Helping Boy Scouts Become Men
Camping out and American boyhood are inseparable concepts in the folklore of our nation. The feel of fresh morning air, the aroma of fried bacon on an open fire, and the excitement of exploring nature combine to make the outdoor experience a treasured memory. And for many young men, their first experience in the wilderness is closely linked to scouting.
Since its founding over a century ago, the Boys Scouts of America has been the avenue through which over 110 million American youngsters have discovered the wonders of creation — and learned about integrity and true manhood along the way. For many families, the Boy Scout values system — God and country, personal integrity and hard work — is a return to a simpler, more wholesome time.
In line with its mission to help real people in practical ways, the John William Pope Foundation has joined hands with the Boy Scouts in North Carolina. One of the chief ways is through the Pope Family Eagle Scout Scholarship, a program aimed at the most promising Eagle Scouts who are graduating high-school seniors.
The Pope family and the Pope Foundation have invested over $1 million in these promising young men and in the Occoneechee Council.
“We’re looking for the greatest leaders of tomorrow for this program,” said John Akerman, CEO for the Boy Scouts’ Occoneechee Council, the scouting council that administers the scholarship. “These are stand-out young men who have excelled in scouting, school, and extra-curricular activities.”
The Pope Foundation remains committed to scouting in general as well, devoting over $350,000 to general operations for the Occoneechee Council. The council is the largest in North Carolina, serving 20,000 youths and covering 12 counties in central North Carolina ranging from the Virginia border to near South Carolina.
The mission of the Pope Family Eagle Scout Scholarship is to further the course of study for devoted Eagle Scouts who want to become leaders in business and the free-enterprise system. The scholarship devotes $4,000 annually toward each qualifying scout’s tuition and educational expenses at an accredited university. It includes an additional $4,000 one-time stipend for summer internships.
Nearly 50 scouts have received the scholarship and graduated from such prestigious schools as Duke and Georgetown universities. On average, four young men qualify each year. The scholarship committee that judges their aptitude puts heavy emphasis on non-curricular activities; stellar academics alone are insufficient to secure the scholarship.
“I find that the most brilliant kids are usually the ones not very well rounded,” said Johnny Glover, program director for the Occoneechee Council. “They’ve spent so much time in education that other parts of their life have suffered. Our applicants need to have some good experience in all areas, not just some inter-mural experience on the football or basketball team.”
Applicants are required to write an essay on government’s role in society and the free-enterprise system, and then defend their ideas in front of the panel. Faith also plays an important role in the process. Akerman and Glover emphasized that religious commitment and involvement are key factors.
“If scouts have no church life, that’s an issue,” Akerman said. “The good news is that we’re a scouting organization with a private membership. A duty to God and country is a huge part of who we are.”
A desire to seek elected office is another plus, according to Akerman. “High marks go to those who see themselves holding public office one day,” he said. “We ask how they plan to return their services to mankind.”
Training leaders, launching careers
Owen Stone, a rising junior at Wake Forest University majoring in English, received the scholarship in 2010. It gave him the financial resources to study abroad in Austria for six months, and prompted him to take a more active leadership role on his campus, where he is a trip guide for the outdoor program.
“The Pope scholarship helped me to maintain leadership roles and that higher calling that we’re encouraged to pursue as Eagle Scouts,” Owen said.
With plans to become a teacher one day, Owen added that his experience in scouting helped to solidify his moral foundation as a Christian.
The first class of Pope Family Eagle Scout scholars in 2005.
“It’s taught me to be an upright individual and a person who follows the scout law, which really is an incredible moral code,” he said. “Those virtues are something that everybody would benefit from following. My scout troop encouraged me in my faith as a believer.”
The scholarship also helped Will Eastman, an Eagle Scout from Pinehurst, N.C., complete a bachelor’s degree in statistics and economics at Duke University. But that wasn’t the only way in which Will benefited.
“It furthered my appreciation for the value of free enterprise, and it inspired me to go to Wall Street,” said Will, who took a job as a derivatives trader in New York City in 2012.
His overall experience in the Boy Scouts was valuable, too. “Scouting definitely gave me a firm moral grounding that will stay with me. It was useful in college, and will be for the rest of my life.”
The scholarship has produced many other success stories. One scholar graduated from Virginia Tech with a degree in computer science and engineering. He landed a job as a software engineer in Durham. Another graduate founded his own company devoted to digital media communications and advertising.
A generational tradition
For Akerman and Glover, scouting has been in their blood since they were boys themselves. Both men have devoted most of their working careers to the Boy Scouts.
Akerman, born and raised in central Florida, was the youngest of three Eagle Scouts in his family. As a young adult, he didn’t anticipate a career in scouting until he received a job offer as a scouting executive in Daytona Beach.
“It didn’t take much to convince me to move there,” he said. “I ended up meeting and marrying my wife there, too.”
When Glover was an 11-year-old in 1961, his next-door neighbor asked him to go to a scout meeting, and he’s been involved ever since — either as a youth, adult volunteer, or on the professional staff.
“In your early 20s, it’s easy to be idealistic and just want to make a bunch of money in your career,” Glover said. “Then you go out and find that it’s not nearly as exciting as you thought, so you end up coming back and doing something you really love, like working with scouts.”