NYLT – How Scout Camps Change Boys’ Lives
It’s been my privilege to participate as an adult staff member of a Boy Scouts of America National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) camp. Here, in the Mt. Nebo District, we call it Timberline. I have witnessed how this camp changes boys’ lives in one short week. Here’s an experience of which I was part to illustrate this point.
Let me tell you about one of our participants back in 2014. His name was Josh. Josh arrived to camp on Monday morning and you could tell he did not want to be there. He was very quiet and nervous. This is normal for a lot of boys coming to this camp so we didn’t think much of it at the time. The week at Timberline is designed to get boys out of their comfort zones and put them in a situation where they make new friends and learn to work in a team. As the week and activities went on, I noticed that he was hanging behind his patrol and avoiding participating in the discussions or team building games.
Let me say that one of the AWESOME things about Timberline is that it is completely run by youth staff members who have been trained by the adult staff for more than six months, all in preparation for this one week of camp. Each patrol has two Troop Guides (youth staff) who help and guide each patrol. The Troop Guides tried everything they could to get Josh to participate, but he resisted every attempt. Things continued on this way for three days. Josh began acting like a bully, causing fights in his patrol and with other patrols. But, we were committed to each member at camp. The boys didn’t give up on Josh. They continued to try and to regroup and try again. Josh seemed unaffected by their efforts. Then, on Thursday all of it changed….
The main activity on Thursday is called The Outpost. Each patrol goes out to camp alone as a patrol. They conduct a spiritual devotional that night at camp. This activity usually marks a turning point for most patrols. I participated in the devotional with Josh’s patrol that night. We all sat in a circle around their camp and the patrol leader asked everyone to say what Timberline (NYLT) meant to them for the devotional.
When it was Josh’s turn, there was a long moment of silence. We didn’t know what would happen. The young patrol leader, not knowing what to do, just waited. Sometimes silence is the best thing and after a few moments, Josh started. He shared with the patrol his family struggles, how he was living with his grandma and how his parents had drug problems and how he never really had any friends. He shared how he had been loving Timberline and how his patrol were all his friends. Wow! What a change! No one in the patrol had any idea, but they were so glad they continued to follow the principles of inclusion and patience. It was an awesome bonding moment for everyone.
After that experience, Josh was a different boy. For the rest of the week, he was happy and laughing, and put his arm around the other boys and talked with them. He was fully participating!
On the final day of Timberline, when the parents came to pick them up, we had one final gathering and flag ceremony. The last thing we do is go around, the adult and youth staff together, to shake each participant’s hand. As we came around to Josh’s patrol, they were all crying and sad that the week was over. They didn’t want to go home! They didn’t want it to end. We staff members could not hold back our tears either.
Those are the kind of experiences that make Scouting awesome! I wouldn’t trade these moments for anything.