Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Scoutmaster Mike: The Kente and the Generations

Note: this entry last updated on Monday, October 13, 2014

A few days ago I off-handedly spoke about a tradition that we have in Troop 250, wearing the Kente Neckerchief. Where did this tradition come from, and why does Troop 250 use it?

As far as the tradition, it was my development that I brought to Troop 250 when I became its Troop Committee Chairman back in 2001. At the time, there were few long standing Troop traditions, and I wanted to see if I could help make something that would both energize the boys and create a sense of tradition and continuity within the Troop, a way for the boys to more directly remember those who had gone before.

Back when I lived in San Francisco, and was Scoutmaster for another Troop (Troop 92), I was asked to lead the Explorer Post that met in Pacifica that consisted of all the Youth members over 14 from all of the Wards in our Stake. Since I didn’t want to duplicate what they were already doing, I went to the scout store to see if they had something unique. When I was there, I saw that they had a neat multi-patterned African style kerchief. When I asked what it was, they said it was called a “Kente”. I asked if it had any special significance, or if it was just a unique looking kerchief? Other than the fact that it was popular with many of the Troops that had a strong African-American membership, they said no, it was freely available for anyone to purchase and to wear, but that it was originally designed to not be a “troop kerchief” per se, but should be something special or reserved for special individuals, as befits the original Kente cloth that is made in Ghana.

When I got to the Crystal Springs 1st Ward, I thought I’d get the chance to work with Scouts immediately, but instead I was asked to serve as a Stake Missionary for two years. When I came back into active service with Scouts, I asked Tim (our then Scoutmaster and current Bishop) if we could do something unique. I remembered the Kente cloth and over the ensuing years, I kept coming back to it and wanted to see us do something with it. When I learned Kente cloth was given to and worn by men of status and bravery, I thought “A-ha! I know how we could use it!” I wanted to find a way to encourage boys to earn their Eagle award, and likewise find a way to encourage other boys to do the same, and also remember past Eagle Scouts, more so than how a plaque or desk statue would do. I wanted something they could internalize, something they could make their own, carry with them anywhere, and then give to others later on.

With this, the idea of the “Kente” and the “Generations” came into being. It started with one boy, the first boy that I approved and signed off on to sit for an Eagle Board of Review. As this boy had actually already been away at college for a year, he was put on deferment until he came back. Since I was able to help get him a Board of Review date, and he had his uniform but no kerchief, I gave him the Kente Kerchief that I had held onto for all these years, and suggested he start this tradition of the Kente and wear it to his board of review. As he was easily accepted as an Eagle Scout, we were able to hold his Court of Honor shortly thereafter. Since there is a common tradition in the Eagle Court to offer “Scouting’s Flame” to another member of the Troop and have them join them in the "Eagle’s Nest", a way of promising help and guidance to that boy so that he can himself become an Eagle, I felt that giving the Kente to this boy would be a great way of developing this tradition. Thus, the boy who first had the Kente signed his name on it, then gave it to another boy, and he would wear it until he in turn became an Eagle, at which time he would sign his name on the Kente and give it to another, and so on, and so on, and so on. We also decided a consequence if a boy received the Kente and did not earn his Eagle. The Troop would allow that Kente to “stop its Generations”, meaning that it will not be passed on to another. The boys decided that the right to pass on a Kente would be reserved for those who finish the work.

In the nearly thirteen years that this tradition has been in place, only one youth has received the Kente and not completed the Trail to Eagle. Every other youth who has received it has become and Eagle Scout or is still active in the process of becoming an Eagle Scout. Names are not listed to protect privacy, but I have used initials to denote who has received the Kente and the Generations represented (edited: this list is current as of October 13th 2014):

JV (I) --> EB (II) --> JO (III) --> SC (IV) --> SC (V)  (who is currently a Star Scout in the Troop)

SP (I)/BN (I)/AG (I) --> MK (II) (Life, did not get his Eagle) --> [X] (This is the one time that multiple boys chose to give their Kente to one person, and that one person decided to not get their Eagle. Thus three Generation lines ended here… this was also when I suggested, and the Troop decided, that only "one to one" transitions would happen; no more groups.)

AP (I) --> JK (II) --> PS (III) (Current Life Scout)

WJK (I) --> SN (II) --> JW (III) --> RW (IV) (Current Star Scout)

JD (I) --> ND (II) --> JD (III) (Current Life Scout)

AF (I) --> NL (II) --> HF (III) --> AF (IV) (Current 1st Class Scout)

BS (I) --> KS (II) (Current Star Scout)

JW(I) --> CF (II) (Current Star Scout)

TM(I) --> HM(II) Current 2nd Class Scout)

BJ(I) --> TBD (II) (Court of honor to happen soon)

RS(I) (Eagle board of review to happen in December)

ZJ*(I) (this was a special presentation, in that he did not earn his Eagle rank in our Troop, but since I've known his family from before he was born, and had his family not moved away, he would have been one of my scouts, I made a special presentation at his Court of Honor and presented him with a Kente on our behalf :) ).

In the course of a little under 14 years, 31 boys have worn (or are wearing currently) the Kente, and of those 31, 22 have completed the journey, 8 are in process and 1 never finished. It will be interesting to see how many more boys will be “marked” by the Kente in the coming years, and I truly dream of a day when every boy in the Troop will have one or will have worn one at one time or another. It’s also my hope that this will be a tradition that will be practiced for decades in this Troop, until the kerchiefs can no longer hold any more names. While I know it’s not practical to think every boy will make Eagle (statistically only 4% of all scouts ever reach that rank), I am heartened by the success that the "Generations of Kente" has to show. I’m hoping to see us record many more years and many more Generations of honor to these young men.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Some Shots of Eagles

With May 30th coming up *really* fast, Chris and I are in the process of trying to get invitations out to people and to make sure that we have everything arranged. To that end, we tried this weekend to get some neat pictures of the boys for their program and invitations. You'd think that going out to get good pictures near and around San Francisco wouldn't be a big deal... you'd be wrong in this case (LOL!).

