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For the next 10 days, 15,000 scouts from around the country will camp out in the wooded hills and hollows of Fayette County. The action-packed 2023 National Scouting Jamboree takes youth development and diversity to a whole new level.
Entering the park, visitors can hear “swooshes” from five multi-strung zip lines stretching more than a half-mile over the nearly 11,000 acre Summit Bechtel Reserve. Dubbed “the adventure of a lifetime,” scouts can skateboard and scuba dive, there’s archery and shooting ranges, fishing, rock climbing, disc golf.
Fourteen-year-old Steven Belk, from Troop 3239 in Virginia, said, “there’s never nothing that’s not to do here.”
“This is just a good time to be a scout,” Belk said. “They’re just trying to involve people from all aspects of life, say like zip lines. BMX biking, a bunch of fun stuff, and we learn stuff, too.”
In 2019, the Boy Scouts of America expanded to Scouts BSA, opening up its ranks to female members. This year is the first National Jamboree to include female participants.
Fourteen-year-old Ruth Olsen, from a co-ed troop in Utah, said “it’s about time.”
“I think it’s good that girls have the same opportunities as boys,” Olsen said. “I think girls are a lot more capable than people think we are.”
California Scout Leader Andrew Blessum is sharing living history at a 1910 mock up of America’s first scout camp. Even though there are 13 cell towers and more than 250 Wi-Fi hot spots spread out over the camp’s 16 square miles, Blessum said the initial pledge of scouting as a value based organization hasn’t changed in more than a century.
“I believe the things that we still have at the core of scouting are outdoor living and character development,” Blessum said. “One of the founders himself, Luther Gulick of the YMCA, actually preaches that mankind is not complete without physical, mental and spiritual symmetry. And that itself is really the basis of our scout oath.”
The scouts camp in tents and cook their own food. Scout Aaron Anderson, from an all-female troop in Charleston, South Carolina, said the leadership and practical life skills scouting teaches help kids succeed.
“A lot of those things that we learn in our leadership programs I use in my daily life,” Anderson said. “I use it at school for interviews and things like that. A lot of us have been in situations where we’ve had training in emergency first aid and to be able to help people in emergencies. We know these skills and we can take them out and use them in the real world.”
And then, there’s 13-year-old, First Class Scout Max Dehnke from Milan, Illinois. Dehnke was enjoying hanging out at the busy scout patch trading tables and shared his reason for becoming a Boy Scout.
“My parents said, ‘Max, you need to do something.’ I’m like, sports? Or – I have all my friends in this big group thingy where you go camping and get pocket knives. So it was a no brainer. Boy Scouts,” he said.
A “no brainer” at the National Scouting Jamboree that enriches brain and brawn.