When people think of the Scouting program they usually see Cub Scouts with their faces painted, receiving belt loops, or 13-year-old Boy Scouts weaving baskets and capsizing canoes at camp. When asked about older boys and Scouting many think of 17-year-old young men frantically finishing their Eagle Scout requirements before the deadline. But is this really all the Scouting program has to offer the older boy?
There is a large age range that exists in the Scouting program that begins with the seven-year-old Tiger Cub and ends with either the 18-year-old Venturer or the the 21-year-old Explorer pursuing an interest in a specialty program. During this span of years there is a natural maturation from youth to young adulthood. Changes occur in size, weight, strength, interests, values, and motives.
Along the way, many young men earn the Eagle award while others become uninterested in earning merit badges and rank advancements. Either way, these young men come to the end of the Scouting trail as they usually see it. In the Eagle challenge, however, there is a line that the young man repeats that indicates otherwise: “I realize that the Eagle rank is not the end but the beginning.”
Actually, there is a new beginning for the Eagle Scout or the Scout who no longer wishes to advance. There are Scouting programs—Varsity Scouting, Venturing, and Exploring—that provide opportunities to participate in high adventure and survey the ins and outs of different vocations such as law, medicine, business management, and many others—whatever interests the young man.
A boy can learn how to flex his muscles through strength and conditioning programs and by participating in high adventure events like canoeing a hundred miles of the Snake River or floating the Colorado River. He can camp, dive, and water ski on Lake Powell or hike through Southern Utah’s many beautiful canyons.
He can develop athletic skills by learning the rules and playing team and individual sports. Perhaps the young man wants to learn how to pilot an aircraft. That is an option. Or perhaps learn the skills for sailing in various watercraft. That can be arranged. In addition, there are activities that assist the young man in examining the various branches of the military or learning how to participate in city, state, or federal government.
What has been described is just a sampling of what can be done in Scouting programs for the older boy. The sky’s the limit and the program just depends on the creativity of the young man and the guidance he receives from his leaders and any program advisers or consultants who assist in amplifying the richness of the program.
Scouting is meant to help a boy progress through the vital growing periods of his life. Don’t let the end of his trail to Eagle or the end of his interest in one program stop Scouting from influencing his life as he approaches adulthood.
Author: Don Fleming| Past Area 2 VP of Exploring, past Council Commissioner, Silver Beaver and Antelope recipient, unit commissioner, and emeritus BYU professor.