Scouter Bob Roylance introduces Scouting to refugees in Utah

Bob-Roylance-Refugee-ScoutingWhen Bob Roylance and his family started working with refugees from Myanmar eight years ago, they found themselves spending a lot of time in court, helping boys who’d gotten in trouble with the law. The boys wanted to belong to something, which too often meant joining a gang. A lifelong Scouter, Roylance decided in 2009 to give them an alternative activity and launched Troop 1262.

The unit serves about 85 members from the Myanmar community. A dozen members have become Eagle Scouts, 35 attended the 2013 National Scout Jamboree, and 18 traveled to Asia last summer for a trip that included the 2015 World Scout Jamboree in Japan and visits to Thailand and Myanmar.

These refugee parents have no Scouting background. How do you persuade them to let their sons join? When we first started out, we were helping the family and not just the boy. We developed a level of trust. One of the things I keep telling our leaders is the most important thing you can do is get in and talk to the family.

What persuades the boys to join? We have to have a big carrot to recruit the boys. The parents are very supportive of what we’re doing, but they won’t insist that a boy get his First Class done or get his First Aid merit badge done. It’s entirely up to the boy whether he becomes active. With that knowledge, we have to have a very active and exciting program for the kids so they’ll come.

Recruiting and retention are key Journey to Excellence measures. Do you have a membership secret? The troop is almost a culture within a culture. It’s where the action is in the community. If you’re not a part of that, you’re kind of on your own. All their friends come to Scouts, so they come.

What impact has the program had on the community? The South Salt Lake Police Department had a lot of crime problems in these apartment complexes. They said our program kind of cleaned it up, that gang-related crime has gone down two-thirds since the formation of Troop 1262. The secret to this success is to find wonderful volunteers to fill important Scouting roles; we have around 10 volunteers in key positions. We also place great emphasis on the first part of the Scout Oath — duty to God. In my view, there needs to be a spiritual component to Scouting, regardless of religion.

Tell me about one of your Scouts. We’ve got one boy who I think is going to be valedictorian at a big high school. He has straight A’s right now, and he’s in his senior year. He wants to be an attorney, and the reason he wants to be an attorney is to help his people with all their legal issues.

Are all your Scouts college-bound? No, but all of our kids are getting their high school diplomas. Most of their parents work in hotels, doing housekeeping and making maybe $9 an hour. Some of the kids are just satisfied with doing that too, and we’re trying to get them to think a little bigger.

You’ve raised large amounts of money to finance the troop. Is the investment worth it? Vanderbilt University did a study that said that a high-school dropout will normally cost society a quarter-million dollars over the lifetime of the person. If you extend that to a person who goes into crime — which is the next step for a lot of these kids who don’t get a diploma — then you’re looking at a couple million dollars. Just from an economic point of view, I don’t know if you can get a better return on investment anywhere.

Can other communities learn from your example? One of the reasons we’ve gone to the jamborees is to encourage others to get involved in helping boys at risk, whether it’s in Chicago or Baltimore or wherever. Whenever we do anything that the news covers, we try to promote the idea that there needs to be more effort by the community to support troops like ours. People need to catch the vision of how valuable Scouting can be to the community and each boy. I think it’s just such a wonderful opportunity for somebody to serve his or her community.

Fact Sheet – Bob Roylance
Years as a Scout Volunteer: 40-plus
Current City: South Salt Lake, Utah
Current Position: Chartered organization representative for Pack 4262, Troop 1262, Team 7262 and Crew 2262
Day Job: USAID consultant; retired farm manager
Proudest Moment in Scouting: When 11 troop members received their Eagle Scout badges at a single court of honor. “It was a major event; we had a lot of important people there. It was just an amazing thing to see happen.”
Favorite Camp and Why: Bear Lake Aquatics Base, Laketown, Utah. “That’s really a wonderful camp. Once a month we go to a local swimming pool and teach our Scouts to swim, so when they go to Bear Lake, they can participate in all the activities.”

1 Comment

  1. Bob … I would like to start such a refugee troop in the Phoenix Area but am having a hard time finding an organization person to communicate with – to get me started. Any ideas?

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