Over the past year or so, I've become increasingly involved in my son's Boy Scout troop. I know the Boy Scouts get some bad raps sometimes, but I'm so happy my son's involved in the Scouts.
I've seen a bunch of pretty cool boys get the chance to try their hand at leading others (anyone who's been promoted into a role in which they manage their peers knows it can be tough - imagine what it's like for a 15-year-old!).
I've seen boys who get a ration of abuse at school because scouting isn't cool, but refuse to cave in. I've seen boys push through life challenges (family issues, sport / job / girl pressures, learning disabilities) and hang in there until they become Eagle scouts.
These boys help people - I've worked beside them during grueling community service projects I know I'd have bailed on when I was in high school. They participate in food drives, and other activities to benefit the less fortunate.
Some of these kids will be impressive leaders because of the skills they develop in the Scouts, and I've seen some of them deliver presentations that gave me goosebumps. One year, I spent some time at one of the summer camps and couldn't believe the professionalism and skill with which 17 and 18 year old camp staffers handled rowdy groups of young scouts.
Of course, they also have fun. My son and I will be going on a snow tubing overnighter on Mt. Hood this weekend, which should be a blast.
I mentioned I've been getting more involved - last week, I decided to get Scout leader training so I could be an Assistant Scoutmaster and "officially" help the Troop (I was impressed with the training, particularly the emphasis on Youth Protection practices to keep the kids safe).
Where am I going with all this? Well, I would just like to encourage you to consider supporting the Scouts (Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, I'm not picky) any way you can - the Scouting programs are so good for kids. To help out with financial support, contact your local Scout council and find out about becoming a "Friends of Scouting" donor.
Oh - and the GTD merit badge? The boys involved in scouting learn a lot about balancing the conflicting priorities of home, school, friends, church, and adolescence. They earn merit badges, rank advancements, and help with service projects, but still keep it together enough to get good grades in school, participate in sports, and have a social life. Pretty cool stuff (Yet another reason I wish I'd gotten into it more when I was their age!)