Wauwatosa News Times


Sticking with Scouting  -  Area Teens Stay Committed to Troop


Feb 02, 2002


Eagle Scout Ryan Parkinson, now 18 and a senior at Wauwatosa East High School, said he shunned the pressure to drop out of scouting when he hit middle school.

Parkinson had joined scouts as a first-grader at Lincoln Elementary School.

“There is this big pressure to drop out from people who aren’t init,” Parkinson said.   “There is this stereotypical Dudley Do-Right image associated with scouting, and while scouting teaches respect and leadership, it has given me endless opportunities, beyond what I could have otherwise had.  I am glad I stuck with it.”

Parkinson has backpacked out of state, camped in Washington D.C. and canoed far into the Canadian Boundary Waters with fellow troop members of Troop 21, based out of Wauwatosa Avenue Methodist Church.

"There were no sounds, no automation, just pure wilderness. Because of our camping skills, we were able to go really far, we even filled our water bottle from the middle of a lake;' he said. “Those experiences are priceless and I wouldn't have had them if it weren't for scouting."

Last year Parkinson earned his Eagle rank after he gathered other volunteers and put in 100 hours fixing and painting a room and closet at the historical Wauwatosa Woman's Club on Wauwatosa Avenue.

He is looking toward a career in politics, he said, and because of the leadership skills he's learned in scouting, Parkinson is confident in his future success. ,

"I have held a number of leadership positions in scouts;' he said. "listen, it may not be for everybody, but I think it is totally up to the person to make it what they want, it's a great experience if you want it to be."

Parkinson is somewhat rare, although his troop -Troop 21 -has advanced 11 Boy Scouts to Eagle Rank in the last 14 months.

But it's clear by looking at the numbers, there is a cut-off of interest when boys move from Cub Scouts -which ends at the 5tl1 grade leve1 - to Boy Scouts -which starts in sixth grade and then to Eagle Scout rank.

Currently, there are 6,632 Cub Scouts tl1rOugl1oUt Milwaukee County; but only 2,250 Boy Scouts.

According to the Greater' Milwaukee Council of the Boy Scouts of America, only 76 scouts attained Eagle Rank throughout Milwaukee County, 20 of them from Wauwatosa.

Interest wanes

The competition for time gets steep when boys reach middle school, said David Loosen, director of support service for the Milwaukee Boy Scout office.

"The real key is providing enough challenge and diversity in the program and leadership opportunities for young people,” he said. "If they have those opportunities, they will stay.   A lot depends on the leadership."

Parkinson and fellow Eagle Scout from Troop 21, .Jacob DeLeon, credit their Scoutmaster, Steve Weber, for helping them stay interested in scouting and their "high adventure " programming.

But Weber is quick to put the credit back on the boys for their commitment to the program.

"I walked into a very strong, committed troop,” Weber said. "These guys have been friends for a long time and I see that once one scout wants to go for his Eagle rank, it has a trickle-down effect, and causes four or five older guys to get interested."

Weber, who was not in scouting when he was young, said he started volunteering for his son's troop when his son was in grade school. That son is now grown and in college; but Weber continues to volunteer as scoutmaster for Troop 21 because he enjoys the outdoors and watching the boys grow into responsible young men, he said.

"I've gotten so much satisfaction out of watching these young guys turn the corner and take on responsibility, discipline, organization, it's been really great; he said, "They're committed, and that makes my job a lot of fun,"

Committed to scouting

Talk about commitment - check in with Wauwatosa resident Chuck Narwold.

Narwold, 84, has been a scout since 1929, He joined scouting when he was 12 years old and in 1936, earned his Eagle rank.

He remains active in scouting and helps out with Troop 21.

"I really believe in scouting," he said. "It gives an introduction to responsibility that a boy might not pick up anywhere else. He learns how to help others, get along, cooperation and responsibility and he has a lot of fun along the way.”

Narwold remembers his early years in scouting - he attended the first national Boy Scout Jamboree in 1937 - it was  postponed in 1935 because of polio epidemic - and said there was much more interest in scouting in earlier years, and less competition.

"Now you lave two parents working, it's more difficult to get volunteer adults to serve as scoutmasters,

and there is a lot of peer pressure for the boys to get involved in other things like athletics, and such,” he said.  “But we do have lose that stick with us and are also involved in school and athletics, and they learn much bout managing their time."

DeLeon, who is involved in extra-curricular activities at East, like swimming, golf and theater, said his experience in scouting has helped him manage his time, and has pointed him toward a career in forestry management.

"It is an adventure, and being outdoors is one of my favorite things,” he said. "Those experiences are leading me toward a career in forestry management at UW-Stevens Point."

When asked why scouts tend to drop out after elementary school, DeLeon said. "Their life gets too busy with school and sports, but for me, sticking with scouts has also taught me to balance my school work, and other activities."

Several area Boy Scouts will celebrate the 92nd birthday of the Boy Scouts of America this month with pancake breakfasts and "blue and gold" dinners to raise money for scouting programs and camping opportunities.

On Feb. 15, Capt. James Lovell, astronaut and Milwaulkee's most famous scout, will speak at the fund-raising campaign kick-off for the annual Boy Scouts of America at the Midwest Express Center.