When Deborah Gottlick's son was in first grade, she decided to enroll him as a Cub Scout in the hopes it would provide him great experiences and teach him important life lessons.
As a single mother, Gottlick also thought it would be the perfect avenue in which to introduce her son, Shawn Johnson, to positive male role models.
Now that Johnson is a 16-year-old Eagle Scout, his time in Scouting has provided him all that and more, Gottlick said.
"Being a scout has taught him responsibility, allowed him to mature at a young age and given him so many tools that he carries into his everyday life," Gottlick said. "And the male leaders have been there to mentor him in ways I can't."
Being a scout has taught him so much, Johnson said, and he's always excited to be able to give back and help younger boys.
Next weekend, Johnson, of Finksburg, and the rest of the Scouts in Troop 9 will host an NAACP First Class Camp day in Westminster, where they will try to reach kids from under-served communities and introduce them to the life of a Cub or Boy Scout.
The event will feature different stations to teach the boys survival and first aid skills, as well as team-building and sports activities, Johnson said.
The lessons learned in Boy Scouts can help any boys, especially those who normally wouldn't have the chance to get involved, Johnson said.
"Everyone should have the opportunity to do something like this," Johnson said. "It's a really fun experience but also very beneficial for your future."
Ron McKinney, district executive for the Boy Scouts of America's Baltimore Area Council, said the Boy Scouts have been trying to reach under-served communities for a while now, though they have mostly been focused on inner cities.
The organization now also looks for pockets of under-served groups outside big cities and hopes the camp event will be successful in getting some Westminster boys interested in scouting, McKinney said.
For this event, McKinney has met with officials at Robert Moton Elementary School to try to get those students involved.
Scott Wallace, Scoutmaster for Troop 9, said McKinney approached his troop to help lead the event because it has a lot of older scouts, who are in charge of planning and leading the whole day.
"Some scouts will drop out when they get older, but we're lucky to have a good number of 16- and 17-year-olds," Wallace said. "They have the skill set to plan and put on a program like this."
It's been great for Wallace to watch the older Scouts mature and shift their priorities throughout their time in the troop, he said.
"When boys first get into Scouting, it's normally because they want to learn or do something," Wallace said. "Once they turn 13 or 14, you start to see them realizing it's not just about what they get out of it, but more about giving back and helping the community and younger scouts."
Having the older scouts lead the event is also a great way to inspire the younger boys.
"If we try to get them to listen to adults, they'll probably feel like they're in school," Wallace said. "But if we have young men serving as the mentors, it gives the younger boys a chance to connect with them and get really excited."
Wallace said the whole troop is ecstatic to have the opportunity to get involved with the First Class Camp.
"One of the most important things we can do for our Scouts is to try to develop them into young men who give back to the community in small and big ways," Wallace said. "If we can effect the smallest of change in the community, it's phenomenal in my opinion and well worth the effort."