John Dreyzehner, a 2009 American Legion National Eagle Scout of the Year runner-up, and his brother Jason, the 2012 American Legion Eagle Scout of the Year, spent most of their life in Scouting. But Scouting stopped for John upon entering college at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, and he immediately realized how much he missed “this outlet for service.” So the two brothers tapped into Scouting’s missing network – college students – and chartered University Scouts (Uscouts) in 2011.
“We are the college level of Scouting that connects college students with local Scouting troops to create opportunities and provide mentors,” John said. Both he and Jason are members of Sons of The American Legion Squadron 74 in Charlottesville.
The American Legion recently spoke with John about creating Uscouts and its involvement with local troops.
Q: What steps were taken to charter Uscouts?
A: We first started talking to the local (Boy Scouts) council to see what sort of program we should create to make it most beneficial for them and for us. The verdict was to become a venture crew, which Jason and I have experience in. So we decided in order to make Scouting work at the college level, we would make it both a part of school and a part of Scouting. That way, we could attract people through UVA, gain support from faculty members and use the campuses facilities to hold meetings.
Also, before we could register as a venture crew, we had to have a faculty member as our crew advisor. One of my professors noticed my Philmont Scout Ranch belt buckle and told me how he’s into Scouting so I asked him if he would be our crew advisor. We then registered UScouts as a venture crew and created a constitution and bylaws. And Jason created our website, http://Uscouts.org.
Q: How many members does Uscouts have?
A: We are about 30 active members strong, both male and female. And membership is not limited to those who were already in Scouting. We meet once a week in our crew advisors department conference room, and we teach something in every meeting such as first aid, knot tying, astronomy and search and rescue. That way, our members get a good idea of what survival is and what it means to be in Scouting.
Q: How has Uscouts been helpful to local troops?
A: A lot of troops have younger staff but not enough adult leaders and Scouting requires adult leadership to do any activity, especially high adventure activity like backpacking and rafting. All of us involved with Uscouts are of adult leadership age, so we sign up as an adventure crew, but we also sign up as adult leaders for Scout troops. We are like an on-call leadership group. On our website we have a volunteer request form that anybody can go to and tell us when, where and what they need and how many of us they could use. It’s always within traveling distance for us.
Q: What events have you helped with?
A: We have done backpacking trips with troops, helped with food drives, gone to troop meetings and discussed knot and merit badges. We recently hosted a merit badge event where we helped 240 Scouts from seven states complete merit badges to get them on their way to Eagle Scout. And we assist in community service projects that Scouts have with The American Legions, Sons of The American Legion and more. Also, we have even taught astronomy to Girl Scouts. The idea is to help every part of Scouting that we can. It’s been a really fulfilling program.
Q: How has Uscouts positively impacted its members?
A: Uscouts is great for college students because we don’t have time to plan a big event like a backpacking trip, but we reap the mutual benefits of going with the troops and teaching them what we know. We are closer in age, so we tend to connect well with the Scouts. And it’s really exciting because all these kids that we get to hang out with talk to their friends about how cool it was that they hung out with college students. Then their friend goes to the next Scouting meeting and there you have another kid in Scouts.
Q: Will you expand Uscouts to other colleges?
A: We have more than a year under our belt of holding meetings and helping Scout troops, so we are getting an idea of what it takes to be a University Scouts chapter at a school. We are currently working with our local Boy Scouts council to make sure they like what we are doing and what we stand for before we try to push to other colleges and grow.
And after I graduate, I envision my role with Uscouts has helping other colleges start a chapter; I would love to see Uscouts in colleges across the nation. It’s providing service while having a good time in the outdoors, and I think that can go a long way.