeply about what is at stake and how you can get involved. Whether you invest financially, sponsor a youth, or serve as a troop leader, know that you are needed, and the time is now. To learn more about how you can become involved, visit Crossroadsbsa.org/inclusive.
Debra Simmons Wilson is vice president of Strategic Planning, Crossroads of America Council Board, and John Thompson is president-elect of Crossroads of America Council Board.