All posts by Rochelle Randles

Avatar photo

About Rochelle Randles

Rochelle Randles is a communications specialist at the Boy Scouts of America. She enjoys sharing incredible adventure stories within the Scouting community and beyond. If you have story ideas or questions, reach out to us at

Scouts Brave the Cold for a STEM University Experience

Scouts master geocaching through hands-on learning. (Photo credit: Reading Eagle/ Jeremy Drey)

There were merit badges to earn and STEM lessons to learn at the Hawk Mountain Council’s third annual STEM University event, which is why troops from across the area gathered at Albright College this January, despite the frigid winter weather.

The Reading Eagle told the story of how participants, cozy inside the college’s Computing Math and Science Center, all but forgot about the falling snow as they enjoyed fun activities in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), discovering new interests along the way.

The event was an opportunity for Boy Scouts to get together, have fun, and earn merit badges—specifically, merit badges pertaining to STEM-related topics such as chemistry and robotics.

Fresh from learning about nuclear science and chemistry, Scout Cole C., 13, told Reading Eagle,“I am getting a lot of experience in a lot of different fields here.”

But these lessons weren’t limited to the sciences. In addition to teaching fun skills like geocaching and coding, “Scouting teaches leadership qualities and team-building,” Cole said.

The event was organized by Joshua Potts, Hawk Mountain Council’s director of special programs and STEM Scouts— a BSA pilot program designed to captivate young people and pique their interests in STEM topics.

Potts, according to Reading Eagle, was pleased with the turnout—especially considering the inclement weather. In all, nearly 200 Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts attended the event.

Potts explained that these entertaining activities actually help the Scouts develop skills and interests that could lead to future careers, build character, and learn about current STEM topics.

One of these topics was taught by Scoutmaster Eric Silva, who lead a computer programming class for the event. According to Silva, computer science is a valuable skill to learn.

“They are learning how to break down codes,” the Scoutmaster said. “We are learning the history of programming. That’s how all of the video games and internet programs are developed.”

Silva’s take on computer programming is a perfect example of how STEM education really can be an exciting experience for young people—STEM can be found in a multitude of activities they already enjoy!

Learn more about the the Hawk Mountain Council’s annual STEM University event in the original story from the Reading Eagle.

You can also find out more about the innovative STEM Scouts program by heading to, where you’ll find fun experiments, engaging stories, and information on labs near you!

Refugee Boys Grow Friendships Through Scouting

Brothers Jean T., 15, center, and Moise T., 12, right, enjoy camping with Scouting friends. (Photo credit: AP/ Thomas Peipert)

From living in a refugee camp in northern Rwanda to camping for fun in the Rocky Mountains, brothers Jean T., 15, and Moise T., 12, have a story not many kids their age can relate to—except for their fellow Boy Scout troop members, that is.

In a recent report, the Associated Press details the impact Scouting has had in the lives of these boys and others like them.

The brothers’ parents fled Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) more than 20 years ago, seeking refuge from the country’s violence and political instability. Having grown up in Rwanda’s Gihembe refugee camp, the brothers experienced a major cultural shift when the family moved to Colorado in 2014. However, the boys found the perfect way to adjust to their new American home—Scouting!

As luck (or fate) would have it, Troop 1532 had been established that very year in the Denver Area Council. This particular troop was a great fit for the brothers because since its founding, the unit has been made almost entirely of adventurous young boys from refugee families.

Multiple nations are represented within the troop, so the Scouts get to experience many different cultures. According to the AP, campfire favorites in this unique unit consist of dishes from the Scouts’ home countries, such as “Chipate” and fish head stew. But of course, campouts are still made complete with S’mores.

Scouting gives the boys a way to acclimate to their new communities in a safe, comfortable environment with friends who can relate to the challenges refugee youths face.

For Troop 1532, campfire snacks include international cuisine. (Photo credit: AP/ Thomas Peipert)

“It’s somewhere where they can be totally unafraid to be their authentic self,” troop leader Justin Wilson explains.

BSA Communications Director Effie Delimarkos explained that Scouting is one of the only youth programs so well-equipped to teach American culture. For example, the Boy Scouts program emphasizes crucial topics such as the importance of Duty to Country and proactive citizenship.

