Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Building up Boy Scouts in the urban core

There's a story in this edition of our department's Informant newsletter about the work I and some other officers have been doing off the clock to promote Scouting in the inner city. I really believe this is a great program that could benefit untold young people, so I wanted to share the newsletter article:

Before there was an Ike jacket with four arm bands, there was a sash full of merit badges.

Police Chief James Corwin became a Cub Scout in the 1960s, and now as an executive-level leader in the area’s Boy Scouts of America council, he’s trying to get more urban-core boys involved in scouting. He’s an executive director for the Boy Scouts of America’s Heart of America Council as chair of the Urban Scouting Committee.

“It’s a proven program with a solid values system,” said Chief Corwin, himself an Eagle Scout.

Chief Corwin said many children could benefit from the leadership skills taught in Boy Scouts. Which is why he wants to expand the program in a place that tends to be under-served: the inner city. To do so, he wanted to do a brainstorming session with former urban Scouts and current urban Scout troop leaders. Luckily, he knew just where to look.

“KCPD has many, many people who have been involved in troops in the urban core, both as children and as adult leaders,” Chief Corwin said.

He called them all together on meetings March 24 and 25 to discuss what urban scouting programs are getting right and where they need to improve. Twenty officers and commanders showed up to these meetings and came up with a variety of ideas. First, they identified the barriers that prevent inner-city kids from participating in Scouts – things like transportation, a lack of volunteers, and little funds for things like uniforms and camping trips.

“We also discussed that the traditional Monday night Scout meeting may not work for people like single moms,” Chief Corwin said. “A lot of problems all scout programs have are exaggerated in the urban core.”

The Boy Scouts’ Scoutreach program provides after-school activities and meetings for Cub Scouts, and Chief Corwin said that’s a model Kansas City’s urban troops could convert to.

He said he’s also concerned about what will happen when the Kansas City Missouri School District moves forward with closing nearly half its schools this year, several of which sponsor Boy Scout troops. One possible solution he and the group of scouting cops came up with: have KCPD patrol stations sponsor those troops instead. The stations could provide meeting space, and the officers could provide volunteers. The group also is looking at recruiting retirees and community members to volunteer. He said a partnership involving a large number of Leawood, Kan.-based Eagle Scouts coming to mentor and assist troops in the inner city also is showing signs of success.

Another program Chief Corwin hopes will reinvigorate urban scouting is the Explorers program. Sponsored by Boy Scouts, Explorers offers teenagers a chance to get police training and volunteer alongside officers. KCPD used to have an Explorers program, and Chief Corwin said efforts are underway to resurrect it.

Chief Corwin plans to take the Police Department’s ideas to the Urban Scouting Committee next month, followed by a full presentation to the Heart of America Council.

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