Welcome back to ALPS (Adventure, Leadership, Personal Growth, and Service). This “part 2 of a three-part blog” will strive to address the relevance of the Venturing awards and recognition program. Back in 2014 the BSA National Venturing Task Force developed a new recognition program that was structured to complement the four pillars (ALPS) of the Venturing program. All of the Venturing awards now give Venturers a structure for developing their own personal vision of their lives. The program is broken into manageable goals that lead to recognition by their peers, mentors, and the larger community (both in the Church and the world in general). Unlike other Scouting programs, these “levels of achievement” are not considered to be “ranks.” The associated recognition devices (Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder, and Summit) should not be considered as an end in and of themselves. As our Venturers earn these various recognition devices they are encouraged to continue to serve others, to give back in all areas of their lives, and to strive for success throughout their lives. It’s a seamless merging of the Venturing ALPS with the Church’s Learn, Act, Share process.
Many people have stated that LDS Venturing young men just cannot earn these recognitions due to their being Venturers for only two years (ages 16 and 17). I acknowledge that these are not simple and easy awards to earn, but it can be done! It puts a whole new meaning to “doing hard things.” Unlike the Boy Scout rank advancement program, there are no specific time constraints in achieving and completing the requirements for any of these recognitions. However, they are to be completed in hierarchal order (Venturing, Discovery, Pathfinder, and Summit). If a young man wants to work hard and “go for the gusto,” he could earn all of the Venturing recognition awards within a two-year period of time. It’s obviously not easy to do (but nothing worthwhile in life is easy, is it?).
With all of that said, let’s look at each of the Venturing awards:
The first step in any journey or experience is having the courage to begin. Right from the beginning of his Venturing experience, a young man will learn about Venturing: what the crew does and his making a commitment to the principle of Venturing. This is very similar to the priests quorum leadership orienting and welcoming a new young man into the quorum. This first level of recognition marks his commitment to join and move forward into the adventure of Venturing.
This award is designed to be earned within a month of joining the crew.
- Award Focus: Joining
- Commitment to a new experience
- BSA training on personal safety & youth protection
The second level of the Venturing recognition system is all about participation and preparing for leadership. As these young men become more active in the crew, they will begin to discover talents and gain skills that will help them lead and serve others. The Venturer has the opportunity to learn skills and basic competencies that are designed to prepare him to assume greater leadership roles in the crew, quorum, and life. It’s time to not just watch, but to get out and do something—it is truly action oriented.
- Award Focus: Participation in all of the following
- Small-group management skills training
- Earn first-aid and CPR certifications
- Goal-setting training
- Time-management training
- Minimum of 24 hours of service
- Establish and achieve at least one personal goal, including a peer and Advisor review
At this level, Venturers will begin to expand and demonstrate their leadership skills by organizing and guiding the crew on a variety of adventures. They will continue to deliver service to others, including to members of the crew and quorum. The associated goals these young men set should be designed to help them continue to grow as individuals and strong priesthood holders. They will experience both formal and hands-on training to facilitate growth in this area.
- Award Focus: Personal Leadership Development
- Project Management training
- Plan and lead at least one crew activity of one day or longer
- Serve in a leadership position for six months or more
- Experiential training in conflict resolution, communications, group dynamics, cooperation, and ethical controversies
- Plan and lead an activity to enhance crew sustainability
- Plan and participate in providing service of (at a minimum) 36 hours not to include the 24 hours of service when earning the Discovery Award
The Summit Award represents Venturing’s highest honor. To achieve this ultimate recognition, a young man should have the opportunity to serve the crew as a leader (both formally and informally) and develop the skills necessary to be a mentor to others. In addition, a young man should be asked to strengthen his community by designing and leading a service project to truly benefit others. When thinking about the “community” don’t forget the community of the Church (including the ward, stake, and area). The experiences gained in earning this award will help him mature as a member of a team (i.e. quorum) and as an individual. How does this recognition tie in with being a priest in the Church? I would ask each of us to think about the mission of the Aaronic Priesthood and the role of missionaries to “Invite all to Come unto Christ.” This way you can begin to see the unification of ALPS to the Church’s Duty to God process.
The Summit award moves the experiences of these Venturers toward an emphasis that is truly “others directed.”
Those young men who earn the Summit Award are marked as effective leaders, conscientious servants of others (true servant leaders), men of integrity who live the values of the Scout Oath and Scout Law, and who are capable of setting and achieving ambitious goals, all while living life as an adventure. Future employers and others in the community will know that those who complete this recognition are not only “finishers,” but that they have developed skills and capabilities that prepare them for success in life.
- Award Focus: Mentoring
- Mentoring and coaching skills training
- Mentor a crew member in the planning and leadership of a crew activity
- Serve in a leadership position for six months
- Lead the delivery of small-group management skills and training
- Complete some type of advanced leadership training
- Plan, develop, and give leadership to a community service project (don’t forget our definition of a community stated above)
- Complete goal development and planning for all realms of personal growth
- Create a true personal code of conduct for review by peers, adult Advisors, and Church leaders (this is a great item to share with the bishop during an annual individual interview)
- Lead and guide an ethical controversy and conflict resolution discussion with your crew
Now, let’s summarize this recognition program. The chart below is a quick visual description of the aims of each award as the Venturer progresses toward the Summit Award. I want to give credit to the national BSA for developing this table (May-June 2016 Advancement News , page 11). It’s awesome.
|SUMMIT||Mentoring and participation||Ongoing leadership development||Goal-setting and personal growth||Leading others in service|
|PATHFINDER||Leading and participation||Leading others||Goal-setting and personal growth||Participating in service|
|DISCOVERY||Participation||Preparing to lead||Goal-setting and personal growth||Participating in service|
|VENTURER||Initial participation, orientation to the crew, Personal Safety Awareness training, and induction into the crew|
Some helpful links on Venturing recognition:
- http://blog.scoutingmagazine.org/2014/02/12/new-venturing-award-names-announced/ (this is a bit dated, but it’s still good reference material)
- http://www.scouting.org/filestore/advancement_news/2015_Mar-April.pdf (pages 9 and 10)
- http://www.scouting.org/Training/YouthProtection/Venturing.aspx (Venturing Leader Youth Protection Training)
- http://www.scouting.org/filestore/pdf/46-506.pdf (Please note that these vignettes are direct and do not pull any punches in describing various situations. They could be troublesome or even traumatizing for some youth. I strongly recommend that Advisors, parents, and Church leaders view these vignettes prior to showing them to any Venturing youth. Some crews have included licensed psychologists and counselors to assist in this training.)
Next up: Part c: “What About Your Role as an Advisor?”
~David Wilson has been actively involved in Venturing since its inception back in the ’90s. He is dedicated to working on strengthening the bridges and removing the walls that occur between the Church and the BSA for the older young men in the Church. David continues to work to bless and serve through his involvement in multiple levels of Venturing (from national to the local council). He currently calls Orem, Utah, home. The views and opinions expressed in this message are solely those of the author.