“Scouting also helps build resiliency in children that have lived through more than any child should have to bear,” Delimarkos told the AP.

Physician and Scouter Dr. P.J. Parmar originally started the troop along side his Denver-area clinic, which cares for refugee families. Through Parmar’s efforts, families who may not be aware of BSA programs are presented with Scouting’s opportunities.

In addition to their Scouting peers, Scouts also have the benefit of being able to relate to adults in the troop, due to similar life experiences within the unit’s leadership

“I have an advantage because I’m from a minority background,” Parmar explains. According to the AP, sharing this perspective helps the doctor engage and connect with troop members on an imperative level.

The leadership skills and character development taught through Scouting is certainly noticeable to others, including Jean’s father, Jean Batacoka.

Batacoka, a father of five, told the AP he can see the impact Scouting has made on his children, thanks to the dedication of the troop’s leadership.

Troop 1532 is comprised almost entirely of youth from refugee families. (Photo credit: AP/ Thomas Peipert)

With the help of a translator, Batacoka recounts how he’s watched his children grow through Scouting.

“What they do down there is not just leadership, because they learn discipline, how to behave, how to respect people who are older than them,” the father shared with the AP. “I think it’s a really good thing for them, and I can see something is happening.”

Learn more about Troop 1532 by reading the full story from the Associated Press.


Fast Company Features BSA’s Approach to STEM Learning

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-10-09-19-am-copySTEM Scouts is making waves in the STEM education community (science, technology, engineering, and math), and according to a recent article in Fast Company magazine, the BSA pilot program is making a big difference in the lives of students, parents, and educators alike.

Fast Company’s Cale Guthrie Weissman explains the STEM journey of a father and son duo, who upon joining STEM Scouts, found a new way to bond, learn, and have fun together.

The STEM Scouts pilot program teaches STEM subjects through engaging, hands-on activities, all while teaching character and leadership development. The goal of the STEM Scouts program is to “replicate in the lab environment the things that had been proven and tried in the Cub Scout and Boy Scout programs,” Chief Scout Executive Mike Surbaugh told Weissman.

The story also gives a unique perspective on STEM learning though the eyes of Texas educator Deborah Vasquez.

The STEM Scouts program is a key way to engage children “who aren’t really motivated during the regular school day but have a lot of potential,” Vasquez shared with Fast Company.

Learn more about how STEM Scouts is changing the way students approach STEM topics by reading the original story from Fast Company.

To find out more about this innovative program, head to and find a lab near you!

Bray Barnes Named Learning for Life Executive Board Vice-Chair; Career Development

barnesWe are pleased to announce that Bray Barnes, National LFL Treasurer, was recently elected to the newly created position of National Vice-Chair for Career Development; Learning for Life Executive Board. Bray will be instrumental with recruiting and providing leadership to a committee of twelve volunteers (National Exploring Career Field Chairs) that have specific professional knowledge and experience within each of the career fields. Additionally, he will assist the National Exploring Career Field Chairs in recruiting volunteers to serve on the National Career Committees.

Bray, a licensed attorney in New Jersey and Washington DC, received two US Presidential appointments, including representing the president on the US Department of Justice Coordinating Council for Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention during the Bush Administration. He served as a Senior Executive with the US Department of Homeland Security, Director of the National Cybersecurity Institute, and is currently Senior Advisor at Global Security and Innovative Solutions, a security consulting and business advisory firm headquartered in Washington, DC. Bray’s many connections in DC as well as his long time active involvement with Learning for Life, the National Law Enforcement Committee, and the BSA will be an asset to the Exploring Explosion Initiative, stated Dr. Diane Thornton, National LFL Director.

Bray, who has a military, law enforcement, and legal background has held numerous Scouting positions at the local, regional, national and international levels. He is a Distinguished Eagle Scout, Silver Beaver, Silver Antelope, Silver Buffalo, and a LFL Distinguished Service Award recipient. He was recognized with the “Messengers of Peace” Award by the Royal Family of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for his international work with youth in promoting peace around the world.

