As I sit in my tent, waiting for our final dinner, I decided to take some time to write about my experiences here at Venturing Blast and the Philmont Training Center. Venturing Blast is an NVOA sponsored training that covers VOA operations, strengthening VOA programs, and growing VOAs around the nation. I decided to take this course because I started my Council VOA. I didn’t have a Council President to guide me through it then and while I am so grateful for the area, regional, and national support I was given, I felt I needed to learn more about VOA fundamentals. While I have learned a lot over this past year, from reading Venturing materials, attending Region Orientation, and talking to officers and advisors, I firmly believe this course has given me a new set of principles that I can use to help strengthen the Venturing program within SR5.
The course started on Sunday afternoon and I arrived full of excitement. The instructors, Tom Dewey (from our own Piedmont Council) and Liz Finley from Nevada, led an orientation. Following that, we ventured on to a wonderful opening program led by Philmont Training Center. Three Carolinians (both North and South) proudly yelled and whistled during the State Roll Call.
The next day started our instruction, we learned about setting visions and using SMART goals. We also toured the National Scouting Museum at its new location on Philmont property. In the afternoon, we learned to trust our fellow participants through Low COPE. I walked through a maze of obstacles blindfolded completing various tasks and shimmied through a spider web. At this point, our crew was forming. The following day was probably my favorite. We spent the day talking about PROGRAM, PROGRAM, PROGRAM! The eight of us were split into officer and advisor roles with each of us sporting a role we hadn’t experienced. (And Lexie got to be an advisor!) We were tasked with planning a region event in New York City! As the VPA, I was thinking about logistics. We decided to camp at Alpine Scout Camp in New Jersey and give each participant a day pass for the New York City Metro. Each crew would have 4 program slots and 5 different programs to choose from. They could go to Times Square or visit the Museum of Modern Art. Another task we had for the day was to plan out all of the details for a Tier 2 activity. The four of us in my team (Shout out to the Red Wedding Crashers) took on a service project. Of course, during neither of these exercises could we fully plan out an event but they were great learning experiences. I fully expect to bring similar exerc ises to the SR5 orientation this August (contact the SR5 Venturing page for more information).
The next day was Wednesday. During the morning, we again were put on our toes and had to plan out an entire set of Council Bylaws. While that may sound boring, the Venturing Blast faculty made it a fun and exciting activity. Wednesday afternoons are set for family time here at the Philmont Training Center and while I came alone, I joined a group of Scouters from the Central Region in learning about the Villa Philmonte. The tour guide was excellent and I stayed behind at the end to learn more from Chuck Walneck about the Model N, the only car left on Philmont property when it was donated many years ago. In the evening, I attended another wonderful tour; this time, it was a candlelit tour of Kit Carson, a staffed camp at Philmont that recreates the original buildings of the Maxwell Land Grant and a stop on the Sante Fe Trail.
On Thursday, the National Venturing Vice President, Jake Brillhart joined us as we learned about talking to Scout Executives, an important step in starting Council VOAs, and about reporting through the Council Venturing Journey to Excellence. In the afternoon, Owen McCulloch, the National Venturing Director, and Tim Anderson, the National Exploring Director, came and talked to us about the future of Venturing and Exploring, and how we can work together. Tim Anderson also took on the personality of a Scout Executive as we practiced approaching Councils to start VOAs.
Today, unfortunately, marked the final day of program activities. In the morning, we hiked to the beautiful Lover’s Leap and were inspired to mentor others as others had mentored us in the Scouting and Venturing programs. In the afternoon, we had a graduation ceremony and an all-conference meeting where we learned what everyone did this week. Tonight, we will close out with a ceremony that I’m sure will be spectacular.
Venturing Blast has been a wonderful program and I have learned a lot. I highly encourage everyone reading this, whether you’ve been in the program since Exploring or if you joined this year, to make a trip out to Philmont and attend the Venturing Blast course. We’ll be sure to share information on the next one as soon as it is available!
I hope you enjoyed our first entry in the SR5 Blog. Make sure to follow us on social media to get the next entry!
Yours in Venturing,
Jackson Nietert, SR5 Venturing President