YMCA after-school program takes Boy Scouting to children

  • Posted: Tuesday, December 31, 2013 1:49 a.m.
Tonya Simpson, a Boy Scout program aide, helps Hanford Dole second-grader Gersan Gamez locate another country celebrating Christmas during the YMCA after-school Scouting program.
Tonya Simpson, a Boy Scout program aide, helps Hanford Dole second-grader Gersan Gamez locate another country celebrating Christmas during the YMCA after-school Scouting program.

The Scouting program in Rowan County has garnered a high reputation in the community and helped many youths become better citizens and individuals. However, there are still many youths who, for a number of reasons, cannot participate in traditional Scouting unit.

Whether because of transportation, time or finances, these youths would normally not have the opportunity to participate in a youth program.

Thanks to a partnership between the Central N.C. Council, Boy Scouts of America, and the YMCA of Rowan County, at-risk or underprivileged youth have that opportunity to become a Scout.

Through financial support from the United Way of Rowan County, the Boy Scouts and YMCA are able to offer an after-school program in Rowan-Salisbury elementary schools that incorporates aspects of Scouting’s skill- and character-development program.

Each month, the boys enrolled in the after-school program meet with program aide Tonya Simpson and participate in activities centered on a particular theme. During December, the boys learned about the similarities and differences in Christmas traditions across the world. The boys also used inflatable globes to point out where those celebrations take place. For example, second-grader Gersan Gamez from Hanford Dole Elementary learned the Italian version of Santa Claus is female.

Earlier this year, students constructed Pinewood Derby race cars and raced against one another before school dismissed for the summer.

Simpson explained the boys become really excited when she comes to visit, often saying, “The Boy Scouts are here!” upon her arrival.

Not only does the program help with knowledge, but also promoting positive behavior. Simpson recalled how one student, diagnosed with severe ADHD, told her “thank you” after Simpson gave students a sucker as reward for one of their activities. Simpson explained the student previously had frequent episodes of acting out in class, so his and other students’ involvement with the after-school program has helped with in-class behavior.

Simpson said several activities promote teamwork and cooperation, which students might not otherwise experience.

Following the inflatable globe activity, the boys worked in a team relay to see who could be the first team to put on and take off an elf outfit, complete with festive stocking cap.

Amanda Marshall, an after-school counselor for the Rowan County YMCA, has been involved with the program for about one year and has noticed how the program can help parents identify and direct their children’s energies toward their interests.

Colton Paxton, another after-school counselor and former Scout, recalled how his involvement in Scouting’s outdoor program, including camping and geology, helped develop a hobby in blacksmithing.

Sarah Zander, director for the Saleeby-Fisher East Rowan YMCA branch, said her organization would normally be unable to dedicate the staff or volunteers to undertake such a program, but thanks to the Boy Scouts and the United Way, the YMCA is able to offer this program to local students.

Zander, whose son is an Eagle Scout, said this program allows more boys the opportunity to become a part of the Scouting movement when their parents or family members might not be able to transport them to and from normal meetings.

Several after-school Scouts have enjoyed their experience so much that they have since joined a more traditional Scout unit. As interest in the program continues to grow and support is available, the Boy Scouts and YMCA look forward to continuing to serve our community through this after-school Scouting program.

For more information regarding the YMCA after-school Scouting program, contact your local branch YMCA or contact BSA District Executive John Barden at 704-982-0141, x252 or john.barden@scouting.org.

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