by Kirsten Hope
I visited the boy scouts in Urbana today, which was probably my last community visit. Our student, Kirby Johnson, works with Gino Corrales in leading the boy scouts. True to my other experiences in the community, I arrived at the boy scout meeting thinking I knew what was coming, and was again totally surprised and blown away. I've had some experience with the boy scouts since my brother was a boy scout when we were younger, and my sister and I were often brought along to race-car derbys, pack meetings and even boy scout camp. When I thought about going to visit the boy scouts today, I imagined the crafts and other pack activities that characterized my experiences in the past. However, when I got there, Gino, Kirby and about 6-7 boys of varying ages were just setting up for a soccer game! I wish I had known, because I definitely would have brought my running shoes! The boys really liked playing, or so it seemed, and got really into the game. I was a little relieved that I wasn't playing, because they play pretty hard! Kirby and Gino also played with them, and it looked like they had as much fun as the boys! Although I didn't get to ask that many questions about the other activities the boy scouts do, in just playing soccer I saw how the leaders encourage team work and leadership in the boys, which are obviously really important skills to learn, especially at a young age. As I saw in so many other places, Gino and Kirby also provided really great role models for the boys. Not only were they hard-working players, which could apply to other areas of life, but they were very excited to be there and let the boys see that. I don't know much about these boys, but I'm sure that knowing that adults and university students want to hang out with them and care about them is extremely important to them. Additionally, I realized how important sports can be in the lives of young kids. I played soccer when I was little, but was never really into it. I actually mostly played because my parents made me. However, in this game, which was also very informal and laid back, I saw how kids can learn discipline, respect, responsibility and team work. Gino and Kirby made sure that they played fair, respected each other, and gave them a lot of positive feedback about their performances and attitudes, showing excitement when they scored a goal or made a great move. The importance of extracurricular activities became very apparent as the kids learned about these different qualities through the models that Gino and Kirby provided.
Also, before I left, Gino asked me to talk to the kids for a few minutes about my experiences with Spanish and the Spanish and Illinois program at the U of I. As I talked about my experiences with Spanish and a few of the other programs I've seen, Gino highlighted that not everyone learns Spanish at home, like the boys, but there are other people who learn it in school. He taught the kids the importance of diversity, understanding other people and their perspectives, and gratitude. While these boy scouts may not be the ones I remember from my brother's pack days, full of derby cars and boy scout camp, the underlying values and ideals are the same. Teaching students to be responsible and part of a team cannot be undervalued, and I think that the work that Gino and Kirby are doing right now is really making a difference in the lives of these kids.