By Debbie Teofilo
Special to the Sun
The excitement could be seen and felt throughout the Veterans/Senior Center in Lake Isabella last Saturday, September 28 during the first-ever Court of Honor awards ceremony for the newly established Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Troop 711. This troop appears to be on a steady course with a committed charter organization, upcoming Eagle Scout candidates, and the beginnings of a troop for girls.
The first Court of Honor for Troop 711 recognized five Scouts for obtaining 10 merit badges and advancements in rank since its formation this past February. Christopher LaVeck became the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader, and Jason Baker was installed as Assistant Senior Patrol Leader. Both young men will use the leadership experience in meeting requirements to gain their Eagle Scout rank as well as learning to be future leaders in the community.
For the first time in Kern River Valley (KRV) history, two girls, Christine LaVeck and Emily Blankenship, received recognition as BSA Scouts. They are awaiting formation of their own troop for girls and are not members of the boys’ group, but they can take part in the same Court of Honor and some of its activities. Five members are required to establish a BSA girl’s troop under local leadership. Until that number is reached, a counselor from the regional Southern Sierra Council BSA is currently guiding their scouting activities on an individual basis.
There have been many changes in the past few years in the world of scouting, including the addition of girls to the national BSA program. Within the KRV itself, two BSA troops became inactive over the past two years. In February of this year, Troop 711 was established with American Legion Post 711 as its charter organization.
Post Commander James Dunn said the American Legion encourages its posts across the country to sponsor youth groups, and their local KRV post had the resources available to support BSA Troop 711. Dunn stated the Scouts will be invited to their veteran functions and can help with flag ceremonies. Judging by the enthusiasm displayed by the American Legion members in attendance at the Court of Honor ceremony, their support of the troop will be substantial.
Scoutmaster Josh Conoway was also very enthusiastic when noting the many achievements already attained by the young Scouts under the umbrella of Troop 711. He was quick to point out at the awards ceremony that none of the current progress could have been possible without the support of the troop Leadership Committee members Mary and Micah Deusenberry and Rita D’Angelo, the American Legion Post 711 as their charter organization, and the trust of the parents and the Scouts.
Trust was mentioned often at the Court of Honor event. Newly installed Senior Patrol Leader Christopher LaVeck concluded the ceremony by saying, “I’d like to congratulate my fellow Scouts for their advancements in scouting. We are a team, a team that triumphs. And a team that trusts is one that triumphs.”
Building future community leaders is one of the goals of scouting, and for Troop 711 that begins with building its youth membership. Girls of ages 11-17 are needed to establish the first all-girl BSA troop in the KRV. Both boys and girls of ages 7-10 are needed to form a coed Cub Scout pack for the younger children. Leadership is in place for both of these groups, and some children are already waiting in the wings for a troop or pack to start. Troop 711 is the only BSA troop accepting membership applications in the KRV.
Conoway mentioned the need for community members and organizations to work together with Scouts to provide them opportunities to broaden their experiences so they can earn merit badges and advance in rank. As an example, Scouts of Troop 711 could provide service at community events or on workgroups, or they could be taught skills or personal improvement by members of the community with that knowledge.
Scoutmaster Conoway remarked at the ceremony, “We’re going to grow; it’s going to be an absolutely incredible program.” Those with membership inquiries or community support ideas can contact him by email at email@example.com.