Scouts Honor

Boy and Girl scouting is a popular activity among younger kids, but why do high schoolers continue to participate?

Jack Callaghan, Patille Papas, and Leon Lau

For over 100 years, scouting programs have instilled in youth the values of the Boy Scout Oath, Law and the Girl Scout Promise. Today, these values are just as relevant in helping youth grow to their full potential as they were in 1910, however the intended age for these activities has shifted towards younger individuals. While scouting remains a popular activity among elementary and middle school students, few continue to participate in high school. Through activities such as digging a trench to stay warm in the cold Tahoe weather, trekking through the forests of Yosemite or building robots, scouting helps participants develop academic skills, self-confidence, ethics, leadership and citizenship skills that influence their adult lives. Although these various outings and adventures teach basic skills and promote leadership qualities, scouting also encourages youth to acknowledge a deeper appreciation for service to others in their community.


For the past 12 years, Paly senior, Jenny Tseng has been a dedicated Girl Scout, participating in a robotics team called Space Cookies for the last four years. Space Cookies has a partnership with the NASA Ames Research Center and Girl Scouts of Northern California and has become Tseng’s second home. “I spend so much time in our robotics lab,” Tseng said. “The program really is time consuming. If I’m not at the lab I’m at home planning for a meeting.” Tseng used to feel lost in the male-dominated STEM world but Space Cookies helped her find her footing in the environment. “I remember when I was little it was really intimidating to do STEM-related activities if there weren’t other girls around because it is just not a comfortable environment,” Tseng said.

Although her time has been invested to the Space Cookies for the last four years, Tseng still remembers her adorable Brownie Scout days, when selling cookies was her number one priority. As a second grader, she was expected to introduce herself, her troupe and give a sales pitch for the organization she was raising money for.  “I was really scared [about going out and selling cookies] because if you think about it, I was a second grader, going to a whole new neighborhood and knocking on some strangers door and asking if they wanted to buy cookies,” she said. Although she was nervous about selling cookies, she knows that being taught to communicate with strangers at such a young age and being pushed out of her comfort zone has benefitted her.

“I’d definitely say that Girl Scouts has made me more comfortable talking to new people and improved my communication skills,” she said. “Even more so when I joined the Space Cookies in freshman year.” Since then, she has become a captain of the team, where she is in charge of outreach for Space Cookies. Because there are so many girls out there who are interested in STEM but don’t know the right way get involved she works to encourage younger girls and minorities in the community to join STEM programs, more specifically robotics. Tseng says that their goal is to “reach out to younger girls and teach them how interesting and fun robotics is.”.She also expresses how the Space Cookies helped her explore STEM because “It was a group of welcoming girls that were also like-minded individuals.” Her commitment to her robotics team is extremely impressive and exhibits her passion for the issues she is actively advocating for. Tseng says that the experience has taught her to “be more open-minded because a lot of what Girl Scouts is about is recognizing and embracing differences and appreciation for diversity,”


Laughter is a typical response Seattle Hmelar receives when he tells other students that he is a Boy Scout. The only people who seem to appreciate the Paly seniors work are adults or other scouts, who congratulate him on his commitment and dedication.

In sixth grade, Hmlear originally joined Portola Valley Troupe 64 because of his love for the outdoors. What he didn’t expect was that scouting would do much more than fulfill his craving to be in nature. “Serving the community is the main skill I’ve learned,” Hmelar said. “I’ve also learned first aid and some other skills that may seem kind of irrelevant, but you never know when they may come in handy.”

This year, Hmelar was able to obtain the Eagle Scout rank, which shows engagement and dedication. As the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve, it’s very prestigious and requires an extreme commitment to scouting and community service. In order to achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, they must put many hours of community service into an “Eagle Project.”

For his project, Hmelar built a storage deck for the Palo Alto Children’s Theater, which they use to house equipment for their shows and productions. “To reach the Eagle Scout rank, you definitely gotta be extremely committed,” Hmelar said. “There are other members in the troupe who don’t have the goal of becoming an Eagle Scout so they just hang out.” Because of the dedication the project requires, Hmelar spent a month focusing on it, missing out on social and family events.

A major reason behind why people choose to continue scouting are the advantages they gain in college admissions. Being a scout for the Boy Scouts of America not only shows commitment but also shows appreciation for community and service. “College definitely played a role in why I continued scouting,” Hmelar said. “This wasn’t my main motivation, but it definitely did play a role.”

For Hmelar, while college admissions motivate him to stay in scouting, he genuinely likes being in the outdoors. “I had a lot of fun going camping and rafting,” Hmelar said. “They have a lot of fun activities that we do. On top of that, I’ve always wanted to be an Eagle Scout, so I set my mind to that and I didn’t stop until I reached that.”

Although he has made friends through the process, most of the kids in his group are younger, which he sees as a downside to his troupe. The youngest kid is 12 while the oldest is 18, creating a significant age gap. “I wouldn’t say it’s a tight-knit community,” Hmelar said. “I am one of the oldest scouts in my troupe and was around lots of younger guys, so I had been in their shoes before, but they hadn’t been in mine. They couldn’t really relate to my life and the age difference was too big.”

Hmelar feels that his decision to join and stick with Boy Scouts has greatly benefited him. “Through scouting, I feel like I’ve built a lot of character,” Hmelar said. “I’ve been provided with opportunities that wouldn’t have been given to me otherwise.”