With bands, drones and lasers, the West Virginia site of the 24th World Scout Jamboree was a welcome attraction to roughly 50,000 visitors from July 22 to August 2, but the main focus for Severna Park High students Ben Van Brunt and Ryan Burgett, along with the other guests, was learning about peace, leadership and life skills.
The World Scout Jamboree is held in different countries once every four years for ages 14 to 17, so teens have only one chance to attend as a scout during their lifetimes.
Despite attending the same high school and living in the same community, Chartridge, the boys did not know each other until the event was approaching. Ben is a member of Troop 993, which meets at Severna Park United Methodist Church, and Ryan is with Troop 339, based at Woods Memorial Presbyterian Church.
Upon arriving at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia, it was clear the two scouts were going to meet many more new people. “The most important skill was just going up to people and starting a conversation,” Ryan said.
Ben added, “We definitely had to be more open to understanding other people’s cultures.”
Opening and closing ceremonies focused on global peace. Whitewater rafting and motocross were just two of the many activities offered in addition to the opportunity to compare cultures. Ben and Ryan asked other scouts about their countries and they compared favorite foods with kids from England.
“The British have this candy bar called Maryland, but it’s not anywhere in Maryland,” Ben said.
Both Ben and Ryan have had a lifelong interest in scouting. Ben lived in Denmark for three years and Italy for two years, working his way from a Tiger to a soon-to-be Eagle Scout. He finished his Eagle project in July, working with a team to build two benches and install a sign at Severna Park United Methodist Church, and he expects to have his Court of Honor ceremony in November. Ryan is currently searching for a worthy Eagle project.
While Ben enjoys fire-making and tools, Ryan loves camping. “I wanted to go out and stay in the wilderness for a week, which I’ve done,” Ryan said.
“You could pursue woodcarving, but another person could pursue space exploration,” Ben said of the various merit badges. “There is something for everyone.”
While the World Scout Jamboree, too, had something for everyone, Ben and Ryan are tracking their new friends through the app Snapchat, which has a map and identifying markers for each person’s location. Ben, a rising junior, and Ryan, a rising sophomore, are also excited to stay involved with their respective troops.
“I plan on helping my troop more and inspiring the next generation of scouts,” Ben said.