A reception for Boy Scout Alumni held Wednesday evening at the Officers Club on the Naval Station in Newport was all about reconnecting those who played a part in the history of scouting to the future of scouting on Aquidneck Island.
The event was part of a nationwide effort by the Boys Scouts of America to reengage former scouts, scout masters, den mothers and others who have had a connection to scouting.
2010 marked the BSA’s 100th anniversary.
Nick Sarantakes, who achieved Eagle Scout in 1983, helped organize the gathering.
“This is a trailblazing event from a new program started by the Boy Scouts of America in January of this year. We want to reach out to our alumni, to bring people together, to rekindle good memories,” he said.
The number of alumni is staggering according to Sarantakes.
“There have been 110 million members over the last 100 years of Scouting. It’s estimated that 20-percent to 25-percent of U.S. males have been associated with Scouting in one form or another. We hope by having events such as this it will help get those same men back involved,” he said.
Dave Anderson serves as the scout executive for the Narragansett Council of Boy Scouts of America. He has worked for the Narragansett Council for 11 years and he too is an Eagle Scout, having earned that honor in 1976.
The Narragansett Council encompasses all of Rhode Island, Fall River, New Bedford, and the Blackstone Valley area of Massachusetts.
“There are about 16,000 boys and 5,000 adults involved in this council. By reaching out to our alumni we hope to build and strengthen all of Scouting,” Anderson said.
He went on to explain the values of scouting.
“As we celebrated 100 years, we decided we are not looking back, but we are looking forward to our core values. Those values are duty to God, duty to Country, duty to others and duty to self. These are truly timeless values and are as important to today as ever. Boys are bombarded with choices both good and bad these days. We hope to help them make good choices by building their self confidence and self-esteem,” Anderson said.
But those choices can go far beyond tying a square knot or building a campfire.
In hopes of reaching local Aquidneck Island alumni, holding the event at the Newport Navy base enabled the scouts to hone their search where they typically find a lot of scouting alumni—the military.
“Out of all the armed service academies such as West Point and Annapolis, 60-percent to 70-percent of men have been scouts. The values they have learned by being in scouting have helped put them further ahead,” he said.
Boy Scout Community Commissioner and volunteer Pat Saxon couldn’t have agreed more.
“The 12 Points of Scout Law haven’t changed in 100 years. This is a value-based organization. But, we do need those past alumni with their valuable experience and love for scouting to come back and help,” said Saxon.
But, it’s not an all boys club, and it’s not always on land, according to United States Navy Lt. Katie Hagen.
Hagen, in her seventh year in the U.S. Navy, is assigned to the Chief of Naval Operations, Strategic Studies Group in Newport.
She joined the Sea Scouts when she was 14 years old in Slidell, Louisiana. She obtained the rank of Quarter Master in the Sea Scouts. That is equivalent to earning the rank as Eagle Scout.
Sea Scouts is a coed program for young adults ages 14 to 20 and is another branch of the BSA.
Hagan, also became National Boatswain for the Sea Scouts. In that role, she was the national youth lead and served as a bridge between the Sea Scouts and the Boy Scouts.
“My experiences in the Sea Scouts contributed to me ever thinking about joining the U.S. Navy. The maritime environment, the uniforms, the organization, is all very like the structure of the Navy. What I really enjoyed was the camaraderie and the competition,” Hagan said.
“I think Newport is ripe for a Sea Scout ship. I’d like to see leaders step up and reach out to our youth. I’d be willing to volunteer as a first mate to help it along,” she said.
For more information on Scouting visit the Boy Scouts of America website.
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