Boy Scouts

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The Boy Scouts of America have created the Hispanic Initiative Division to engage young Latinos and their families in their organization.
Michael De los Santos, Director of Field Services with the Grand Canyon Council of America, discusses the initiative and what they are doing in Arizona to get more Hispanic youth involved in the Boy Scouts.

Jose Cardenas:
The Boy Scouts of America's mission has long been to teach young people skills and values to help them in their daily lives. Now the Boy Scouts has created an initiative to reach out to Latino youth and their families to get them interested in their organization. Nadine Arroyo-Rodriguez reports on how the fun leads to lessons in value and responsibilities.

Nadine Arroyo-Rodriguez:
Though this may seem like a simple campground, the fact is that this is the Boy Scouts camp located in south Phoenix. Each summer an estimated 300 Cub scouts all over Arizona visit the camp for fun and games.

Donna Kutarnia:
We have over 300 come every day for three days, and they have the time of their lives here. We get to do archery, swim, games, crafts, and they learn all kinds of Cub Scout skills here.

Nadine Arroyo-Rodriguez:
Behind the fun and games, there is an agenda. The events are organized to teach each scout how to work together as a team. The summer camp begins by creating a theme. This year it's all about pirates. Then each den as the scouts' groups are called develops its own denship and flag, its own den song and its den identity. Boy Scouts officials say their underlying goal is to develop responsible men with values who can work as a team and be productive citizens in their community.

Kasey Green:
Boy Scouts teach them great moral values and being good citizens. Growing up and being good men for our country, which it needs.

Nadine Arroyo-Rodriguez:
The Boy Scouts of America will celebrate 100 years in 2010. It is considered the nation's largest youth organization in the country. Officials say their goal today is the same as it has been for the past 100 years. To always be honest, respectful, and giving individuals.

Jose Cardenas:
Joining me tonight to talk about the Hispanic initiative is Michael De los Santos, director of field Services for the Grand Canyon Council Boy Scouts of America. Thanks for joining us on "Horizonte."

Michael De los Santos:
Thank you.

Jose Cardenas:
Just a quick history of the Boy Scouts.

Michael De los Santos:
The Boy Scouts of America started in 1910. Next year in 2010, we'll be celebrating the hundred years of scouting in the United States of America.

Jose Cardenas:
As I understand it, one of the reasons for this initiative this, outreach to the community, is some declining numbers in terms of people signing up their son force Boy Scouts.

Michael De los Santos:
Correct. We have 3 million members of the Boy Scouts of America right now. About 100,000 of those members are Hispanics. Our goal is to double that number to 200,000 Hispanic scouts.

Jose Cardenas:
By --

Michael De los Santos:
By the year 2010.

Jose Cardenas:
Pretty ambitious.

Michael De los Santos:
It is.

Jose Cardenas:
Where are you so far?

Michael De los Santos:
Currently here in the Phoenix area, the Grand Canyon council, we have probably 50,000 members, and I'd say 10-12% are Hispanics. So we have programs in place, is it a goal we want to achieve, but it's going to take work for us.

Jose Cardenas:
As I understand it, something similar to this was actually initiated about 20 years ago. The scouts had a program to reach out to the minority community. What's going on here? How is this different?

Michael De los Santos:
What we're doing differently here in the Grand Canyon council and what many other councils are doing is previously we had an individual that would go from area to area, starting Cub scout packs, boy scout troops in low-income areas. What we've done now is we've hired individuals to work in those areas rather than somebody floating around from area to area, this one person stays in that area and focuses with this community, the Hispanic population. And what we've done locally is we have 22 field staff that work with 20,000 volunteers and 50,000 kids. So out of those 22, a third of our staff now speaks Spanish.

Jose Cardenas:
And you've developed some innovative approaches in terms of the recruitment effort. Tell us about those.

Michael De los Santos:
One of our newest programs here at the Grand Canyon council, about four years ago we started a scouting and soccer program. Our traditional programs, the laboratory for teaching the boys character, physical fitness, good citizenship was camping, the outdoors, things the kids looked forward to. The Hispanic population, one of the things they enjoy doing is soccer, football, and so football scouts, soccer in scouting is what we initiated here, and currently we have about 1200 kids in the program, and about 75 groups.

