By Audrey Alfson
You don’t have to look far to see the impact Houston’s Boy Scout Troop has made on its community. The trees in the city park and around town? Many of them planted, logged and planned by Eagle Scouts. Hiking trails in South Park? Made by Eagle Scouts. The recycling shed, bridge and duck blinds at the Houston Nature Center? All Eagle Scout projects. Even the concrete Houston sign on the west end of town is an Eagle Scout project. And surely the area churches and public library would not have such nice landscaping, playgrounds and storage sheds were it not for Eagle Scouts.
For these reasons, and more, the Hoedown Committee has chosen to recognize the entire troop as parade marshal for this year’s celebration.
Chartered in 1987 with sponsorship from the American Legion, Houston’s Boy Scout program is well known for its commitment to outdoor education, high adventure excursions, leadership training and community involvement.
Houston currently has 30 active Boy Scouts between the ages of 11 and 17. Since 1993, 40 boys have earned the rank of Eagle Scout –the highest honor in scouting – five scouts achieving the honor this year alone. On average, approximately one third of boys who begin Boy Scouts in Houston achieve the rank of Eagle Scout, well above the national average of 2 percent.
Ask any parent or scout the secret to the troop’s success and they point to Scoutmaster Arlyn Frauenkron and a handful of dedicated assistant scoutmasters and committee members. The leaders, including Frauenkron, Dan Borgwardt, Terri DeBoer, Brian Jerviss, Jill O’Donnell, Greg Haas, Mike Beckman and Melanie Chapel, have over 220 years of combined scouting experience.
All eight leaders are “Woodbadge” trained – the highest level of training an adult scout leader can receive – and five of them have gone on to staff Woodbadge training. In addition, five leaders have been given the “Silver Beaver” award, the highest honor the council can give to volunteers.
“You can go a long way before you find a troop with this kind of skill,” Scoutmaster Arlyn Frauenkron said.
All the leaders came to scouting as a shared experience with their own children, many coming from communities outside of Houston – even as far as Fountain City, Wis. – and stayed long after their son was done. The reason is simple: a love of the outdoors and a shared vision of creating leaders and empowering young men.
“A Scoutmaster has only one job,” Frauenkron said, “to train boys to lead.”
Every meeting, every campout, every high adventure trip maintains this focus. The boys plan their adventures, shop for, cook and clean up their own food and are in charge of maintaining troop equipment. As they progress through the ranks, older scouts are expected to teach the younger scouts.
“Sit on your hands, keep your mouth shut and observe,” he continues. “When something goes wrong, you sit the boys down and talk about it. Every mistake is a teaching moment.”
Frauenkron believes so strongly in leadership that each year, the troop pays to send eligible 13-year-old scouts to the week-long National Youth Leadership Training program.
When you combine those leadership training opportunities with regular camping excursions, high adventure canoe trips to the Boundary Waters and the “Crown Jewel” of Scouting: hiking in Philmont, New Mexico, Houston’s program has a reputation for excellence that is hard to beat. And it has not gone unnoticed.
In 2003 Frauenkron was recognized as one of the top 45 Scoutmasters in the nation, out of 54,000 eligible Scoutmasters. If you were to ask him, however, he would say it’s not about him, or the other leaders. Instead, he’d say “It’s about the kids.”
As he speaks he leans forward and points his finger with compassionate conviction. “When you can teach boys not to limit themselves, they are able to accomplish anything and everything.”
When the Hoedown grand parade rolls down the highway on Sunday, spectators will likely see Arlyn Frauenkron and other leaders and scouts leading the way; but don’t be surprised if they look distracted and disappear as soon as they reach the end. The Troop’s Chicken-Q fundraiser is a highly anticipated and popular feast on Hoedown Sunday afternoons. If you want to congratulate them, you’ll find Arlyn near the grill and the scouts preparing orders.
After the parade, grab a plate of the best Chicken-Q this side of the Mississippi. And while you’re there, make sure you take in the veteran’s memorial nearby. It was an Eagle Scout project, too.