BY JEANETTE LENOIR
The local Boy Scouts of America Troops need a few good volunteers. The local council, specifically Troop 21, was formed in 2008 by former BSA Council President, Ricardo Fernando “Rick” Rosero. They serve local at-risk youths, many of whom are new immigrants and refugees from war torn countries that now call Central New York home.
Following a two-year sabbatical after retiring as council president, Rosero said, “I came back and asked them to send me to a place where there were no troops. And they said Donovan Middle School needs a troop. So, I said fine and I went there.” Troop 21 started with just a few scouts but quickly grew to include more local students taking part in the after school meetings. “It started with three, and then six and ten, and as time went by another volunteer came out to assist me. That’s how it all started,” Rosero said.
Today the local BSA collectively serves about 50 scouts in Troop 21, 101 and 316 with many success stories from those who joined in 2008 that have gone on to lead successful lives. “Everybody graduates from high school. Those that are eligible can go to college or go into a training program. We really stress that as the young fellas get older. This is something we’re pushing all the time,” Rosero says. The idea of going to college after high school is not necessarily a good option or fit for some of the scouts and Rosero says that’s not a bad thing, especially when they have other options, such as training programs, that can help them lead successful lives. He says his message to the troop is, “When you graduate from high school you need further training, whether you go through the college route, or the crafts route. You can be a Plummer or Electrician, or whatever will help you because you definitely need training for the future.” In the 9-years of serving local at-risk youths, Rosero says that the program has been tremendously successful as he points out that not a single one of his scouts have had any dealings with law enforcement or have gotten themselves into trouble. “No problems whatsoever. I can categorically say that,” he adds.
And, he wants to keep it that way. Rosero says BSA Troop 21 needs the community’s support in many ways but the most effective way is through volunteering. “The more young men we can help, the better. There are a lot of kids out there. When you start to look at statistics and demographics there are programs out there that actually work, but nothing works unless you have volunteers. If you don’t have people out there in the streets and helping and participating, it’s all rhetoric,” he said.
Although the program started at Donovan Middle School, Troop 21 serves young men from all parts of the city of Utica and beyond. “That’s why we do a lot of driving around,” he says. The small number of volunteers and BSA leaders are tasked with picking up and dropping off the scouts, which amounts to a lot of driving during the week. They also go on camping trips, swimming lessons and take part in a host of other BSA activities, making it more and more difficult to meet the needs of these at-risk youths. Troop 21 could also use a van to help with their transportation efforts; however, Rosero says although funding is important, the greatest need is volunteerism. He says, “Unfortunately, I find that a lot of adults…they read the papers, they see what’s going on around them and they’re assuming someone else is going to pick up the pace and volunteer, and they don’t have to. I rather people keep their money, and give us their time.”
There have been some significant changes taking place within the BSA in the last few years. In 2015, after coming under tremendous pressure and criticism, the organization moved to accept gay scout leaders and youths. And more recently an announcement from BSA Chief Scout Executive Michael Surbaugh effectively changed the organizations position on eligibility and participation for the transgender community. However, these momentous changes will not be applied across the board. The local BSA troop is funded by Utica’s Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and according to BSA policy; each sponsoring organization dictates the policy each troop must abide by. Rosero said, “I just read about it the other day and it wouldn’t be a problem in our troop because Our Lady of Lourdes Church dictates to us any policy. For example, their policy as a church would never allow homosexual leadership or members. I don’t make the decision our sponsoring organization makes the decision.” Rosero says he has not dealt with his troop members facing a similar LGBTQ issue.
Those interested in supporting BSA Troop 21, 101 and 316 can do so by visiting their website: www.leatherstockingcouncil.org or by calling (315) 735-4437. Despite all the politics and changes taking place within the BSA, it truly is inspiring to hear and witness what these young men are doing to improve their lives and the community they call home. These young people are not lost to video games, or other modern avenues that can lead to a less productive life. They’re learning and growing as organically as possible in an increasingly changing world thanks to what the BSA instills in them; character and leadership. But, without volunteers and the support from parents and their community, these fundamental and important goals will become increasingly harder to achieve. CNY, and especially Utica, can’t afford to lose another generation of young men to the perils of an impoverished community. There is hope. You can see it in the outcome and eyes of those directly impacted by BSA Troop 21. Scouting works, and research proves that.