Country Corner

Kids: Get off the tablet, get involved

It’s a story that all too often ends tragically. Sisters, ages 5 and 8, went missing for nearly two days. This time, however, the story had a happy ending. The girls were found, safe but scared, in the woods not far from their rural home in California state. The family credits 4-H wilderness training for their survival.It’s a story that all too often ends tragically. Sisters, ages 5 and 8, went missing for nearly two days. This time, however, the story had a happy ending. The girls were found, safe but scared, in the woods not far from their rural home in California state. The family credits 4-H wilderness training for their survival.

To me, this story reinforces the importance of youth organizations such as 4-H. Our kids are just getting to 4-H age, and we will certainly encourage them to consider joining. They’re already involved in Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, which also provide excellent character-building opportunities. Such youth programs are desperately needed for this generation. They won’t learn how to survive 44 hours in the wilderness by keeping their noses buried in a smartphone, tablet or video game.

I know a lot of kids are involved in sports, and that’s great, too. But youth-development organizations offer many more life lessons than athletics can provide. My first exposure to Scouting came from my younger brother, who worked hard to earn his Eagle Scout rank, the highest honor a Boy Scout can achieve. My husband did the same, earning his Eagle at age 13, and he is now Cubmaster for our local pack. No matter what they’ve achieved since then, both say that award is one of the only things they will keep on their resume for life. 

Our oldest son, Aiden, has been in Cub Scouts since he was first eligible at age 7. Our youngest, Ashlyn, has been in Girl Scouts for two years. And our middle child, Carly, decided to switch from Girl Scouts to Cub Scouts after the traditionally boys-only organization began accepting girls in 2018. She and her sister had tagged along with Aiden on scouting events, and Carly’s reason for wanting to be one of the first girls to join the pack was simple: “I like what they do in Cub Scouts.”

What they do includes camping, fishing, boating, hiking, building Pinewood Derby cars and racing Cubmobiles. The girls and boys learn how to tie knots, use a pocketknife, fold a flag, put up a tent, cook meals and clean up after themselves. They do community-service projects, raise funds for their pack and learn about local government.

But these youth programs are so much more than what they “do.” They promote responsibility, respect, citizenship, work ethic, independence, courage and kindness. Scouts are prepared. Scouts are helpful. Scouts are moral. And Scouts are constantly working toward goals and learning how to face challenges. 

None of those life skills are gender specific, which is one reason Boy Scouts of America officially changed the name of its main program to Scouts BSA and began welcoming young women this February. Instead of participating unofficially with their brothers, girls can now work toward earning the same badges and ranks, including Eagle Scout, which can open future opportunities. Yes, it looks pretty darn good on a resume.

The inclusiveness of Scouts is one of my favorite aspects. Unlike sports, you don’t have to be the fastest, strongest or most athletic. Our local groups include kids with autism, ADHD, physical disabilities and broken homes. In Scouts, they are no different than anyone else. They compete and learn and play and participate alongside the other kids.

I also appreciate the community spirit. Last month alone, our Cub Scouts collected donations for the local food bank and served meals at our town’s soup kitchen. Our Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts have visited nursing homes, sent heartfelt cards to veterans and children’s hospitals and participated in parades.

What does any of this have to do with agriculture? Well, the BSA has included agriculture-related projects since its inception. Merit badges are offered in such areas as conservation, forestry, animal science, farm mechanics, gardening, insects, plant science, sustainability and veterinary medicine. That’s not to mention skills in engineering, electricity, weather and welding—all of which complement agricultural interests.

But the bigger picture is that Scouts and other youth organizations can provide leadership development and life skills that are beneficial to all of us. They’re helping to prepare the next generation to enter society and the work force—agricultural and otherwise. We need to instill more young people with the values these programs promote.

Look for ways to support youth organizations in your community, whether it’s 4-H, FFA, Scouts orwhether it’s 4-H, FFA, Scouts orothers. It’s not just about buyingcookies and popcorn. What they need most is your time or assistance. And encourage young people to turn off their tablets, phones and videogames and get involved. The benefits will last a lifetime.

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