Monroeville troop among 40,000 Scouts at jamboree
Andrew Nicolazzo has been afraid of heights for as long as he can remember, but he planned to tackle that fear this summer.
Last month, Andrew, 14, conquered one of the largest man-made outdoor climbing walls in the country.
“It was scary, but it was an amazing feeling when I got all the way to the top,” he said. “It was a great experience educationally and it was just really fun.”
Andrew, a Gateway High School freshman, was one of seven Boy Scouts from Crossroads Troop 184 in Monroeville to attend the more than weeklong National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, July 19-28. The boys joined 29 others from Pittsburgh's Laurel Highlands Council and 40,000 Scouts nationwide.
The jamboree was intended to challenge Scouts physically and mentally to push themselves toward personal goals.
Andrew pushed himself by conquering his fear of heights, and worked with a team to complete a high-level obstacle course.
“It taught me the importance of teamwork and skills,” Andrew said. “It was a group effort where we made a strategy with each person having a role.”
Scout leader for the Monroeville troop, Ray Shumaker, considered the event the “Cedar Point” of Scouting, referring to the famous amusement park in Ohio. In addition to rock climbing, there was zip lining, mountain biking, scuba diving and skateboarding. The Scouts were essentially in charge of their own schedules during the event.
“It's an overall pretty extreme experience,” Shumaker said. “It challenges them to personally manage themselves, starting with their health and working towards daily challenges.”
Connor Watson, 14, of Troop 184 and a freshman at Penn-Trafford High School, said his greatest challenge as a patrol leader came before even leaving Pittsburgh.
“I had to assign positions to different Scouts for the whole week,” he said. “It was a lot of teamwork and organization overall that went into it.”
For Watson's father, Evan, the jamboree provided an opportunity for his son to build independence and leadership skills.
“It's a chance to learn how to mature from boys into young men, and then being able to take those skills and apply them later on in life,” he said.
An honor for Scouts
Presidents have been invited to participate in every jamboree since its inaugural year in 1937. President Trump accepted, then brought national attention to the jamboree when he included political content in some of his 35-minute speech.
The Boy Scouts of America issued an apology statement shortly after, saying the organization does not endorse political parties or issues.
“I'm honored that the President came … but I wish he would have talked a little bit more about leadership and the importance of volunteerism and the community,” Shumaker said.
Politics aside, Evan Watson said that Trump delivered an uplifting message to the Scouts.
“He delivered a fantastic message to the boys about how you should find something to do that you love and that you should stick with it,” Watson said.
Christine Manganas is a freelance writer.