Jose Cardenas:
And part of that as I understand is because of the -- what the Boy Scouts consider to be a different cultural value in terms of the involvement of the family. The traditional model, you take boys from their families and you take them into the camping experiences. This is different. You involve the family. How do you do that?

Michael De los Santos:
What we've done is, with the soccer program, we realized that at first we wanted to recruit just the boys. And it was difficult for us because the family comes as a unit to these activities. What we ended up doing, we ended up bringing the girls of the program, the soccer program as well, and what we do is register those girls into our coed program called learning for life. So the girls are registered in our learning for life program and the boys are registered as Cub scouts or Boy Scouts and they play along, and the whole family enjoys the program.

Jose Cardenas:
How would the experience differ for a young boy who is going through the Cub scouts under this program? From going through camping, I assume the badges they earn would be different. How does that come out?

Michael De los Santos:
The rank advancement is the same. A boy in soccer will earn the same things a boy in a traditional program will learn.

Jose Cardenas:
Give me some example.

Michael De los Santos:
The tiger rank, wolf, bear, they are going throughout same activities. What we also do is we're involving Cub Scout packs and Boy Scouts troops to work along with these soccer units to help bring them along and show them the outdoor experiences, day camp, we've had kids go to day camp, we saw that clip earlier. Some of the kids are soccer kids. And they are enjoying the outdoors as well. So it's a transition for the families.

Jose Cardenas:
In terms of the skills they learn, they would be different in the soccer program?

Michael De los Santos:
They are learning the skills of soccer playing in that program. Whereas the boys in our Cub scout program are learning more outdoor skills. But at the same time, they're both learning the character, citizenship, physical fitness, all the things that are traditional programs teach the kids as well.

Jose Cardenas:
You mentioned citizenship; you're referring to an attitude, a mind-set. Speaking specifically about citizenship, as I understand it the Boy Scouts have avoided inquiring as to somebody's legal status in this country when they recruit these kids.

Michael De los Santos:
Exactly. Every boy deserves the Boy Scout program, Cub Scout program. And we don't ask boys their citizenship status when they join the Boy Scouts of America. When they go into the schools, they do not ask that either. So we don't.

Jose Cardenas:
Is that -- has that generated controversy?

Michael De los Santos:
A little bit, but our program continues to grow. And it hasn't affected any of our funding either.

Jose Cardenas:
What do you see as the principle benefit in terms outreach to the Hispanic community here?

Michael De los Santos:
The families and the youth in our population are looking for things to do. Positive things. And what we want to do is give them those opportunities. There's a lot of organizations out there that are reaching out to the Hispanic population that is just growing. 15% of the U.S. population is Hispanic. And it's the fastest growing population out there. So they need programs like the Boy Scouts and other Organizations out there as well.

Jose Cardenas:
We've got the website address on the screen. People can get more information. What's been the reception within the Hispanic community itself?

Michael De los Santos:
The reception has been really well. We went in there with the soccer program, expecting to start developing -- teaching more of the Boy Scouts programs slowly. But that's not what the families want. They want the program, so they've been wanting it and we've been giving it to them quicker than we had expected. And they're eating it up. They really enjoy the Boy Scouts program that we want to offer them.

Jose Cardenas:
What kinds of numbers are you seeing?

Michael De los Santos:
We're at 1200 kids right now, and in the next year we're hoping to double that. We're hiring program aides to work along with these families, so by next year we're hoping to be at 2500 youth in the soccer programs and doubling our 75 units by 150 teens.

Jose Cardenas:
Last question, what are the costs to the families to participate in the program?

Michael De los Santos:
To register with the Boy Scouts of America it's $10 a year. It's a relatively inexpensive. $1.20 for accident insurance. They're looking at $11.20 a year. There's a cost for the uniforms, whether you get the traditional Boy Scouts uniform or soccer uniform. But they are inexpensive, and the boys a lot of times we want to teach them the value of the dollar. So a lot of times we'll help the boys and the families with fund-raisers to help pay for something if they can't aforward it.

Jose Cardenas:
It's a pretty affordability program?

Michael De los Santos:
Yes.

Jose Cardenas:
We're going to have to end the interview on that note. Thank you so much for joining us.

Michael De los Santos:
Thank you.

Michael De los Santos:Director, Field Services,Grand Canyon Council of America;

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