It's May, and for some reason Mother Nature picked *this weekend* to give the Peninsula a healthy dose of fog and drizzle. Ocean Beach? Covered in fog, no visibility. Seal Rock and Sutro Baths? Not visible through the haze. Golden Gate Bridge? Fuhgeddabout it! As I was thinking what might look cool on the Eastern side of the City, as we descended into the Marina District and the drive to the East Side, the skies parted for a bit and showed the Palace of Fine Arts clear as a bell... and with that, we decided we'd found our backdrop. The procession of Wedding photographers and brides and grooms that were there at the same time confirmed for us that, yep, this would be a good place. we had to be patient and work around the wedding parties, but I think it worked out pretty well.

These are a couple of close-ups of Nick. The shift in hair part was necessitated by the wind, in case anyone is curious :).

I like this shot of the two of them together. There's an inside joke they were constantly going on about and it made getting pictures tricky after awhile because they kept cracking up laughing. Still, even though this is right on the edge of a giggle fit, I think it captures their personalities perfectly.

These two are so young, I decided we *had* to get a shot of them just being silly. This will very likely be in the back of the program :).

Moral of the day is "don't give up on an idea, even when it looks like everything is working against you. Your golden opportunity may be just around the corner". Glad we didn't just give up when all the other areas we thought of didn't pan out as expected.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Nicholas Larsen is officially an EAGLE SCOUT!!!

On Wednesday evening, Nicholas Larsen and his friend Nick Duehring sat for their Eagle Scout Boards of Review. This is the last part of a multi-piece puzzle that challenges boys to set goals, accomplish some pretty tall tasks, and then meet with a Council led advancement committee to decide if they have earned the right to be Eagle Scouts. I am happy to say that, as of Wednesday, April 29, 2009, Both Nicholas Larsen and Nick Duehring are the newest Eagle Scouts in Troop 250!!!

This is a shot of Nick Duehring and Nicholas Larsen in front of the Pacific Skyline Council Service Center, where the Boards of Review were held. They certainly look the part, don't they :)? I'm also proud to see two "Second Generation Kente's" at this point in time... the neckerchief the boys are wearing is called a "Kente", and it is patterned from colorful cloth that royalty and special people in the African country of Ghana wear. It's a Troop 250 tradition. There are only two ways to receive a Kente in Troop 250; be a "First Generation" Eagle Candidate, or to have it passed down by a previous Eagle Scout who wore it, with the promise that you will achieve the rank of Eagle Scout yourself. Both Nick's are 2nd Generation Kente recipients. Nick Duehring received his from his older brother Joshua (himself a First Generation Kente) and Nick Larsen received his from Andrew Ferris (also a First Generation Kente). It's very likely that, when Nick Duehring receives his Eagle Kerchief, he will pass his Kente on to his younger brother Jacob. Nicholas Larsen has already told me who he plans to give his to, but he has sworn me to secrecy (LOL!).

A very proud dad and Scoutmaster stands with his soon to be Eagle Scout :).

Long time Disctrict Advancement Chair Frank Colthart, Leo McArdle, and a tag team between Chris Duehring and myself (we can't review our own boys, but we could review each other's boys :) ) allowed our guys to be reviewed and discuss the path that each has taken over the past two and a half years (Nick Duehring is a little older than Nick Larsen; he joined the Troop on his 11th birthday in October of 2006. Nick Larsen joined the troop at 10 1/2 after earning his Arrow of Light on March 19, 2007). Both boys laughed a bit and said afterwards that their LIFE Board of Review was way tougher... of course, their Life Boards of Review were held at Camp Oljato, and that Board of Review was conducted by the Camp Staff, not by any of us (tough crowd, (LOL!) ).

Each of the boys had the opportunity to reflect on the Eagle projects that they performed. Both boys took different approaches as to what they wanted to do. Nicholas Larsen conducted a Pet Needs drive for the Peninsula Humane Society. Nick Duehring did a construction project of planter boxes for Burlingame Intermediate School. Both projects required the boys to be the leaders, and to call the shots as to how they were performed and to make sure that all steps were accomplished in a timely manner and to completion. Both boys earned high marks for their efforts.

Nicholas Larsen standing between Chris Duehring, Frank Colthart, and Leo McArdle, the three men who gave the final approval to him being certified as an Eagle Scout. He's holding his Eagle Project plan.

Nicholas Duehring standing between me, Frank Colthart and Leo McArdle, the three men who gave the final approval to him being certified as an Eagle Scout. Likewise, he's holding up his Eagle project plan.

Thus, as of April 29, 2009, two new Eagle Scouts join the list of Troop 250's High Fliers. To say I'm proud of both of these boys would be an understatement. Not only do I have a lot of admiration for their achievements, I'm also proud of the fact that these two boys (often referred to as "Nick-squared" or "the two bodies that share the same brain") made a commitment to each other to work together to achieve these goals, and to help each other along the way. For the past two years, they have helped, competed, and occasionally cajoled and cat-called each other to step up and make the grade. Both said they couldn't see doing it without each other, and I hope that this is a bond that both will carry with them for the rest of their lives. It's great to see boys reach for the stars. It's even better to see two boys decide to reach for them together. Now we have a little matter of an Eagle Court of Honor to hold... it is in the works. The date will be May 30, 2009, exact location to be determined. One thing is for sure, though, it will be a memorable event, and we would love for family and friends to come and share the day with us. More info on where to be posted soon :).