Eagle Scout Kris Zahrobsky was working part-time in his local Scout shop when the Scout executive approached him with a surprising proposition.
“They’re coming out with this thing called Venturing, and I want you to lead the effort for our council,” she said.
He was 18 at the time, and his biggest leadership role to date had been serving as vice chief of his Order of the Arrow lodge. He took the challenge, anyway.
That was just the beginning. The day he turned 21, he became Area 7 Venturing Advisor, a role he would hold for 13 years. Two years ago, after a stint as Central Region Venturing Advisor, he became the national Venturing Advisor.
What do you do as national Venturing Advisor?
I have the honor of advising the national Venturing president, the national Venturing vice president and the entire national Venturing officers’ association, which is composed of all four regional youth presidents and adult Advisors. We’re our own little crew, if you will, working to support Venturing.
Is Venturing all about high adventure?
You will find crews whose whole goal is high adventure, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They train and get ready for a Philmont trek for two years. Or they do some amazing scuba outing. But Venturing is really capable of anything.
I met a culinary crew that actually staffs a restaurant once a month; they get to keep a portion of the proceeds. There’s a roller coaster engineering crew; they go on roller coasters and then figure out the physics behind what makes them amazing. There are historical battle re-enactment crews that are passionate about learning every aspect of famous battles. That’s the beauty of Venturing.
What’s the secret for engaging busy teens?
I think program fuels membership and the desire to be a part of something. Get out there and do things. Have new adventures. And make sure the youth are integral in the planning and execution. We need to allow the youth to plan and execute and fail if needed. There are some Scoutmasters who take over for their boys, and there are some Venturing Advisors who do that, too, even with youth who are much older and should be more capable.
What did your own crew do?
For our first superactivity, the boys said it would be really great to do a trek at Philmont or go to Sea Base. The girls said, “We have a better idea: We want to go to the Mall of America.” They got their way. We learned a lot, and we had a lot of fun. We picked the destination. We set the budget. We worked on everything. It was incredibly rewarding because the adults let us do the planning.
So you were a shopping crew?
No! We did scuba. We went backpacking. We did rock climbing a bunch. But with that first one, we pushed our boundaries and said, “Let’s do something different.”
What’s the impact of a co-ed program?
It helps boys mature a little bit. With the guys, you’re horsing around or doing stupid things you’ll probably get yelled at for. But with the girls, you act a little smarter and try to care a little more.
What did you learn as you got active beyond the council level?
The biggest thing I found was that people from all these different Venturing crews love to get together and share resources. Joe may be part of a scuba crew, but Susie may be part of a climbing crew. The scuba people would love to get out of the water once in a while, and the climbing people would love to get into the water once in a while. We can make those connections.
What’s your message to Scoutmasters?
We’re not stealing their Scouts. These guys may quit for all the reasons they did 40 years ago: sports and other commitments, dating and that first taste for freedom. We just want to retain them. We just want to give them opportunities.
How can interested Scouters learn more about Venturing?
The best way is to go to venturing.org. We’ve tried to make a one-place resource. We’re on a never-ending crusade to make sure we reach those people in those church basements, in those crews. We want to help crews deliver a better program, change lives and recruit more people to it.
Fact Sheet: Kris Zahrobsky
Years as a Scout Volunteer: 20
Current City: Willowbrook, Ill.
Current Positions: National Venturing Advisor, vice chairman of National Venturing Committee
Day Job: National account manager, Automatic Fire Controls
Most Satisfying Moments in Scouting: Having his parents present when he received the Eagle Scout Award and the Silver Antelope Award. “My dad never made it past Webelos, but he was so supportive of me even though he didn’t have the same experience. Both he and my mom were present with me every step of the way.”
Favorite Camps: Camp Fiesta Island, San Diego, Calif. “What a breathtaking place! It’s one of the only BSA camps that’s on the Pacific Ocean. But there will always be a special place in my heart for Camp Mach-Kin-O-Siew, a now-closed camp in the northwoods of Wisconsin.”