By Hayley Cordaro, communications specialist at the Boy Scouts of America
This is the last post in our blog series about the vital role that out-of-school time programs play in the social, emotional, and character development that youth need to navigate a complex, interconnected world. This series is made possible through generous support from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.
With activities like camping in the wilderness, learning new skills through merit badges, and conducting service projects that help the community, the Boy Scouts of America Scouting program is known to provide challenging opportunities that help develop youth into the leaders of tomorrow. For some Scouts, these challenges intersect with other obstacles like disabilities. But in Scouting, these hurdles aren't roadblocks—anyone can develop into the leader they want to be. Drew Carlson faced several medical difficulties from a young age but didn't let it keep him from achieving his goals. And Scouting helped get him there.
Drew's journey to Eagle Scout
Drew Carlson’s path in Scouting started the way many do. He was invited to a recruiting event when he was in second grade. After attending some Cub Scout meetings, Drew decided on his own that he was going to earn the Eagle Scout rank. Never once pushed by his parents, he quickly became a very dedicated Scout.
Deemed Scouting’s highest award, the Eagle Scout rank is earned by only 6 percent of Scouts. It is a rare and highly honored recognition in Scouting with many Eagles ascending to some of the most prestigious roles in the world: presidents, members of Congress, astronauts, and film stars.
Drew was encouraged and supported by his father, Dave, who became an active volunteer, starting out as a Den Leader and later became more involved as a Cubmaster. Once Drew joined Troop #835 of the Denver Area Council, Dave soon became the Scoutmaster.
At this point, Drew was well on his path to Eagle, and Dave was putting in more hours in Scouting than his own career. Drew also received strong support at home from his mother, Janay, and his older sister, Emily. This may sound like a typical Scouting story, but Drew’s journey has another layer...
Finding community in scouting
From the earliest parts of his life, Drew experienced several issues that manifested in delayed physical, intellectual, speech, and behavioral development. He has had several minor, non-life-threatening surgeries and has been enrolled in special education since kindergarten, as well as going through occupational and developmental therapy.
The family pursued many options to find answers, but it was not until age 13 when an endocrinologist finally helped diagnose Drew with Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome (RTS). RTS is a mutation in one or more genes and the degree of developmental issues can vary widely. Drew is within the high-functioning spectrum of the condition.
Drew found his community in Scouting, a place where he could be involved in a program that required physical activity, helped build friendships, taught leadership skills, and developed good character and morals. It allowed him to participate in Duty to God and to help other people through service. Scouting provided him a program to be involved with his parents and have the guidance of positive adult mentors.
“[In Scouting] he was always approached like any other kid, and not special needs. No other place allowed for that type of reaction. He was a bright kid, with a bright future, but Scouts helped define that road,” shared Dave of his son.
Drew earned his Eagle Scout rank in 2016, having completed his Eagle Scout service project for the Conifer Cemetery through a restoration and construction effort. The project made such a positive difference to him that Drew and his family still visit the cemetery once a month to provide upkeep and continuous beautification.
When asked, “What is the most important thing Scouting has done for you?” Drew says, “I never gave up or give up and I am determined to reach my goals. I am not sure even my mom and dad thought, with my history, that I would make the honor roll in high school or go to college, but I have, and I am going to Front Range Community College next year. I want to keep on going.”
Drew’s long-term vision is to become an entrepreneur and own an ice-cream shop, for which he already has the name—“Drew Scoops!”
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