‘We’re back, and we’re better’

By Ashley Loza
Kern Valley Sun

The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are back in the Kern River Valley with a new chartered organization, new troop number and new leadership.

The new troop was chartered on January 23 through the Kern River Valley Elks Lodge #2358 and held their first meeting on January 25.

Six boys have signed up so far, with four potential Scouts waiting in the wings. Nine boys and 12 adults attended the troop’s first official meeting, with 45 attendees at their formation meeting. The leadership committee is pleased with the community’s enthusiasm.

Photo by Ashley Loza / Kern Valley Sun:
Christopher LaVeck, left, and Ryland Breazell, right, lead the Kern River Valley’s new Boy Scout Troop #2358 in their Scout’s Honor at the Elks Lodge in Wofford Heights on Thursday, Feb. 1.

The Elks are looking forward to hosting the scouts, who have always participated in the Elks events.

“The Elks have scouting all the way up to our national level,” said Jadeen Costa-Schroeder, Past Exalted Ruler and Inland District Grand Auditor for the Elks. “Elks lodges want the Boy Scouts. We have utilized this troop for years. We’ve helped send them to camp, they come to our Flag Day ceremonies and our Veterans Day ceremonies and fold flags for us and carry them in.”

“And they take such pride in doing it,” said Scout parent Mary Deusenberry, who was heavily involved in the outreach that resulted in the troop’s formation.

The troop’s new Scoutmaster, Josh Conoway, has big plans for the troop’s future and is already showing how serious he is.

“The Elks were impressed because between our formation meeting and our charter meeting, he had already taken all the tests and met all the requirements to become a Scout Leader. That impressed us,” said Costa-Schroeder.

Conoway wants parents to be clear that the troop’s leadership will keep Scout safety paramount. He clarified that BSA’s five-step program for installing adult leaders would be aggressively implemented and that the leadership committee would have to be in agreement before new leaders or volunteers would be installed.

“If they do not approve of this individual, then we’re not even going to submit the application,” said Conoway. “I’m at their mercy, and I’m going to respect that 150 percent.”

Conoway says that he is also aiming to make Troop #2358 the most active troop that the valley has ever seen.

“There’s good things happening already in just a very, very short time. I want to make sure that these kids get full benefit of having somebody that actually cares about taking them to new and exciting places,” he said.

Part of this goal is taking the boys to places beyond the valley. Conoway said that while the Kern River Valley and Sequoia National Forest are beautiful places with plenty of activities, part of BSA’s merit badge program requires a more broad knowledge of the world.

“I want to make sure that those activities are accomplished because I want to get this troop Gold Standard at the end of the year,” he said.

Gold Standard, according to Conoway, is a title given to troops that meet certain requirements throughout the year. He said that certain merits have to be met, ranks achieved and activities done by the troop in order to receive the Gold Standard title.

“If I can surpass that, it would be absolutely fantastic,” he said.

Conoway also mentioned that in 2017, BSA approved the entry of girls into the program. Previously, girls had been accepted into BSA as part of the Venturing Troop, but Conway said that the program was not as in depth as the other branches of BSA. Now, girls are allowed into Cub Scouts and are expected to be accepted into the older groups soon.

Conoway said that he suspected the extra time was to allow BSA to put more precautions in place, as older children in co-ed groups may require different care and leaders.

He was supportive of the decision, as he said that he had seen dramatic differences between the camps for both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts and felt that Boy Scouts had much to offer girls.

“We get to decide whether or not we’re going to accept the girls into it,” said Conoway. “For me there wasn’t a question. I’m not going to tell a little girl that they can’t come and have fun with us. It’s not going to happen.”

Overall, Costa-Schroeder says that the troop’s attitude can be summed up by what she heard from one of the boys at their first meeting:

“We’re back, and we’re better.”

And Conoway agrees. “Everybody I get involved with…I want to leave them better than how I met them,” he said.

The Scouts will meet weekly on Thursdays at the Elks Lodge in Wofford Heights and encourage all interested children and families to attend.