In Venturing, young people write their own stories.
That’s true at the crew level, where the youth (not the adults) plan weekend and weeklong adventures. It’s true at the national level, where the six young people on the National Venturing Officers’ Association make decisions that affect the program’s future.
And it’s quite literally true in the Venturing Newsletter, a digital publication created, written and designed by Venturers themselves.
With the quarterly Venturing Newsletter celebrating the release of its sixth issue this month, I thought it would be the ideal time to contact the team behind this youth-created publication.
Nicole Steele is editor-in-chief and Venturing’s national publications lead. She’s a member of Crew 616 of Irvine, Calif., and a first-year student at Biola University in Southern California.
After exploring the Venturing Newsletter’s impressive design and inviting writing, I was surprised to learn that Nicole’s editorial team consists of just one other member: Jonathan Bergler, a Venturer in Crew 616, a high school senior and a self-taught graphic designer.
“I’ve been asked many times if we hired a professional,” Nicole says. “Arguably the best part of our newsletter is how much the layout draws readers in, and all credit has to be given to Jonathan.”
So how did the Venturing Newsletter begin? How has Venturing helped shape Nicole’s future? And how does a super-busy college student have time to devote so much of her life to this unpaid endeavor?
We talked with Nicole to find out.
How it started
In 2019, members of the National Venturing Committee were looking for new channels to get information out to Venturers. They wanted to tell everyone — past, current and future Venturers — about all the amazing things happening in the program.
One adult volunteer, Tanadet Itsarapakdetam, proposed the idea of a newsletter.
Itsarapakdetam asked Nicole to lead the effort. She accepted, as long as she could find someone else to do the design.
“I’m more confident in the writing, editing and managing aspect of newsletters, so it was much to my relief that I was told I could have another Venturer in charge of layout,” she says. “Jonathan’s stellar work took the Venturing Newsletter to a level I would have never dreamed possible.”
While theirs are the only two names on the newsletter’s masthead — right above Nicole’s editor’s note — Nicole makes it clear that there are many more people involved.
Each edition consists of articles highlighting an array of topics relating to Venturers, such as service, outdoor adventure and leadership.
Nicole writes some of the stories, but most are penned by current Venturers, Venturing alumni or adult Advisors.
“I think it’s really important for readers to hear different voices that may influence or relate to their Venturing journey in different ways,” Nicole says.
Once each issue is finished, the National Venturing Committee takes a look and suggests revisions. Other than that, it’s the Nicole and Jonathan show.
“One of the unique aspects of Venturing is how youth-run it is throughout the whole program,” Nicole says. “The hands-on leadership experience youth get in various positions allows them to shape this program into one that serves their passions. The newsletter is just one facet of this goal.”
‘Reluctant to join,’ but then …
Given Nicole’s success in the program, it might surprise readers to know that she wasn’t sold on Venturing at first.
“My dad was a crew Advisor, and my sister was an active Venturer,” Nicole says. “They forced me to tag along to an event before I turned 14. I had a miserable time.”
A shy 13-year-old at the time, Nicole says hiking with her older sister’s friends didn’t help her come out of her shell.
“I didn’t say a single word that entire hike,” she says.
Once she was old enough to join, Nicole was willing to give Venturing another chance. She loves the outdoors, so she figured the program would unlock exciting adventures and introduce her to others who shared her passion for exploration.
“I don’t regret it for a second,” she says. “The Venturers I have met across the country have become some of my best friends.”
And what happened to that shy Nicole?
“Now my crew definitely wishes I would go back to being quieter sometimes,” she says.
A master multitasker
In Scouts, young people learn by doing.
That’s how Nicole learned the skills she uses when producing an issue of the Venturing Newsletter.
In 2017, she was elected vice president of communication for her area’s Venturing Officers’ Association, where she learned on the job how to run social media, create presentations and send out emails people will actually open.
“Though I do thoroughly cringe when looking back at the newsletters I designed,” she says, “this experience is actually what made me become passionate about public relations, which is my current major.”
In addition to her full courseload at Biola University, Nicole is a member of the dance team and the university’s student-run public relations agency. She’s a black belt in karate, spends time with her family and is active in her church.
And somehow, she has found time to dedicate more than 100 hours to each edition of the Venturing Newsletter. That’s like doing an Eagle Scout service project three times a year, every year.
(Jonathan, the designer, couldn’t even estimate how much time he puts in. “Let’s just say it’s a lot,” Nicole says.)
“If you’re passionate about something, you’ll find the time,” Nicole says. “The biggest key for me is making sure I spread out my workload instead of trying to do it all at once.”
So what’s next after Nicole’s time at Biola and as a youth in Venturing is over?
“While I’m not sure what exactly I want to do after college, I am certain that I want to go into some sort of public relations role,” she says. “My time as editor-in-chief has assured me that this is the right field for me.”
Venturers, this one’s for you
Nicole asked me to share with readers that the Venturing Newsletter is both for them and by them.
If you have story ideas or want to help with writing, designing or photography in a future issue, email firstname.lastname@example.org to get connected.
To read the Winter 2021 issue, go here.