The Student News Site of Bellevue West Senior High School

The Thunderbeat

The Student News Site of Bellevue West Senior High School

The Thunderbeat

The Student News Site of Bellevue West Senior High School

The Thunderbeat

Students find skills, community in scouting troops

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Raegan Rains
Pictured left to right: Violet Archer, Lillian Hannah, Lei’Ana Trejo, Evelynn Cummings, and Evelyn Hirko receive acknowledgement awards for serving important positions within their troop.

Although it’s easy to assume an unserious and even comical image of Scouts such as depicted by the character of Russell in Pixar’s “Up”, Scouts is a serious organization dedicated to facilitating an environment where youths develop leadership skills and learn how to give back to their communities.

Junior Bella Martin has been in Girl Scouts, in troop 45483, since second grade. She’s currently in limbo between senior ambassador and ambassador—the highest rank one can achieve. She said Girl Scouts challenged her social skills.

“So there’s definitely some learning curves, like working with other people,” Martin said. “I mean, cooperating with anybody is difficult. So, yeah, I feel like it’s made me go out of my comfort zone a little bit.”

According to Martin, most expenses are paid through the ever-popular sale of girl scout cookies. And although the cookies are what the girl scouts are probably most known for, they do other things for their community as well. For example, Martin’s troop, among others, are collaborating with Ronald McDonald House Charities to facilitate families staying together and receiving healthcare.

Another benefit that Martin noted is the connection between the girls of the troop. Because the ages are mixed, younger and older girls alike get to work together.

“I like being able to connect with the younger girls,” Martin said. “So you would be like a caretaker in a way, like a mentor. And you just help them through what they need.”

Adjacent to Girl Scouts, though reserved for boys, junior Benjamin Heckens is in the Boy Scouts troop 231B. He’s been in scouts for six years and has achieved the highest rank, Eagle Scout. In order to qualify for the rank, scouts must complete a community-oriented project within certain parameters, requiring planning, development and leadership challenges.

“My Eagle Scout project was installing trail signs in a camp called Carol Joy Holling,” Heckens said. “We went out and flagged where we thought signs should go. And then there was a lot of time looking at spreadsheets, making sure that we had the right amount of flags, making sure that we knew where all the flags were going to be.”

Similar to Martin’s experience is a focus on building leadership qualities within the individuals of a troop. Though serious participation is not required, it is encouraged.

“In my leadership, the biggest lesson I’ve learned for everyday life is that someone has to take the first step so others can follow,” Heckens said, “When I joined scouts, I was very much a wallflower. And now I’ve stood up in front of the troop and I’ve said, ‘Okay, guys, we’re camping; this is where the tech tents are gonna go; this is what we’re doing tomorrow; this is who’s making breakfast; that’s where the dining hall is gonna go–and people did it.”

While Boy Scouts includes a lot of hard work, especially if one is aiming to rank up, there is also a focus on recreation. A summer tradition for Heckens’ troop is a week-long excursion to someplace in the country where scouts partake in outdoor activities, earn merit badges, and overall, bond with each other. 

“It’s got to be summer camps that are the best,” Heckens said. “So this last summer, I went up to Isle Royale National Park in Michigan and went backpacking for five days with eight other people. We had 40 pounds on our back and we walked 40 miles in four days, something like that.”

Although it’s typical for troops to be segregated based on gender, some troops merge the boys and girls for necessity because of the lack of numbers to constitute entirely separate troops. Such is the case for junior Lillian Hannah’s troop 483.

According to Hannah, even though the merge is recent, it hasn’t impeded the progress or activities of the troop. The girls and boys manage their activities separately but come together for things like award ceremonies and to share spaces for weekly meetings–however, they mostly stay out of each other’s way.

Hannah described her journey of developing self-confidence in regards to public speaking and leadership.

“When I first joined scouting, it was hard for me to talk to people,” Hannah said. “I couldn’t give speeches–public speaking was just a giant, ‘No’. And so when I got into Scouts, it gave me a safe place to practice a bunch of skills. Now I’m the highest ranking member in the girls troop and I give speeches on a regular basis at ceremonies and stuff.”

Of course, being in Scouts facilitates self-betterment but connection and community are the cornerstones of Scouts.

“[We] really want to give back to the community and help others,” Martin said. “Girl Scouts teaches you how to be a young leader and how to be aware of where your communities are and how to help them in your own way.”

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