The Boy Scouts of America is among the nation's foremost youth programs for character development and values-based leadership training. It prepares kids for for adulthood and beyond.
The program is over 110 years old, and since its inception in 1910, more than 130 million boys and girls have participated, with over 35 million adult volunteers who have helped carry out the BSA's mission.
The organization serves youth from the ages of 5 to 17. They use the outdoors as a classroom and host many activities there.
"Anything from nature walks/hikes, learning about animal habitats, identifying plants and trees, building campfires, reading maps and compasses. There is also fishing, camping overnight, cooking and shooting sports for the older kids," Randy Saunders, scout executive for the Southern Sierra Council Boys Scouts of America, said.
"We also teach self-reliance, learning to find the answer for themselves, and being a good team player and leader. There is an emphasis on awareness of the environment and conservation."
Health and safety training is also an element of the program.
"Like first aid or disaster preparedness, for example, if there is a house fire, teaching them what to do in case of that emergency," Saunders said.
Saunders joined scouting at the age of eight years old.
"I've been doing it ever since. I am passionate about it because of what it did for me as a young child."
He said he wants youth to take advantage of the program and have the chance to grow into someone with good citizenship and morals.
Adult mentoring is important, and volunteer scout leaders are often parents of a scout, teachers, church leaders and any interested adult that will work with youth to help them learn a skill or hobby.
"It is a good partnership," Saunders said.
He said the best part is watching parents bond with their children.
"With all of our activities, we have a variety of training programs for parents to learn a skill they can teach to a scout."
Wasco Parent April Gurney said she likes that her daughter, Alex Trevino, has different opportunities to grow and be a more productive citizen.
"The scouts have made her more respectful and accountable. She is more confident and has improved her public speaking skills. The scouts push her to come out of her shell," Gurney said.
"I became her co-leader, so I've gotten to spend more time with her. I get to be with her, which is special for me."
Alex, 17, has been a scout for almost four years. She likes the interaction with all kinds of people, she said.
"I've learned to be more open and have developed my communication and survival skills. I think this knowledge will help me in life."
Among her favorite activities is camping.
"We go as a troop, and it's very fun."
She is about to earn the prestigious eagle scout badge, where she must fulfill 18 required merit badges in various areas and electives.
For example, a merit badge is where a scout must reach a specific goal, like with hiking. A scout would be required to accomplish certain miles in a day, including five miles in a day, moving on to 10 miles, 15 miles and then 20 miles a day to earn that badge.
Alex has earned badges in the areas of citizenship in the nation and world, cooking, dentistry, emergency preparedness, environmental science, family life, fingerprinting, first aid and more.
She is now working on her eagle scout project, where she plans to coordinate and raise funds for a branded BSA bench at the Wasco Rose Garden at Barker Park.
"Alex is a shining example of the wonderful kids that develop after going through our program," Saunders said, "We are always looking for more of them to join and more adults willing to help."
To learn more about how your child can join the Wasco BSA, visit sscbsa.org or call (661) 325-9036.