As parents of today worry about getting their children out of the house and away from their smart phones and iPads, at least where their boys are concerned, many families are finding an old solution to today’s modern challenges: The Boy Scouts of America.
Every Monday at 7 p.m., nearly 50 junior high and high school boys from Leander ISD gather at Christ Episcopal Church in Cedar Park to meet with scout leaders and learn about values such as respect, leadership and problem solving.
“We try to get them outside so they can see what is going on around them,” said Steve Roberts, the scoutmaster of Troop 2008. “We have meetings once a week and campouts once a month. Our campouts are normally overnights to get them into situations where they can grow, show leadership and gain self-confidence.”
As a part of their scout training, the boys earn merit badges. There are more than 130 specific badges and the boys who earn 31 specific badges become Eagle Scouts, scouting’s highest rank built around community service. In Troop 2008, eight of the boys from Cedar Park and Leander are nearing Eagle Scout status.
“I have just five badges left that I need to get,” said Mitch Jackson, an Eagle Scout candidate who was working on his community project badge last week at Christ Church. “I think being an Eagle Scout increases the chances you will get into college and it helps you find employment.”
Zachary Szabo, an Eagle Scout candidate who has been building a sandbox for children with borders and a roof as a community service project, is only two merit badges away from attaining his Eagle Scout ranking.
Other than Jackson and Szabo, other Troop 2008 scouts who are close to attaining Eagle Scout status are: Ben Ford, Seth Dornak, Thomas Rodriguez, Jonathan Geymer, William Jandal and Gage Delosh. All are students within the Leander school district.
“We try to teach them things they might not learn in school,” said Chuck Hostetler, the troop’s assistant scoutmaster. “Self respect, how to solve problems and working together. And, we instill in them things like respect for the flag, for our state and for our country.”
An essential part of scout training is cutting the cords to the electronic games and smartphones the teenagers have.
“At every one of our events, they have to secure their electronic devices,” said Hostetler. “We try to put them in situations where they have to work together and figure things out on their own.”
The scout campouts are an essential part of the “unplugging” method.
“Our last campout was a 20-mile canoe trip down the lower Colorado River,” Hostetler said. “We camped on a sand bed and they cooked their own food over an open fire. It was really fun and taught the boys a lot. Next week, we are going biking all the way around Muleshoe Bend.”
Overall, Roberts said, what keeps the scouts coming back and eager to participate is the opportunity it provides for the boys to think for themselves and develop friendships working together.