A few weeks ago, I attended a meeting at the University of Scouting about the difficulties of United States Scouting in the Latino culture. I heard a few things that I anticipated I was going to hear, but I noted a lot of things I hadn’t suspected to be problems. I then talked with Spanish outreach executives in the Utah National Parks Council to further understand some of the issues they face.
We came to the conclusion that Scouting is newer for most Latino families and there is a lot that we can do to reach out and help this wonderful program grace their culture. After all, they match perfectly. Here are some of the difficulties of Scouting in the Latino culture, but more importantly, here are some ideas on how to help it progress.
Language and Culture
For many Latinos in their home countries, Scouting was only for the rich or for specific churches. Some Latino families that immigrate to the United States have some trepidation when approaching the Boy Scout program. For some of them, they have only heard of or seen the program as a “gringo” program. Fear of a language barrier also sometimes creates hesitation to join and participate in the program.
In reality, the Boy Scouts of America wants all religions and cultures to feel welcome. Poor or wealthy, it doesn’t matter; we want all to attend and participate in building the future leadership of the world. Scouting is for all, and troops do their best to help make sure that funding is not a problem for anyone.
As far as language, the BSA has tried to adapt as much of its program as it can to make language as little an issue as possible. With any organization, there are always going to be new terms and names to learn, but this should never make anyone fear joining Boy Scouts. BSA has many online training and other resources in Spanish.
Parents can find Scouting materials in Spanish, so that they can understand what their children are learning. Many local Scout stores have plenty of materials in Spanish. They also often have specific Spanish trainings held multiple times throughout the year.
Many Latino families simply don’t know much about Scouting. This can potentially be a problem for some troops and dens because parents don’t understand their responsibilities. When parents don’t understand their responsibilities in the program, it can be difficult for the boys to understand their roles as well.
The first thing to know and remember is that the Scout program is a family program. It is important to have parents sit down and have a one on one conversation with the Scoutmaster or Den Leader. This meeting can dispel any myths they have heard and clearly define what is expected of them as Scout parents.
Attendance and Planning
Many Latino families are very busy and work sometimes hectic schedules. Sometimes both parents are working full time, or one parent works multiple jobs. After coming home from long work days, it can be hard to find the motivation and time to take boys to their meetings.
One of the best ways to help resolve the problem is to have the kids push the parents. Assign the SPL (senior patrol leader) the responsibility of involving all of the boys in text messaging, social media and other forms of communication. Make sure he reminds them about the meetings and keeps them up to date. When the kids are excited to go to Scouts, it makes it a lot easier for the parents to find the time and motivation.
Creating a rotation schedule with other parents can also be very effective in helping spread out the responsibility of taking boys to their meetings.
These are a few of the difficulties that are present in the Latino culture. However, Scouting in the Latino culture is growing, and the leadership is getting better. What other issues have you seen? Do you have any other suggestions? Let us know in the comments below.