Blazing a New Trail

Posted on 02/19/2021 10:40 am  /   February 2021

Chartering unfamiliar territory for positive change

No one would have imagined that a nationwide crisis would drastically impact the way we live the way it has this past year, but it has done just that. For the Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America (GSLAC), it has been an experience in looking at what we do well, and where we have room to grow.

Our Council has a long-standing legacy of providing programs and outdoor adventures to youth around the St. Louis metropolitan area, Southeast Missouri and Southern Illinois, but even we have to look at how we can grow together.

Experiences shape and build our Scouts from a young age and throughout their adult lives, providing leadership skills and practical knowledge for the world around them. The organization has met its share of challenges when continuing the great programs for young people to enjoy.

Even facing the challenges of the pandemic, the local Boy Scout Council has stood strong through many challenges, COVID related and not.

National news stories shedding light on the financial state of the Boy Scout organization, civil and political unrest and racial inequality has touched the hearts of the GSLAC staff. It has made each of us look at how we can do better, how we can be better for our Scouts.

Within these unprecedent times for the local Boy Scout Council and its staff, we fully believe that diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) efforts will present many opportunities and positive outcomes for our people, and the organization.

Prior to the pandemic, our leadership team focused on the need to improve our DEI efforts. With the support and continuous guidance of our consultants and leadership of the Council, trainings focused on understanding and growth became mandatory for staff.

To meet the needs of the employees and to promote a more equitable environment, our first ever Staff Diversity Committee was established. This committee is comprised of peers who represent various groups within our organization. Everyone serving on the committee comes to the table with different perspectives and backgrounds, voices that should be heard.

Our common goal binds us, to make a positive difference within our staff culture and in the lives of the people we serve.

As the Council made major strides, we focused on adapting to the “new norm” with positive, life-changing and open dialogue. This was encouraged in our regularly scheduled virtual all-staff meetings.

These discussions have touched on racism, the feeling of uncertainty and the struggles our staff and families are experiencing. Several virtual affinity groups and a diversity book club were formed to provide an opportunity for staff to express their concerns and challenges.

The reality is that people manage their pain and hardships differently.

Establishing these small groups and forums have been a lifeline for employees who are seeking the best way to balance their work and personal lives. The Employee Assistance Program is an added benefit to employees who are facing the most difficult circumstances.

To build team comradery, morale and increase performance, our staff participates in various projects around the community. Contributing in these projects has been a breath of fresh air, and an opportunity for staff to learn more about unfamiliar environments.

The council has a strong presence in the communities heavily hit by the pandemic. Scouting programs and events were revised with safety in mind, including the difficult decision to cancel some events.

Our Program Outreach continues to transform youth in the rural and urban areas where Scouting is needed. While many area programs are lacking in youth participation due to the pandemic, program outreach has seen a noticeable increase in involvement and membership.

One such program we are proud to hold is Scouting for Food which fights scarcity in food pantries’ supply of non-perishable items. The campaign was successful because we created a modified plan for safely accepting donations. Everyone came together to fill pantry shelves, with the goal and hope to provide enough meals for households around the area.

Our Emerging Leaders Network is a group of young professionals, eager to engage in the greater St. Louis community, mentoring area youth and developing both personal and professional networks. This diverse group of emerging business- men and women represent the various communities and industries in the region.

The Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America stands firmly by our mission to prepare young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes by instilling in them the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

Change doesn’t happen overnight, but with strength, perseverance and our duty to God, along with the pursuit of true diversity, equity and inclusion, we will emerge on the other side of strife, a better community.

Ronda Smith
Greater St. Louis Area Council, Boy Scouts of America
Director of Human Resources, Diversity & Inclusion