We’ve proven that Scouting can help you get into college and shared how to include Scouting experience on a college application.
But the benefits don’t end once a Scout gets that “You’re in!” text message. Scouting experience can also be the ultimate icebreaker once they arrive at college, allowing them to find “their people” — a group of peers who share their passion for exploring the outdoors, trying new things and helping other people at all times.
That’s certainly the case in a student organization at Georgia Tech that brings together a group of young people to go camping, help local packs and troops, and serve their community. The group, which has about 30 active members, is open to Georgia Tech students of any gender and with any level of Scouting experience.
Its president is Kaushal Gokare, a 19-year-old aerospace engineering major who became an Eagle Scout in Troop 69 of Alpharetta, Ga., part of the Atlanta Area Council.
“Coming to Georgia Tech, I knew I would be surrounded by some super people, and I figured joining a club with mostly all Eagle Scouts would be an excellent way to meet some of the best mentors, leaders and friends on campus,” Gokare says. “Also, I was kind of sad to just suddenly leave the Scouting program after being so involved with it for basically as long as I can remember. I figured this group would be a way to stay connected with Scouting in a unique way.”
Before the start of the fall 2020 semester, the group was known as Eagles@GT and composed entirely of Eagle Scouts.
That changed in August when members decided to expand their reach, welcoming anyone who wanted to join. The club is still about 70% Eagle Scouts, including one member of the Inaugural Class of Female Eagle Scouts recognized last month.
But they’re seeing more interest from Georgia Tech students who were never in Scouting.
“I personally think this is a great thing,” Gokare says. “This adds new diversity and perspective to our group.”
Growing the cause
That such a group would appeal to those without a Scouting background isn’t a huge surprise. Scouting promotes independence, fosters exploration and gives young people a chance to make a difference — all things that are important to today’s college students.
“Honestly, the club speaks for itself,” Gokare says. “The bigger issue is simply letting people know we exist.”
That means partnerships with other clubs, freshman workshops, virtual club fairs and word of mouth.
But Gokare knows the club still has a long way to grow. Undergraduate enrollment at the Georgia Institute of Technology is almost 16,000, meaning there are plenty of white-and-gold-wearing students who would enjoy being a part of this group.
That includes Gokare’s fellow Scouting alumni who, like him, “feel a personalized connection to Scouting.”
“I think that’s probably true for most college Eagle Scouts. They had a very unique reason for being in Scouting: maybe it was that they got to better connect with their community and become a better citizen, maybe it was the friends in their patrols, maybe it was the mentors they had, maybe it was what they learned from merit badges or maybe it was just the fun places they visited,” he says. “In my opinion, no matter the reason you were a Scout, do your best not to lose sight of that in college.”
Making memories — safely
There are 168 hours in a week, and college students try to get the most out of every last one. That makes the best growth strategy for any college club pretty simple: prove to students that membership is worth their time.
For his club, Gokare can point to a list of exciting, personally fulfilling activities members have enjoyed over the past year, including camping trips, club outings and service projects.
During the pandemic, those activities are planned through virtual meetings. But most of the events themselves are held in person.
Being part of a college campus community means that Gokare and his fellow club members have access to Georgia Tech’s expansive COVID testing program, where students are tested at regular intervals. Members have layered their own virus-prevention measures on top of their school’s protocols. (They have been following guidelines much like the BSA’s own COVID safety measures.)
“Most recently, we went backpacking, and everyone on the trip tented separately, wore masks, and had to test negative twice the week before the trip and once after,” Gokare says.
In addition to backpacking, the club has:
- Held virtual merit badge clinics for the Composite Materials and Scholarship merit badges.
- Hosted a “Welcome to the 404: Culture of Atlanta” workshop for incoming freshmen that had more than 60 attendees.
- Volunteered at the local Venturing Officers’ Association Aquafest event.
- Partnered with Georgia Tech’s Facilities department to rid the campus of invasive species. “This is an exciting project because you can literally see the difference the members are making,” Gokare says.
- Volunteered at the Atlanta Area Council’s Cub Scout Spooky-Ree in October.
- Offered an Engineering merit badge clinic.
- Partnered with other service organizations to deliver meals to vulnerable populations during the pandemic.
Remembering your passion
Gokare encourages his fellow college-age Scouts to identify the parts of Scouting that they enjoyed most and find a way to continue doing that in college.
He welcomes anyone who wants to learn more about his club to contact the group by emailing scoutingatgt (at) gmail (dot) com.
“I’m not saying everyone has to become a merit badge counselor like we do in our club,” he says. “I’m just saying that everyone should take the ideals of Scouting that resonated with them, and they should share it with others in whatever way possible, whether that be community work, mentorship, education or outdoorsmanship.”