Boy Scouts of America Plans Campaigns to Lure Hispanics

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at
Sun Dec 28 22:24:54 UTC 2008

 December 27, 2008

Boy Scouts of America Plans Campaigns to Lure Hispanics


SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — As it prepares to turn 100, the Boy Scouts of
America is facing a huge test: drawing Hispanics into its declining,
mostly white ranks. "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, a former national
president of the Boy Scouts and chairman of the World Scout Committee.
The group remains the largest youth organization in the United States,
with 2.8 million children, nearly all of them boys. But that is about
half of its peak membership, which was reached in 1972.

Its rolls took hits through the 1980s and '90s over a still-standing
ban on gay or atheist leaders and scandals surrounding inflated
membership numbers.
Today, one in five American children under 18 is Hispanic, according
to the Census Bureau. But Hispanic children make up only 3 percent of
The organization has hired a media and marketing company that focuses
on Latinos. To help spread the word, it also assembled a committee of
Hispanic leaders, including the chief executive of AT&T's wireless
unit, a senator from Florida and the archbishop of the Diocese of
Laredo in Texas.

Next year, the Boy Scouts is starting pilot programs in six heavily
Hispanic cities, including Fresno, Calif., and Orlando, Fla., to test
ways of introducing scouting to immigrant parents. The group is also
planning to run radio and television commercials, hire bicultural
Spanish speakers, work with churches that serve Hispanics and reshape
its programs. "We're serious about this," said Rob Mazzuca, chief
executive of the Scouts. "This is a reinventing of the Boy Scouts of

To work, the changes will have to run deep, said Julio Cammarota, a
University of Arizona professor who has studied Hispanic youths. The
Scouts will have to work with Latinos' strong family connections and
relax the focus on individual achievement, Mr. Cammarota said.
Activities where younger boys learn from the older ones, much as they
rely on siblings and cousins within the extended family, will also be
better received. "They'd be better off starting with a carne asada in
a city park," Mr. Cammarota said of the Scouts. "Sending their kids
away on their own, that's not familiar."

Scouting's traditional values — respect, discipline and community
involvement — dovetail well with those of Hispanic families, said
Carlos Alcazar, chief executive of Hispanic Communications Network,
the media company hired by the Scouts to conduct a yearlong survey of
Hispanic attitudes toward the group and develop the membership
strategy. Marcos Nava, director of the National Hispanic Initiatives
Division of the Scouts, said: "One hundred years — that's a great
benchmark for us. But we have to remember, to Hispanics we're just at
the introduction, the basics. Because if we don't get past that stage,
we won't live to see another 100 years."

Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at


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