Community service is perhaps one of the best benchmarks we can use to judge how our cities and towns are truly performing. When care for those who need it the most is lacking in our country, it speaks volumes about the direction of our society. It is what we do that determines who we are, and who we are is defined by the character we instill in our children and future generations to follow.
Since the inception of the Boy Scouts of America in 1910, youth across our nation have been encouraged to “help other people at all times” and “do a Good Turn daily.” For those of us with children and teenagers at home, we know that is not always at the front of their minds. That is where Scouting comes in. It reinforces the values we teach in the home like a healthy respect for neighborhood, community, and nation through service and giving back to the community.
Today, Scouts participate in food drives, community beautification projects and more recently making and donating face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019, 1,000 Scouts in north Texas and southeastern Oklahoma earned the rank of Eagle Scout, what is considered the pinnacle of Scouting. In addition to regular service projects, to earn this rank a Scout has to give leadership to other Scouts and adults in a service project of at least 18 hours that benefits the community. This means that there were 1,000 significant service projects in our community led and completed by young people.
We know that helping others is an important component of Scouting, but just in case there’s any question, a recent scientific research proves that Scouting builds character. Dr. Richard M. Lerner, a psychologist and youth expert at Tufts University and his team measured the character attributes of nearly 1,800 Cub Scouts and nearly 400 non-Scouts.
“As a former Cub Scout myself, I’ve always shared the belief that Scouting had beneficial effects on kids’ character, but as researchers we must be rigorous and give it a fair test,” says Lerner. “We did, and the results are strikingly positive. After three years, Scouts reported significant increases in cheerfulness, helpfulness, kindness, obedience, trustworthiness and hopeful future expectations.”
In the beginning, the group of kids had no statistically significant difference in the character traits being measured. Through five different times over the course of 2 years, the youth were asked to describe themselves in relation to situations such as kindness, trustworthiness, hopeful future expectations and helpfulness.
The Scout group reported significant increases in the character attributes, while the non-Scouts showed no significant increases. Scouts also were more likely than non-Scouts to say that “helping others” or “doing the right thing” was more important to them than “being smart” or “being the best.”
“Now the organization can go beyond anecdotes and show how Scouting helps build character in kids,” Lerner says. “If I were parent and wanted to put my young person in a program that leads to being hopeful, trustworthy and helpful, the answer is Scouting.”
“Each and every day we get to see the positive influence Scouting makes in young people’s lives,” says Sam Thompson, Scout executive/CEO of Circle Ten Council. “And while we weren’t surprised by the study’s results, it is great to be able to quantify the impact of the program and show parents the value of participation.”
As it has done for more than 110 years, Scouting continues to encourage its youth to recognize the needs of others and take action accordingly. It impresses upon young people the importance of taking responsibility to do the right thing – to serve others. They learn that the beauty of helping others is that it serves both the person receiving the service and the individuals providing that service. The next time you see a young Scout you will know what they have been doing with their time; making a difference in their community.
The youth in our communities must be prepared for the challenges they face today and in the future. In Scouting, our goal has always been to help young people develop their skills and provide them with a moral foundation. That foundation, in turn, helps them make sound decisions in the face of overwhelming odds and enables them to successfully assume their roles as responsible citizens in an ever-changing world.
All youth (boys and girls, Kindergarten through age 18) are invited to join the Circle Ten Council today.