Boy Scouts of America reaches out to Hispanics

January 22, 2009 10:59:46 AM PST
The Boy Scouts of America is hoping 2009 will bring some new faces into local packs. They're working to recruit more young Hispanics, the largest growing demographic in the country. An afterschool program called 'Scoutreach" is now in 40 valley schools, including Dinuba's Lincoln Elementary. The program takes scouting into schools. "We're trying to make scouting available to all kids, of all backgrounds, all cultures," said Curtis Alexander, the Scoutreach Senior District Executive for the Sequoia Council.

There are currently about 10 thousand Boy Scouts in the Central Valley. Only 20 percent are Hispanic and membership is on the decline nationwide. The valley is now one of six areas participating in a nationwide pilot program aimed at bringing in more Latinos. John Richers, the Scout Executive of the BSA's Sequoia Council, says if it doesn't work, membership numbers will continue to dwindle. "In the years ahead, the Boy Scouts of America will look more diverse, the days of the past?the "Norman Rockwell" of our history and our romantic memory will have to change. And it's appropriate it does so," said Richers.

Through Scoutreach, boys and girls in 40 schools are taught about character building, citizenship, and physical fitness. Though all of the programs take place on cmpus, the ultimate goal is to transition the kids into traditional scouting units. There are challenges, though. For one, many Hispanic adults don't have a clear grasp of what scouting is about. "I know they learn things about camping, they learn certain survival skills? That's about as limited as my knowledge of Boy Scouts," said Dinuba parent Alicia Menchaca.

The Sequoia Council says it's working to hire more bilingual employees to help reacho out to parents. "Our mission now is to get some of the parents involved with the after school program so it won't be so foreign to them," said Alexander.

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