Boys’ Life Wins 2016 Readers’ Choice Award

bl-coverThe votes are in— Boys’ Life is officially the “Hottest Kids/ Teen Magazine!”

Earlier this month, BSA’s official youth magazine was nominated for Adweek’s 2016 Readers’ Choice awards and thanks to the support of loyal readers, Boys’ Life has once again claimed this celebrated title.  

Boys’ Life was voted the Hottest Kids/Teen Magazine of 2016 with nearly 40% of the vote, well ahead of other popular titles, according to the poll results announced by Adweek. Boys’ Life magazine locked in the Readers’ Choice award after beating out publications such as National Geographic Kids, Sports Illustrated Kids, Teen Vogue and other notable competitors.

This isn’t the first time Boys’ Life has received the commendation from Adweek. The youth publication also won the same award from Adweek  in 2014.

As the winner for the Hottest Kids/Teen Magazine category, Boys’ Life joins the ranks of other leading-publications such as The New Yorker, Bon Appetit, Allure, Men’s Health, Inc., Wired, and more. Read the full list of winners here.

Exploring Program Receives Motorola Solutions Foundation Public Safety Grant

bsa-exploring_dsc2739_edited_fullsizeIn an effort to help prepare America’s future workforce for success in the public safety sector, BSA’s Exploring program was recently honored with a grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation.

This donation will help youth discover the field of public safety through several different career tracks. In fact, five of Exploring’s 12 career programs involve public safety professions such as law enforcement, aviation, and health care.

This isn’t the first time Exploring has been recognized through this public safety endowment. Throughout the last five years, the Motorola Solutions Foundation has donated more than a quarter-million dollars for Exploring programs related to the public safety sector.

“The Exploring program provides an invaluable service for communities throughout the United States by helping young people explore career opportunities and bringing a potential work force to employers’ door step,” said Mark Wiesenhahn, National Executive Board Member for the Exploring program. “With funding from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, we are able to recruit more youth for Exploring, and help remedy concerns of a future shortage of public safety professionals.”

Several Exploring initiatives are funded by the Motorola Solutions Foundations grant, including volunteer and professional training, Explorer development, establishing new posts, and recognition.

Additionally, this grant helps provide funding for scholarships—an important factor for many young people looking to further their potential. Upon graduating from the Exploring program, youth have a better idea of what they need to do to achieve their goals, which in many cases, includes higher education. Thanks to benefactors like the Motorola Solutions Foundation, Exploring is able to assist many of its driven, young members with tuition costs.

bsa-exploring_dsc1972_edited_fullsize-copyThe generosity of this donation has a huge impact on Exploring—but it’s part of an even bigger picture. The Motorola Solutions Foundation gave $3.45 million to 83 organizations in 2016, which will benefit about 1 million first responders and community members, and more than 83,173 students nationwide.

“We wholeheartedly support innovation that enhances public safety,” said Matt Blakely, Executive Director of the Motorola Solutions Foundation. “The programs we’re supporting will benefit a broad range of communities served by law enforcement officers and staff, fire service personnel, federal agents, emergency medical service providers and our men and women in the military services – both active duty and veterans.”

The Exploring program is available to youth through Learning for Life, an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America that provides character and career education programs through sponsoring agencies or groups. The Exploring Program is currently offered in nearly 5,000 units nationwide, serving over 110,000 young men and women. To learn more about Exploring and experience all that this program has to offer youth, business leaders and the community, visit

Venturers First in a Decade to Win Council’s Ranger Award

Story by Lido Vizzutti and Mary Matelich of the Montana Council.

Photo credit: Keith Nathan
Cayman F., Madison E., and Emily G., are the first Venturers from the Montana Council to receive the Ranger award since 2006. Photo credit: Keith Nathan

Venturers Cayman F., Madison E., and Emily G., are not only the first members of their unit to earn the Ranger award, but the first in Montana Council to receive this exceptional distinction in the last decade.

The young women set out on a variety of impressive adventures, including pack rafting at the Montana High-Adventure Base (MOHAB), rock climbing and ATV riding at K-M Scout Ranch, and completing the Philmont Scout Ranch Cavalcade for the equestrian elective.

