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Gang Member Turns Life Around With the Boy Scouts

Waco Tribune staff photo— Jerry Larson Javonte White, 22, said he thinks more young men should step up to serve as role models.
Javonte White (Waco Tribune staff photo— Jerry Larson)

Javonte White has a variety of accomplishments under his belt, including being named the top program assistant for the Longhorn Council of the Boy Scouts of America in Waco, Texas, but would you believe just a few years ago he was in a gang?

At age 22, White has recently led a successful toy drive for area children, attracting 300 people for an exciting day of food, music, and activities such as rock wall climbing and archery. There were plenty of gifts to go around, with each child receiving multiple toys, thanks to the generous donations of the Waco community. The event exceeded all expectations and resulted in 10 children signing up to join the after-school Scouting program.

White is breaking Scouting stereotypes by showing young men a unique side to the program. “Scouting motivates them to move forward. It’s bigger than what many people see it as,” he said. White’s interest in music has played a major role in energizing the program. With the help of his group, Versatile Grind, which performs at local events, White enlisted the talent of a live DJ for the toy drive.

He is helping positively change children’s perception of the program just by being himself, said Bryan Butler, assistant director of field service for the Longhorn Council in Waco. “I think it’s more of a passion for him, not a job, but a passion to give back and stay in the community and show boys you can go down this road, or you can go down this positive one.” Butler has worked with the Boy Scouts for 15 years and says the Longhorn Council hires about 10 new assistants a year to help with the after-school Scouting program. Approximately 200 students participate in the after-school program, and the local council has more than 3,700 members.

White travels to inner-city Waco schools to get to know students who are interested in activities such as camping and fishing. With upward of 70 percent of these students receiving free or reduced-cost lunches, many prospective participants may not have access to opportunities like those available in Scouting. By offering a free Scouting program, these students have the chance to join an organization that’s not only fun, but also teaches them important life lessons.

He believes this after-school Scouting program is helping next-generation teens stay out of the gang life and recommends the program to help keep kids on the track to success. White says that some of these youth may not have a father figure or positive influences in their life and Scouting teaches them essential skills for a better future.

White reflects on his difficult teen years when he struggled with peer pressure and adjusting to new places. He attended five different schools spanning Texas, Virginia, and North Carolina until finally settling in Waco. Frequently moving was challenging for White as he jumped between living with his mom, grandparents, and dad. During his time in North Carolina, White found himself in a gang before he entered the 10th grade. He and his friends thought it was the “cool” thing to do, but at 16 he realized he needed to make a change.

After moving to Waco, White soon took a position at Subway. He first met Butler there four years ago when the two struck up a conversation about Scouting. Following their brief conversation, White decided to work for the council. He says it was the chance to help kids that attracted him to the position.

“With everything that’s going on in life, I tell them to stay away from the negative things and carry yourself as a positive person,” he said. He urges young men to keep an open mind to the possibilities of their future, whether it be earning better grades, finding new jobs, or attending college.

White hopes to inspire others and continue motivating kids within Scouting. “It makes me proud to help out in the community and make a difference in our generation.”

After being featured in the Waco Tribune-Herald, White’s story and experience with the BSA will be featured on Waco’s KCEN Channel 6 in early February. For more information, please check back with the Scouting Newsroom for updates.

(Some information from this article came from Cassie L. Smith, Waco Tribune-Herald.)

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Hayley

Hayley Cordaro is a communications specialist at the Boy Scouts of America. She loves sharing inspiring success stories and uncovering new ways volunteers and employees can make the most of their Scouting experience. If you have story ideas or questions, reach out to us at communications@scouting.org.