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Providing opportunities
Program brings scouting to 'distressed' neighborhoods
(Published March 6, 2006)

Staff Writer

At the weekly Wednesday Boy Scout meeting held at Tri-Community Public Charter School, 10-year-old Darnell Moore’s eyes sparkled with excitement as he raved about the upcoming Derby Race, where he could race his self-made car down a 32-foot track.

Another 10-year old scout, Thaddeus Nelson, declared that he never wanted to miss any of the hunting and archery games held each month. It is during such weekly meetings that the Boy Scouts discuss their upcoming activities and issues under the supervision of a ScoutReach director and a leader at the school.

Tri-Community Public Charter School, located on the campus of the Armed Forces Retirement Home on North Capitol Street, is one of 19 schools that support the ScoutReach program, which is organized by the National Capital Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America for schoolchildren in distressed neighborhoods. Established in 2003, the program now reaches out to 430 boys.

According to ScoutReach consultant John Maxwell, most of these boys, aged 7 through 11, do not have the same opportunities as other boys who live in more privileged neighborhoods.

"Most of them do not have access to outdoor activities, which you and I take for granted," Maxwell said. "In our first year, we took our 100 boys to visit the National Mall, and all of them said they had never been there before."

Supported by grants and contributions, ScoutReach provides the boys with free membership, uniforms, badges, books, activities and transportation. Funding the program costs about $100,000 a year, according to local scouting officials.

So how does ScoutReach impact the lives of these young boys? From summer camps to ski trips, horseback riding, nature hikes and basketball, soccer and hockey games, ScoutReach aims to promote good ethics and moral values by emphasizing outdoor activities, learning skills, service projects and developing leadership ability.

"The program supports leadership activities for boys, who would otherwise be tempted by the negative influences that are all around them," said ScoutReach Director Drac Peyton, who has been with the program since its inception. "These outdoor activities give the boys an opportunity to do something different. Scouting opens up another door, which gives them options they otherwise might not have."

Bernard Terry, who is the leader at Tri-Community Public Charter School, said he believes that the weekly scout meeting is crucial to the boys’ character development, which is not something one can learn in the school curriculum.

"During our weekly scouting meetings, the boys learn various skills such as social, academic and those pertaining to everyday life," Terry said. "The most fulfilling thing is to see former Boy Scouts develop into mature teens with positive moral values."

At every Scout meeting, the boys recite the Cub Scout Promise, which focuses on "doing my best."

"The law of the [Cub Scout] pack guides the boys to move in the direction of being helpful, friendly, courteous, trustworthy and promote qualities which parents and the community are looking for," Maxwell said. "The whole purpose of scouting is to help the children grow up making good decisions in life."

Not by chance, 17 of the area’s 19 ScoutReach leaders are men.

"Our program is attuned in such a way that we intentionally want to provide positive male role models for the boys due to the lack of father figures in their lives," Maxwell said. "Most of the boys in our program are brought up single-handedly by their mothers or, in some cases, their grandmothers. Usually it’s the mom who signs the child up to the program, because they want our male leaders to be around for their child."

Copyright 2006 The Common Denominator