If you read one thing today, make sure it’s this article from The Washington Post

A photo of a plane flying past a National Jamboree sign
BSA photo by Andrew Weitzel

We already know that good things happen when Scouts get together in the great outdoors. After spending a few days at the National Scout Jamboree, a reporter from the fourth-largest daily newspaper in the United States has come to the same conclusion.

Anne Branigin’s recently published story for The Washington Post, under the headline “They lost a piece of girlhood, then reclaimed it in an unlikely place,” with outstanding photographs by Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Michael S. Williamson, is a must-read.

It’s a story about three Scouts of three different ages, each looking to connect with their peers at the Jamboree after disconnecting from nearly everyone during the coronavirus pandemic.

There’s Audrey Perez, a 16-year-old Scout who’s described as “stoic and driven.”

There’s Mia Strouder, a 14-year-old who says she’s struggled to look people in the eye in person after spending so much time communicating with others via screens.

And there’s Lucy Heard, a 13-year-old gymnast who says she struggled to stay on top of her game during the pandemic.

An instant connection

Audrey and Mia met each other at a Jamboree shakedown event earlier this year and immediately struck up a friendship.

They met Lucy at a different shakedown event a few months later.

Branigin’s story does a great job of documenting how the girls forged an instant bond, and how that bond was made even stronger at the Jamboree.

“They were surrounded by more than 10,000 acres of pristine West Virginia woodland: miles and miles of trails, towering zip lines, a laser gun range, a world-class skatepark and giant climbing walls at their disposal,” Branigin writes. “But the most impressive sight at the reserve was the hundreds of tents — orange and blue and gray and brown — crisscrossing the hills in a tight, neat grid.”

Branigin notes that this trio of a girls can serve as a good example of what many youth lost during the pandemic — namely, social skills — and how Scouting has helped them get some of that back.

In many ways, she notes, Scouting has not changed all that much from its original purpose when the movement was formed more than 100 years ago.

“Helping children contend with a rapidly changing world was one of Scouting’s initial missions,” she writes. “It instilled a sense of belonging and identity.”

“Meeting good people”

The article validates another thing I’ve come to believe very strongly during my time at the BSA.

Weekly Scout meetings are great. But if you want to see what Scouting is really about, go on a weekend campout. Go to a Cub Scout day camp. Go to a Scouts BSA summer camp, a council-wide camporee, a BSA National High Adventure Base or, yes, a National Scout Jamboree.

It’s there — when dozens, hundreds, or, in this case, thousands of people gather together under the open skies of the great outdoors — that Scouting truly reveals itself.

“Scouting … helped save the girls from total boredom and staved off loneliness in the pandemic years,” writes Branigin. “What these girls wanted most from their Jamboree experience? Meeting ‘good people.’”

Angelique Minett, national Scouts BSA chair (and host of our own series of Scouts BSA-focused live videos), was also interviewed for the story. Not surprisingly, she hit the nail on the head, too.

“They’re back out in the world, back doing things with their peers,” Minett says. “They’re outside in nature. And we’re reminding them of what it is to be a good human.”

If you enjoyed the article as much as I did, think about sharing it on social media to help spread some positive national news about Scouting.

(Full disclosure: Newspaper paywalls can be tricky. Depending on how many times you’ve clicked on The Post’s website recently, you might be able to read this story for free with no registration required. In some situations, you can read it by creating a free account. You may also be able to start a free seven-day trial, or pay just a few bucks to read this story. I was also able to access it on Apple News.)

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.