Attendees share stories of personal growth from the conference that equipped them to welcome all Scouts and Scouters

Credit: Roger Morgan Camp Perry

Eliminating barriers to joining Scouting and welcoming all the kinds of families who make up our communities should be a priority for every Scouter. Luckily, that’s what the Opening Doors course at Philmont Training Center is all about.

In its fourth year, the course runs June 16–22, 2024, and is set against a backdrop iconic in the storied legacy of Scouting. Another kind of beauty lies in the dimension the course brings in representing how the BSA has evolved to continue to serve youth of every kind and background.

That evolution is born from training like Opening Doors, as Scouters provide continued accountability to help each other move forward and grow in their ability to better serve young people.

But don’t take our word for it. Check out the course registration page and read on to hear from past attendees in their own words. They speak for themselves.

Colleen Lewy, adult leader of girls’ Troop 5376, Cascade Pacific Council

The first time I ever went camping was with my two young sons at a family campout through my oldest’s Cub Scout pack. I borrowed everything, including the giant sleeping bags that probably came from the 80’s (they certainly smelled that way). Caring friends showed us how to set up the tent and helped us move the tarp so it didn’t peek out from underneath it. They also took the time to explain why and didn’t make me feel stupid for not knowing. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be the beginning of many, many camping experiences and they only happened because we had support and encouragement.

Support and encouragement really are the “secret sauce” between staying in Scouting and leaving. But, how do we best support people who come from different backgrounds, ethnicities and experiences so that they feel valued and wanted in our program?

One place to start is by attending Opening Doors: Women, Mentors, and Allies at Philmont Scout Ranch. I attended last summer and the course materials, the frank conversations and the new friendships have been invaluable to me. I reference many of the topics regularly as I mentor the generation behind me. If you would like more tools in your toolbox to ensure that Scouting really is for everyone, this course is for you!

Serica Maiers, Membership Specialist, Mid-Iowa Council

As a professional Scouter, I have implemented lessons learned at this conference throughout my Scouting career. Post-conference, I was empowered to stand in front of a United Way defense hearing and confidently correct misconceptions about the BSA. That year, we increased our United Way grant by 10%.

I gained new methods to approach our recruiting efforts to break down barriers for families signing up. We explored why families were not signing up at recruitment night events, reasons why families were not attending recruitment nights and once recruited, why families did not stay for longer than one year. 

Over the last year, I have conceptualized a new plan to create, grow and retain new units. In one year, I have been able to start eight new packs with at least 20 youth and two new troops. Plans are underway for an additional four packs by the end of 2024, with two serving Scouts in the languages of their communities: Spanish and Marshallese.

With the immense personal and professional growth I achieved from the 2021 conference, I returned in 2023 as a life-long learner. I am honored to be asked to serve on the staff for Opening Doors in 2024. I am excited to share my knowledge and excitement for the future of Scouting by spreading the message that Scouting is for everyone, everywhere.

Dan Walters, Immediate Past President, Golden Gate Area Council

The Opening Doors seminar was enlightening. What I heard from the participants was not grievance, but rather genuine excitement about the role they play in delivering Scouting to our youth. They were able to articulate the unique challenges faced by women in our Movement and discuss methods for overcoming those challenges.

As a male attendee, I was able to better understand how to encourage and support the many talented women in Scouting. What I learned can be easily applied in support of any Scouter seeking to share their talents.

So is the Opening Doors course for you?

If you’re a Scouting volunteer — man or woman — who serves youth and works with other Scout leaders, there is a seat with your name on it at this conference. All you have to do is sign up.

Check out the course’s Facebook group, where you can learn more from conference organizers and past attendees. Then, register for the June 16–22 course and learn more on the registration page.

About Gina Circelli 51 Articles
Gina Circelli is the senior digital editor for Scout Life. She loves sharing news about Scouts who shake up pop culture or contribute to their communities in big ways.