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Boy Scouts Bank on Hispanics, Still Need to Work on 'Cool' Factor

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It's an American institution on the verge of its 100th anniversary, and the Boy Scouts are struggling to survive. Although it's still the top youth organization in the nation, enrollment has been steadily declining over the past two decades, and in order to stay afloat, they've come up with a new strategy: Attract Hispanic kids.

The demographics of the country have changed, and the Boy Scouts are gearing up to adjust accordingly. A Scouting official told the Assosicated Press (via the Daily News): "We either are going to figure out how to make Scouting the most exciting, dynamic organization for Hispanic kids or we're going to be out of business," said Rick Cronk, former national president of the Boy Scouts, and chairman of the World Scout Committee.

While the Scouts can make some relatively simple changes, like hiring bilingual employees and create target-specific advertising, at the core, some of the focus values will need to change. An expert explains "Scouts will have to work with Latinos' strong family connections and relax the focus on individual achievement [...] Creating activities in which younger boys learn from the older ones - much as they rely on siblings and cousins within the extended family - will also feel more comfortable."

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But ultimately, one thing the article only hinted at was the pop culture rep the Scouts have garnered as being pretty dorky (see: Napoleon Dynamite, for starters).

Trailblazing in the woods, making a cookstove out of a coffee can, and earning merit badges isn't much competition against video games, skateboarding, or loafing around with your pint-sized pals. Just picture for a moment the 7-12 year old boys you may encounter on any given day here in Los Angeles, Hispanic or not. Now, picture them swapping their everyday togs one night a week for the Scouting uniform, turning off their cellphones, and learning to curb their sassy mouths. Hmmm. Can it work? Mind you, there are, indeed, rewards to belonging to organizations like the Scouts, and those rewards ideally manifest themselves and help make a child into a better adult, but once you sign your kid up, you've got to make sure they like it and become invested.

So the Boy Scouts are poised for a reinvention hinging on the Hispanic population. The Daily News piece ends with this telling bit from a Boy Scout event in Northern California:

As a dozen boys wearing the light blue Soccer and Scouting jerseys tumbled into an auditorium in San Jose's Seven Trees Elementary School, nearly breathless from a game played in the December chill, it was clear they loved the program - certainly the soccer part of it. But the connection to Scouting remained tenuous. Michael Gudino, 7, and his brother Matthew Gudino, 6, talked about what they loved best: dribbling the ball, learning to pass and playing on a real field.

Pressed on what they like about Scouting, they stopped to think.

"Learning to be nice to each other?" Michael said tentatively. "Folding the flag?"

Sweet.Photo by Ned Raggett via Flickr