While some of the merit badges have changed, the merits of Scouting remain steadfast.

What does it mean to be a good citizen in your community? What are the rights and duties of citizenship, and how do you fulfill them? What does it mean to be responsible? What does it mean to be a volunteer? Can you answer these questions?

For 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America, W. D. Boyce Council has prepared young people to make the right choices over their lifetimes by teaching the values of the Scout Oath and Law. As the specific needs of youth have changed, the Boy Scouts of America has evolved to meet those needs while remaining a positive influence. Today, one of every two American males has an affiliation with a Scouting program, and their combined contributions continue to significantly benefit our communities, our state and our nation.

Addressing Critical Needs
Each year, the W. D. Boyce Council meets the emerging needs of society, serving 19,000 youth and families. Service initiatives, which address critical areas of need in the community, and an increased emphasis on the overall well-being of children are integral to the Scouting program. This is accomplished by encouraging youth to live an ongoing healthy lifestyle. The 2013 initiative is “Scouting for Food,” meant to help fill food pantries across central Illinois.

In the Scouting program, you will find young men and women learning leadership, developing character and serving their communities with the caring guidance of countless volunteers and supporters. These youth learn more than how to be upstanding citizens; they gain the knowledge and skills to develop future careers. In fact, one out of eight Scouts learn about their vocation through Scouting’s merit badge program.

From engineering to entrepreneurship, from welding to chemistry, youth learn about careers and lifelong opportunities in the Scouting program. Beginning with Cub Scouts in elementary school, kids are able to select topics which are of interest to them. Boy Scouts select merit badges similar to selecting course work in school, based upon their desire to learn.

Citizenship in the Community
Scouts completing the Citizenship in the Community merit badge are required to understand the rights, responsibilities and laws governing their community. Through the merits of Scouting, youth gain knowledge of how to be part of a community, including learning how local officials make decisions. Observing and studying this process gives Scouts insight to public service and local government. In addition, Scouts volunteer through service projects as part of doing a good turn daily, teaching responsibility to organizations within and surrounding their community, and learning how one person can make a difference.

Engineering
Engineers use science and technology to turn ideas into reality, devising all sorts of things, ranging from tiny, low-cost batteries for your cell phone to a gigantic dam. To a young Scout, this concept might seem outside anything they could ever accomplish. However, their study of the Engineering merit badge helps develop the foundation of this knowledge.

From the start, Scouts learn about the six types of engineers, the tools each uses on the job, how they achieve results, and how to enter the field of engineering. The next step in earning this merit badge requires youth to study and understand the Engineers’ Code of Ethics, an important part of any job or career. As a Scout progresses through the requirements for the merit badge, they interact with professionals in the field, as well as learn basic engineering knowledge and skills and how they apply to the world around them.

Welding
Welding plays a major role in our modern world, and mastery of this skill can lead to many exciting career opportunities. Boys between the ages of 11 and 18 tend to learn by doing; therefore, completing merit badges help them gain an understanding of new career possibilities. Welding provides Scouts the unique, hands-on opportunity to learn about a skill and trade. From safety concerns to tools and methods of the trade, Scouts gain a better understanding of a welder’s career. Additionally, boys learn about the patience needed to be successful and the idea that it takes time and dedication to become skillful in whatever they do.

The Same, But Different
“Scouting’s relevance today is more important than it ever has been,” says Scout Executive and W. D. Boyce Council CEO George Clay. “I’m not aware of another organization that has instilling character in kids as a mission. We do it differently today than they did 100, or even 50 years ago.”

While some of the merit badges have changed, the merits of Scouting continue to remain steadfast. “One hundred years ago, the merit badges were about raising farm animals and signaling flags,” Clay explains. “Today, we teach GPS studies and graphic arts. The methods have changed, but the core values of character, citizenship and responsibility have remained the same.”

Today, if you look at the person sitting next to you, it’s likely that one of you knows Scouting’s impact. For another 103 years, the Boy Scouts of America and the W. D. Boyce Council will continue to prepare the youth of our community to be strong, upstanding, and productive individuals. iBi

David Schwartz is communications director for the Boy Scouts of America, W. D. Boyce Council.