Whereas boy scouts have been known for offering to help an elderly person across the street, they might now be heard offering assistance across an ocean. Or two. And the so-called boy scout might look more like a girl scout. But there’s nothing to worry about; in reality, the Boy Scouts’ Venturing program allows scouts of both genders to hit the roads of foreign lands, such as Australia, Asia, and Europe.
While cultural experience is certainly a byproduct of these adventures, the real motivation for their design was to keep the scouts involved after they’d left their adolescent years behind them. What is likely to keep the interests of teenage boys? You guessed it – and that’s why girls were invited into the program.
Janice Overton, Administrative Assistant of the Boy Scouts’ Program Impact Department, is well versed on the Venturing program, and explained that it came out of career based “Exploring” programs within the schools that taught students about opportunities within the fire and police departments, as well as in education and computers. “Both groups can have girls,” Overton added, “but Venturing, which is 10 years old, also takes in such scouting areas as camping, hiking, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, horseback riding, and other activities.
“The High Venture program, set up for High-Sierra base camps, also includes mountain biking, climbing and rappelling. To be in any of these programs, you have to be at least 14 years old or in high school and can stay involved until you’re out of high school or 21.”
Keith Walton, the Associate Director Membership Specialist, points out that the program was developed in 1998 “…to address the needs of teenagers, who want to have new challenges, make independent decisions, choices, and important contributions to a team effort. The Venturing program helps meet the needs of the organization sponsoring the unit, brings the volunteers that work with the youth in a more mentorship relationship, and lets the youth have fun.”
Actually, while the developed program began over a decade ago, the actual idea for Venturing and keeping boys interested in scouting after their voices and interests change, was discussed when the Boy Scouts were first organized a century ago, according to the Boy Scouts’ website www.scouting.org. From its page on the History of Scouting, “The need for a senior Boy Scout program probably surfaced the second day after Scouting started in the United States in 1910. Actually, in the very first National Executive Board meeting report, there is a discussion about losing older boys.”
Overton details some of the trips undertaken, “In 2001, the scouts acted as ambassadors for our national scouting program in China, as they were the first scouts to go there. In 2003, they went to Finland for the World Jamboree, an international get-together of scouts.”
Double Oak resident Donna Gilliam’s daughter, Sydney, is one of the girls who has joined the fun with Venturing Crew 425. The elder Gilliam reports, “Sydney got to go to (yes, Sydney), Australia her first year. They got to go to the famous opera house, one theater of which is under water. They went snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef, and traversed through the rainforest. Sydney got to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge.”
What’s for an encore?
“Next summer, they’ll be staying in the U.S., but getting to go scuba diving in the Florida Keys.”
Wait a minute! How do they afford these trips?
Sydney Gilliam explains, “Car washes, bake sales, book sales…”
I’m not buying it. Only Sara Lee could make enough money on a bake sale for a trip to Australia and back.
“Well, we get sponsors, too.” (They’re partially funded by the Boy Scouts of America).
Okay, so it’s like sports teams that have to travel to far away tournaments.
“Right.” But it’s truly not all about me, me, me, as the younger Gilliam adds, “We’ve collected care packages for our troops overseas, helped kids at Children’s Hospital with arts and crafts, and with the Shriners’ program at St. Paul.”
Overton gets into the emotional growth of the whole experience, “When they come in, they’re backwards, bashful little kids. A year later, they’ve learned and grown up so much. The kids help each other, treat each other with such respect. We don’t tell them to, they just do it – they turn into real people. Hardly any of our kids see each other daily, as they almost all go to schools in different parts of DFW – Arlington, Sulphur Springs, McKinney – but they really feel a bond above the level of the normal school day relationships. The biggest part is that people care; they really care.
“If you could spend a little time with our crew, you’d have such a good time. We went bowling at Main Event, camped out at Joe Pool Lake, treasure hunted with a compass and flags, even went on a shooting trip with handguns and shot skeet with shotguns.
“They can earn their Eagle Scout award through Venturing. (Sydney Gilliam is working towards the girls’ equivalent Gold Award). We’ll take anyone…as long as their engines are still running!”
All totaled, in 2008, there were some 261,000 Venturing scouts, with approximately 177,000 males to 83,000 females, for just slightly more than a 2:1 male:female ratio, but the female population did see a 1% increase from 2007 to 2008.
How well supervised are the trips, you ask? Overton reports that the Australia trip had six chaperones for 27 kids, the China trip had 10 chaperones for 46 kids, and the Switzerland trip had 6 adults for 40 scouts.
If you would like more information about the program for you and your children, you can log onto: www.crew425.com and even see videos from trips. You can also email Janice Overton at [email protected].
Venturing Associate Director Bill Evans relates on the BSA website, “…the most enjoyable moments are when…Eagle Scouts stand before a group and talk about how Venturing has allowed them a place to be an Eagle Scout and continue to learn and grow…when a young lady tells how she finally had a place to be a Scout along with her mom, dad, and brothers. Venturing does change lives.”