Showing true grit, the Venturers completed the wilderness survival requirement at Pipestone National Monument, Minn., in May with the temperature dropping to a chilling 32 degrees at night. Using only their survival kits, they underwent the night without sleeping bags or tents.

Photo credit: Rebekah Castro, Philmont Scout Ranch
Photo credit: Rebekah Castro, Philmont Scout Ranch

“Because Ranger electives are so challenging, it really takes focus to get four electives completed as well as the eight core requirements,” crew advisor Betsy Eubanks said. “The three Venturers have been working on the Ranger award for three years.”

To earn the Ranger award, Venturers first have to complete eight core requirements: first aid, emergency preparedness, “leave no trace”, land navigation, wilderness survival, communications, cooking, and conservation.

Next, they must finish four of 18 challenging electives – backpacking, cave exploring, cycling/mountain biking, ecology, equestrian, first aid, fishing, hunting, lifesaver, mountaineering, outdoor living history, physical fitness, plants and wildlife, Project COPE, scuba, shooting sports, watercraft or winter sports.

“My favorite thing we’ve done as a crew was the wilderness survival weekend and the days leading up to it,“ said Cayman. “I really loved the challenge and adventure of it!”

Training is important to these exceptional Venturers. All of them have attended the Boy Scouts of America’s National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT). They have also been active in taking and staffing the Wilderness First Aid course.

Photo credit: Betsy Eubanks.
Photo credit: Betsy Eubanks.

“Some requirements were easy in the way that they were almost something I would’ve done for fun – like the equestrian elective or the first aid elective,” said Madison. “Other requirements involved intensive focus in areas I’d never particularly excelled in or showed any affinity for.”

“Completing (the requirements) was difficult and required much motivation. In the end, it was those requirements that made the most impact on my skill and character,” she said.

If you had to pick one person to lead you on a wilderness expedition, you just might want to select one of these experienced and trained recipients of Venturing’s Ranger award! You can learn more about the award here.

Do you have a heart for adventure and a proclivity for the great out doors? Check out the video below, then contact your local council to learn more about Venturing in your area.

Special thanks to Lido Vizzutti and Mary Matelich of the Montana Council for submitting this story. 

How This Council Hosted a Powerful Day of Remembrance

Story by Jane Parikh of the Michigan Crossroads Council

Photo credit: Jane Parikh/ Michigan Crossroads Council
Photo credit: Jane Parikh/ Michigan Crossroads Council

Record crowds turned out in downtown Grand Rapids last month to participate in the 14th annual 9-11 Community Day of Remembrance and Scout Salute to honor the victims of the 2001 attack and the first responders who rushed in to provide relief efforts.

Among those in attendance were about 2,700 Boy Scouts with the President Ford Field Service Council who saluted an American flag flying above the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum from dawn to dusk at three-minute intervals.

Matthew Hogg, Program Director with the President Ford FSC, said the turnout was the largest since the event began in 2002.

“Originally this was designed to remember the events of 2001,” Hogg said. “In the last couple of years we’ve put the emphasis more on looking at the sacrifices that emergency responders and the military make every day to make it more relevant to new generations of Scouts.”

Photo credit: Jane Parikh/ Michigan Crossroads Council
Photo credit: Jane Parikh/ Michigan Crossroads Council

Those in attendance were also able to speak with firefighters who served at Ground Zero on 9-11, and see actual pieces of the Twin Towers, which were destroyed in the attacks. The exhibit was made possible through the Steven Siller Tunnels to Tower Foundation.

“The exhibit talks about the events of 9-11 and focuses a lot on New York and also on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania and the plane that crashed into the Pentagon,” Hogg said.  “People were able to talk to the folks who were there and get an idea of what it was like from the guys who were actually there.”

In addition to this unforgettable memorial experience, attendees had the opportunity to learn about general fire safety precautions, potential fire hazards, and the correct way to deal with them through a  mobile kitchen. The traveling trailer, which housed the kitchen, also provided visitors with a unique perspective into what it’s like to battle an actual fire.

