Taking our kids for a walk in their double stroller, Phil and I talk about many things, but saving for college isn't usually one of them.
On one of our recent walks, we ran into Angelica Tysinger, whose two boys were going door to door in the neighborhood, selling popcorn as a fundraiser for their Scout troop.
Part of the money they raise goes toward troop activities and part goes toward saving for college. They're both 12, which means college is only five or six years away.
But saving for college isn't the main reason that scouting is important to Tysinger and her family.
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“The biggest benefit is teaching them about the world, getting to know other people, different people,” says Tysinger.
The safety and survival skills taught in Scouts prepare her kids for situations they may encounter. “It may sound silly, but when you're out, camping and hiking, people do get hurt,” she says.
Tysinger's boys, Morrissey and Justin, are in middle school. This is a time when college tuition begins looming – and also when many kids give up Scouting because of peer pressure. “Unfortunately, in these days, sometimes Boy Scouts aren't cool,” she says.
But their troop, 327, which meets on Tuesday evenings at Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church in Sherrills Ford, is doing lots of cool stuff.
Troop leader Fred Roseman says the meetings are divided between skills, such as making campfires and setting up tents, and games like kickball and flag football. Scouts also learn career skills that can help them earn merit badges. For example, an FBI agent visited the troop to help the boys learn about fingerprinting, which is a Scout merit badge.
Troop 327 also travels quite a bit. Members made a recent trip to Wilson Creek to try out their backpacking skills, and in June the troop traveled to Tennessee, where they visited Cades Cove and Dollywood. At the end of September, the troop will have a candle-making display at the Murray's Mill Festival in Catawba.
Boys who are active in Scouts, earn the required merit badges and complete a community service project can reach Eagle Scout rank. According to the Boy Scouts of America, only about 5 percent of Scouts go this far. Roseman says that four Scouts from his troop have made Eagle this year, and two more are working toward it.
Earning Eagle rank is a goal for Tysinger's two boys, too. But for now, they're working on a sales goal that will put them a bit closer to a college education.
Like any good Scouts, they come to the neighborhood prepared with a plan: Start late in the afternoon to avoid the heat, be friendly, and have the popcorn ready to deliver that day.
Like the other skills they learn in Scouts, Tysinger sees the fundraiser as important preparation for the future.
“So when you're faced with a situation, you can handle it,” she says.