Visit with Scouts inspires Indiana Secretary of Education to offer strong endorsement

Photo of Katie Jenner courtesy of the Indiana Department of Education; photo of Scouts courtesy of the Crossroads of America Council.

Last December’s Governor’s Luncheon for Scouting, an annual fundraising event hosted by the Crossroads of America Council, was an unqualified success, raising more than $1.2 million that will go toward offsetting the costs of providing Scouting’s programs to more than 26,000 youth in Central Indiana.

It was the 26th annual Governor’s Luncheon, and the 26th straight year that Indiana’s governor has made an appearance. (When former governor Mitch Daniels spoke at the event a decade or so ago, he half-joked that appearing there was one of the first things he was told would be required of him as the state’s governor.)

But something additional came from the most recent fundraiser that benefitted Scouting well beyond the council’s borders, and well beyond the dollars raised.

It started with a simple visit by the council’s Scout Executive to the office of Dr. Katie Jenner, the Indiana Secretary of Education. It ended with Jenner attending the luncheon and coming away so impressed that she — unprompted — included a stirring endorsement of Scouting in her Indiana Department of Education email that went to every school corporation in the state of Indiana.

Photo courtesy of the Crossroads of America Council.

What she wrote

“I had the opportunity to attend the 26th annual Governor’s Luncheon for Scouting, which recognizes the significant impact that the Boy Scouts of America has on our students,” Jenner wrote in her February 11 bulletin. “Through hands-on experiences, Scouts develop important skills such as collaboration, work ethic, civic engagement and leadership.”

Jenner went on to describe her meeting with Xavier Ntamere, a junior at Shortridge High School in the Indianapolis Public Schools district, and a Life Scout who at the time had just completed his Eagle Scout service project.

“For his Eagle Scout project, Xavier built the ‘Rites of Passage’ bridge at Jameson Camp in Indianapolis,” Jenner wrote. “In addition to his love of community, through Scouting, Xavier also discovered his love of swimming.

“Putting those passions into practice, Xavier helped his fellow troop members pass the BSA swim test and later founded his high school swim team, allowing future generations of students to learn this sport as well.”

Jenner included in the email a picture of herself with Xavier, along with an image of Xavier’s Order of the Arrow nametag and a picture of Xavier speaking at the event.

Gov. Holcomb greets Xavier Ntamere, who told the audience about his Eagle Scout project and how Scouting helped him develop a passion for swimming. Photo courtesy of the Crossroads of America Council.

A great partnership between councils and schools

Jenner’s invitation to the event came after a visit to her office earlier last year by Crossroads of America Council Scout Executive Joe Wiltrout.

Wiltrout was checking in with Jenner to discuss the newly passed state law that gives the BSA (and other qualifying institutions) the legal right to visit each school once per year to provide students information about Scouting.

Senate Enrolled Act 398, introduced in March 2020 and lobbied for by all eight BSA councils in Indiana, recognizes a list of youth-serving patriotic organizations as important partners in Indiana’s official state education curriculum.

In short, it means that when an organization on the list contacts a school district, the public schools within the district have to work with the organization to pick a date for a representative from the organization to visit each school. Then, the organization has to opportunity to provide oral and written information about its program to students.

“When school systems and Scouting collaborate, we strengthen each other through leadership, character development, and life skills training,” says Crossroads of America Council Vice President of Communications Leslie Hurst.

In addition to the BSA, organizations on the list include the American Legion, Future Farmers of America, Boys and Girls Club of America and Big Brothers-Big Sisters of America.

“By forging relationships throughout our community,” says Crossroads of America Council Board Member and Indiana State Senator Jeffrey Raatz, “Hoosier schools will be stronger, and our students better prepared for their future as well-informed citizens.”

Volunteers show off a classic Cub Scout Pinewood Derby race. Photo courtesy of the Crossroads of America Council.

Football game-type enthusiasm

The most recent Governor’s Luncheon was at Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. The event has outgrown its previous homes, which included large banquet halls, giant meeting rooms and even the facility previously known as Bankers Life Fieldhouse (now known as Gainbridge Fieldhouse), the home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and the WNBA’s Indiana Fever.

The council got permission to use the Colts’ own giant inflatables, which a hundred or so Scouts enthusiastically ran through, just like NFL players do before each game.

In one end zone, a group of volunteers set up a trade show-like display to show off all that Scouting can offer a community — a Pinewood Derby race here, a camping setup there.

Of course, current Indiana governor Eric Holcomb was there, as was Steve Campbell, the Colts vice president of communications, and Deana Haworth, the COO at Hirons, an Indianapolis-based ad agency.

Gov. Holcomb, back row center, stands with the Scouts. Photo courtesy of the Crossroads of America Council.

Scouting’s best ambassadors

But, as is often the case, the best spokesperson for Scouting is a Scout, and it was Xavier, this year’s featured Scout, who apparently left the biggest mark on Jenner.

Xavier, who has dual BSA memberships with Troop 199 in the Crossroads of America Council and Troop 534 in the Pathway to Adventure Council, inspired everyone with stories of his time in Scouting.

“I have learned five major lessons since joining Scouting,” Xavier told the crowd of more than 1,300. “Lesson No. 1: Scouting is the joy of surviving in the cold next to a fire while burning your marshmallows. Lesson No. 2: It’s not about you; it’s about who you bring along.

“Lesson No. 3: Don’t wait on anybody to give you the answer. Go get it yourself. Lesson No. 4: Be persistent, until you get what you came for.

“And, lesson No. 5: It’s not about the destination, but the journey.”

You can watch the Crossroads of America Council’s video of the 26th Annual Governor’s Luncheon for Scouting below.

Xavier Ntamere speaks to the crowd at the 26th Annual Governor’s Luncheon for Scouting. Photo courtesy of the Crossroads of America Council.

About Aaron Derr 468 Articles
Aaron Derr is the senior editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines, and also a former Cubmaster and Scouts BSA volunteer.