Photo credit: Jane Parikh/ Michigan Crossroads Council
Photo credit: Jane Parikh/ Michigan Crossroads Council

The Community Day of Remembrance also included a non-denominational worship service in a park near the museum which included remarks from representatives with the Grand Rapids Police and Fire departments, Life EMS, and the Salvation Army.Hogg said the Final Salute included a volunteer with the American Red Cross; Brigadier General Mike McDaniels, who is also an Eagle Scout; Wayman Britt, President of the PFFSC Board of Trustees; and Kevin Nichols, PFFSC Scout Executive.

“We closed it out with the tolling of the bells for the firefighters who died on 9-11,” Hogg said.

Special thanks to Public Relations Director (West) Jane Parikh of the Michigan Crossroads Council  for submitting this story. 

Many BSA councils across the country demonstrate remembrance through their own memorial traditions. Veterans Day is coming up on November 11! Contact your local council here to find out how Scouts are celebrating in your area.

STEM Scouts Learn About Cosmic Careers From a Former Astronaut

Former NASA astronaut Greg Johnson addresses students in Austin, TX. (Photo credit: KXAN)
Former NASA astronaut Greg Johnson addresses students in Austin, TX. (Photo credit: KXAN)

Space travel might seem like a lofty goal to some, but according to former astronaut Greg Johnson, “It’s really the next frontier.”

The former astronaut shared his inspiring perspective on outer space with STEM Scouts from the Capitol Area Council and their schoolmates last month, when he stopped by an Austin middle school, according to TWC News.

During his visit, he encouraged the students to pursue their interests in STEM-related fields, which may even include careers out of this world. Think your drive to work is bad? Imagine commuting to the moon and back! Jobs in space may sound like a thing of the future, but according to Johnson, the future may be closer than you think.

“It’s going to evolve in their lifetimes in ways that we can’t even contemplate,” Johnson said of space travel.

Johnson tells students about his experience in space. (Photo credit: KXAN)
Johnson tells students about his experience in space. (Photo credit: KXAN)

During his speech, the former astronaut expressed the importance of America’s youth pursuing STEM careers, reported KXAN.

Johnson explained, “We’ve been leaders in the space program. It’s important for our next generation to be involved and engaged and those innovators in that next chapter of space travel.”

During his own career with NASA, Johnson piloted the Space Shuttle Endeavour’s final flight and the penultimate flight of the Space Shuttle Program.

Read more about Gary Johnson’s fascinating middle school visit in the story by KXAN and the story and video from TWC News.

Are you ready to get involved in the exciting world of STEM learning? Head to to learn more about BSA’s innovative new program!



Eagle Scout Meets Current Members of the Troop He Founded 45 Years Earlier

Photo credit: Bryan on Scouting
Photo credit: Bryan on Scouting

When Scout Kevin Dowling started a new troop for his Eagle project in 1971, he had no idea that more than four decades later, the past would come back around.

Fast forward 45 years to this summer, when Scouts from Troop 918 of the Baltimore Area Council encountered one of Philmont’s general managers as they were about to embark on a 70-mile trek through the High-Adventure Base in New Mexico.

The manager was none other than Dowling, the founder of the very troop. The Eagle Scout-turned-High-Adventure professional had heard about the troop’s arrival at Philmont and decided to pay the Scouts a visit and see them off as they began the 12-day trek.

In a recent post, Bryan on Scouting tells the inspiring story of Dowling, who as an Eagle Scout candidate, devoted his service project to laying the foundation for a troop that would later become “one of the most tradition-focused troops in the Baltimore Area Council,” according to Philmont trek advisor Chris Chamberlin.

Upon their return, the Scouts were again greeted by Dowling, only this time, they had a surprise for him.  Dowling was presented with a crew T-shirt “as a gesture of thanks and to commemorate the successful completion of their trek,” said Chamberlin.

“Kevin Dowling could not have known, way back in 1971, that his idea to start a new Scout troop would last and grow,” Chamberlin told Bryan on Scouting. “After all, without attention and support, many troops falter and fold, remaining only a memory in the minds of Scouts who had participated.”

Dowling was granted the rare opportunity to see the product of his service living on through the troop he started years ago, and the Scouts who are now working to make a difference through their own acts of service.

To read more about this story, check out the original article from Bryan on Scouting.