In gang-infested neighborhood in California, Scouting offers a way out

Owen-and-momIn Owen’s neighborhood in Los Angeles, violence is so endemic that his street shares its name with a local gang.

But instead of thinking about the safest route home from school or which colors of clothing to avoid, Owen’s mind is on campfires and archery and something called a marble maze.

Owen belongs to a different type of group — one that wears khaki and green. Owen is a Webelos Scout.

The 10-year-old attends Michelle Obama Elementary in Panorama City, Calif., and has been a member of Pack 153 for two years. He benefits from a program the Western Los Angeles County Council refers to as Scoutreach, which means his registration, camp outings and uniform are paid for through donations made to the council.

Without Scouting, Owen says, he’d be “watching TV, playing videogames and maybe bothering my sister.”

But with Scouting in his life, he gets to meet new friends, learn about responsibility, speak in public and meet important people in his community.

Right now, his favorite activity is arts and crafts “because we get to learn and make new things,” he says.

He especially enjoyed something called the marble maze, part of the Marble Madness adventure loop.

In that activity, Owen “got to see how the marbles go in different directions, and we all worked in a team to make this craft,” he says. “Teamwork is important because we all cooperate and give our ideas and work together to accomplish the goal.”

On the right path

Owen’s mom, Adiacne, is beyond thrilled to see Scouting bring her son out of his shell.

“He was shy, very reserved and did not like to socialize with other children,” she says. “He didn’t want to get out of his comfort zone. He also did not want to go to new places with others because he did not know anyone.”

So she enrolled him in Scouting, knowing he would benefit from time spent with other boys his age. Two years in, the results are clear.

“He is more sure of himself,” Adiacne says. “He has more friends, is more sociable. He has surprised me in participating in public speaking, and he wants to engage more with other children.”

And what has surprised her most about the Scouting movement in general?

“I have discovered it’s a way of life. They teach boys values, to have fun and how to have fun, but most importantly to respect others and themselves,” she says. “I like the fact that this organization includes different cultures and ethnicities and gets the family involved, which helps families unite.”

How to help Scouts like Owen

Consider investing in the lives of young people like Owen by making a tax-deductible gift to your local council. Click here to learn more.

Thanks to Maricela Orendain of the Western Los Angeles County Council for the story idea.

About Bryan Wendell 3200 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.