We Are America

Voices of the Nation's Future

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August of 2009 in my old elementary school art room, I went to my first Cub Scout meeting. This was the meeting where I started a journey, where I had no idea how much of an important role these weekly meetings would play in my life. Everything from the den chiefs who were Boy Scouts who volunteered a couple of hours of their week each week for 5 years to help teach us about scouts, to the campouts that we went on semi-annually, even to each time I got in trouble. But the most important thing Scouts have done for me is the way it has drastically shaped me into who I am as a person and as a leader, from the people I have met to the memories I have made. At the time I walked over the metaphorical bridge into joining Boy Scouts, I did not know what I was in for: learning new skills each week, earning new ranks up to eagle, and advancing through the leadership ranks up to running the troop. But my favorite part came on the third weekend of each month when we went on a campout. Each campout was different from the last and was a new adventure. The interactions I had on these campouts built new friendships and made old ones stronger. Out of all campouts though one stood out over most others. Camp Bartle was named after its founder and former Kansas City mayor, Harold Roe Bartle; it was a ten-day-long campout located in southern Missouri where you learn different skills and earn different patches known as merit badges. Despite suffering from dehydration, getting stung by a bark scorpion, and having a close encounter with a copperhead in just my first year there, I fell in love with this particular camp. Each year that I went I felt as if my relationship with the camp grew stronger as I learned more about the history and was able to adventure more of the 4200 acres of the beautiful lakeside land.  Out of the entire reservation, there was one place that stood out to me. It wasn’t the cliff hanging over the lake or the countless caves and creeks, nor was it the beautiful bluffs. My attention and imagination was always drawn to one man-made structure with over 50 years of history behind it, from fires to a tornado hitting it. This structure was the eco-lodge. This was not similar to most other lodges where campers go to get taught and that is all; this lodge was interactive, allowing campers to walk through and learn more about different native and non-native wildlife. I could have spent all of camp in that lodge just looking at the different animals and how they live their day-to-day lives, but what inspired me more than the animals were the people who ran the lodge. Compared to most staff, the eco staff seemed more energetic and more passionate about what they taught. It was the passion I saw when they were teaching that inspired me to want to work there. In October of 2019, after six years of going to the camp, I put in my application to work during the summer of 2020 not knowing the path that lied ahead with the events of 2020. Even though I was unable to get my first choice of job working at the eco-lodge, the connections I made and the stories I was told would last a lifetime. The people I met were some of the best and supportive people I have ever known. I would not in a million years go back on that decision of working there. Having that experience allowed me to see that same spark in the eyes of the campers that I had when I was a camper.

© Austin McCoy. All rights reserved. If you are interested in quoting this story, contact the national team through this website and we can put you in touch with the young person's teacher.