Understanding Scoutreach and the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award

Jan 2, 2023

One of the Scouting America’s most important values is an attitude of service to community, which is why Scouts promise to “help other people at all times” as part of the Scout Oath and Law. To teach children and teens what this looks like in real life, the BSA requires its members to participate regularly in group service projects, which can help them to earn merit badges and progress through various Scouting ranks.

The BSA also honors adult members and organizations who demonstrate a notable commitment to serving others. One avenue of service is the BSA Scoutreach initiative, which develops the organization’s presence in rural and urban communities where membership is less common. Here are some things to know about the Scouting America Scoutreach program and its Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award.

What Is Scoutreach?

Scoutreach is a BSA program that helps to remove the barriers that children from families of color and underinvested communities face in participating in youth development programs. 

The history of Scoutreach adoption and implementation varies from council to council, but in essence, today’s Scoutreach initiatives across the BSA seek to serve youth from all communities and backgrounds so that as many children and teens as possible can benefit from BSA’s character-building programming. 

The BSA works toward this goal by addressing multiple reasons for scant membership among people of color and in low-income communities. These include simple unfamiliarity with the organization as well as financial barriers to covering costs associated with membership. Individual councils partner with schools and businesses to eliminate as many membership costs as possible for the marginalized populations they serve. They also aim to provide fun, hands-on learning experiences for those groups, along with positive role models and leadership training.  

The BSA Whitney M. Young Jr. Award

Each year, Scoutreach council programs hold an awards dinner to honor adults and organizations who have provided exceptional service to disadvantaged youth by bringing Scouting and related opportunities to underinvested rural and urban communities. At this event, honorees are presented with the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award.

Who Was Whitney M. Young Jr.?

The service award is named after Whitney Moore Young Jr. (1921-1971). Young was a civil rights trailblazer, social worker, and political leader who worked to provide more equitable economic opportunities for Black Americans and to improve their lives in general. In his early life, he earned a BS in social work. While serving in the US Army, he studied electrical engineering at MIT and earned a Master of Social Work degree in Minnesota. He would later head the National Urban League and make its work prominent in the civil rights movement.

Although he is far less well known than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he was among the organizers of the 1963 March on Washington held to advocate for civil and economic rights for Black Americans. He also worked as an advisor to US Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard M. Nixon. Among many awards and honorary degrees, Young earned the Medal of Freedom, had his likeness printed on a US Postal Service stamp, and became a lecturer and author of several books.

Attend the BSA Laurel Highlands Council’s Service Awards Dinner

If you live in the western parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, or West Virginia, enrolling your child in the Scouting America Laurel Highlands Council is an excellent way for them to learn about the importance of equitable and accessible programs for all American children.

Join us as we celebrate the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Awards Dinner on February 9, 2023, at the Fairmont Pittsburgh Hotel. Register here to attend or donate and help us continue our mission to serve youth from all communities, regardless of circumstances.  

Scouting’s programs and outdoor adventures give young people the opportunity to try new things, provide service to others, build self-confidence, and develop leadership skills. The Scouting America Laurel Highlands Council serves youth members and volunteer adult leaders throughout Western Pennsylvania, Western Maryland, and parts of West Virginia. We aim to beneficially involve every eligible child and their family in the fun and adventure of our programs. 

So what are you waiting for? Join now!


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