North Star District Boy Scouts Prepare Tomorrow’s Leaders and Citizens
Prepared for life.
The Boy Scouts of America teach youth how to embody this theme through attitude and action. The North Star District, the largest area scouting district in the regional Heart of America Council, prepares youth in the Northland to be better individuals, citizens and leaders.
The North Star District serves the counties of Platte and Clay in Missouri, plus the Lawson and Excelsior Springs School District boundaries in Ray County. That expansive territory includes numerous cities dotting the Northland. By the numbers, the district has done an impressive job of preparing Scouts in this area as the following 2014 statistics demonstrate:
• 4,275 youth were served through Scouting programs and activities
• 103 Scouts achieved Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouting program
• North Star District Scouts worked more than 17,000 service hours in the community
• 2,741 Scouts participated in camping activities from 145 Scouting units
• 6,300 merit badges were earned
• 2,608 volunteers were registered
These numbers reflect how much growth, outreach and activity occurs in the district. Each generation of Scouts not only serves the community, but also acquires skills and experiences to become the next wave of potential leaders. With that aim, Trey Miller, director of the North Star District, and district executives Adam Singleton and Kyle Fulbright help troop leaders to recruit Scouts and guide youth along the Scouting path.
Nationally, recruitment in Scouting has declined for several reasons in recent years. Miller, an Eagle Scout who has been involved with Scouting since 1980, ticks off the factors: Transiency as families relocate, different family structures, changing opinions of the Scouting program, and more youth participating in competitive sports and other time-consuming pursuits.
“Kids are afraid to get away from their electronics and go outdoors,” says Singleton, a lifelong Scout, Eagle Scout, and Keeper of the Sacred Bundle in the tribe of Mic-O-Say. “There’s been a change in interest. We’re working to change programs around that.”
“We recognize the need to accommodate these factors,” says Miller.
Miller notes that local recruitment in the North Star District has experienced marginal increases compared to the national trend. When possible, leaders visit students up to the fifth-grade level at schools to talk about Scouting on recruitment nights and at assemblies.
“We’re looking at other recruiting methods such as building experiences around Scouting,” says Miller. “We are changing programs and meeting nights to make Scouting more accessible to youth and families.”
The district has hosted climbing wall sessions to attract youth and families. Also, North Star’s leaders utilize technology and social media to better reach the millennial generation.
“The Boy Scout website allows parents to connect with local Scouting units,” says Miller. Offering unique experiences is another recruitment approach. “We look at what we can do that no one else can do.”
The district hosts Scout Day at The K to watch the Kansas City Royals, at Kansas Speedway and at local professional sports team games. Singleton says, “In 2014, we sold 14,000 tickets to Scouts and families that attended Scout events at sporting organizations.”
North Star District’s leaders have also integrated STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) programs into scouting to “reinvigorate kids” in these disciplines. “Correlating our programs with STEM at schools helps us to maintain relationships with the schools, “ says Singleton. “STEM is a big thing now in the Scouting world.”
“In Cub Scouts, which includes Scouts from first through fifth grade, a new national program will be introduced in June that focuses on STEM, sports, and healthy lifestyles,” says Miller. “It builds on citizenship, character development, and physical and mental fitness. Fun is a by-product of scouting.”
Some local troop leaders already integrate STEM into troop and den level activities. Singleton says, “One den leader is Kearney works with Webelos to build hovercraft. Our leaders keep kids motivated in Scouting programs.”
Scouts throughout the district also make an impact through community service.
“Each Eagle Scout project represents approximately 200 community service hours,” says Miller. “These projects, food drives for Harvesters, and Dig Day help the community.”
Dig Day involves Scouts planting flowers throughout Clay and Platte Counties. Last year, 2,000 volunteers devoted 16,000 hours of community service throughout the Heart of America Council region prior to Mother’s Day weekend.
“The majority of that volunteering and service happened in the Northland,” Singleton says.
These service projects and programs have lasting value. Miller says, “Scouts learn about their community and prepare for the future by building an attitude of service.”
Teaching Scouts to be good stewards of nature and interact with the outdoors is inherent in the programs. North Star organizes events such as the Klondike Derby, a campout at Smithville Lake, day camps, family campouts and jamborees.
“We teach kids how to leave no trace when in the outdoors and encourage interest in nature,” says Singleton.
Miller adds, “We work with Clay County Parks and Recreation on conservation and environmental efforts. Our Scouts participate in the Smithville Lake cleanup. Nationally, a new merit badge was created for sustainability that teaches scouts about recycling and the environment.”
Developing character and leadership among Scouts in the Boy Scouting program in paramount. “Those values go across the entire program at all ages from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts,” says Singleton.
That outreach includes the co-ed Venturing program, a youth development program for young men and women ages 13-20, and Explorers, where participants ages 14-20, can discover potential careers and are equipped with the tools to succeed.
Looking ahead, Miller, Singleton and other District leaders aim to grow recruitment in Scouting through partnerships with local churches, school districts in Clay and Platte Counties, and families.
“Our challenge is to fund all of the programs and services in the Northland as well as attract volunteer support,” says Miller. “We have constant needs of money and people willing to help support youth.”
Visit HOAC-BSA.org to learn more about Scouting programs in the greater Kansas City area.