This Scouter wants to transform the inner city, one Scout at a time.
Good thing that Fred Young has retired. He leads six Scouting units: three at his church, Liberty Missionary Baptist Church, and three at a local Boys & Girls Club. As Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, and Venturing Advisor, Young serves as a mentor and father figure to more than 50 young people, 80 percent of whom come from inner-city, single-parent families.
Young’s units are part of the Mobile Area Council’s Scoutreach District. But that doesn’t mean they get less Scouting than their suburban counterparts. Summer camp, service projects, and civic events all play a part in Young’s program..
How did you get involved in Scouting—and why do you stay involved?
I was a Scout at one time, but I didn’t stay a Scout long. My pastor asked me to do this once we got the Boy Scouts going in our church, and I’ve been at it ever since. I’m retired, so this is something that keeps me going.
You’re as much a mentor as a Scout leader. How do you pull that off?
Kids now think adults lecture them and don’t want to hear what they have to say. But they call me all the time on my cell phone. We’ll go out to dinner, me and three or four of them, and just talk. Things they won’t talk to their parents about—whether it’s drugs or alcohol or girls or even things that are going on at home—they have enough confidence in me to talk about.
Once the kids see that they have someone who will listen to them and someone they can trust and open up to, it helps them grow to become better youth, better young adults. That’s really what keeps me going—knowing that I’m making a difference in their lives.
You also don’t let kids slide. Talk about your standards.
If my kids start acting up in school, I go see them once the parents tell me. I stress education with my kids. You can’t go anywhere with me if your grades aren’t where they’re supposed to be. I have other kids to help tutor them, to help them with whatever they’re going through.
Since so many of your kids come from single-parent families, do you struggle to get volunteers?
It’s hard to get them when you first start out. When I sign up a kid, I ask the parent to sign an application, too. Then I give them a position such as furnishing the transportation or bringing the snacks to get them involved. I let them understand that BSA stands for Boy Scouts of America, not Babysitters of America. I’m there for their kids and them.
What about money? How do you keep financially stable?
The kids that don’t have a lot of resources, that’s where we step in with money-earning projects. We might sell dinners; we might have car washes. I have certain friends at my church that might donate something for the kids or pay registrations or buy uniforms.
How do you recruit in an environment where many kids have barely heard of Scouting?
Once a year, we take our kids to Tuskegee, Ala. The first time I did this with these kids, they came back and told more kids, and I had kids coming out of the woodwork wanting to sign up for Scouts. They wanted to be a part of the things we were doing.
How do you get your Scouts involved in the community?
I have them march in the Mardi Gras parades here. The older kids volunteer at Penelope House, a home for battered women. And we have a couple of kids that are starting to visit nursing homes to learn respect for their elders. It has been great. You might think they wouldn’t want to do that, but once they get there and see what it’s all about, their whole attitude changes.
After more than a decade in Scouting, you recently completed Wood Badge training. Why?
We had eight adults go through Wood Badge from Scoutreach. To better ourselves for our kids, that was my philosophy. I figure the more I learn, the more I can teach them. Wood Badge was an honor for me.