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Boy Scouts leader speaks at Duluth banquet

When it comes to turning youth into positive, contributing citizens as adults, having a positive role model matters, the leader of the Boy Scouts of America said.

When it comes to turning youth into positive, contributing citizens as adults, having a positive role model matters, the leader of the Boy Scouts of America said.

Wayne Brock, chief scout executive of the Boy Scouts, touted the impact the national organization can have on young people before a crowd of 100 people at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center on Thursday during the annual banquet of the Voyageurs Area Council, which consists of more than 4,000 Boy Scouts in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

"You make a difference in the lives of young people," Brock said, thanking the adults who volunteer with the Boy Scouts in the Northland.

Showing black-and-white photos of his childhood home in North Carolina, including the coal stove that heated his school, Brock said he personally knows the impact the Boy Scouts can have on a young person.

Brock recalled a conversation with a man who had been in Boy Scouts and was the child of drug addicts. Although all they would do is play during meetings, the man's scoutmaster took an interest in him, which taught the man to believe in himself and that he could do something with his life, Brock said.

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"You make a huge impact on people, and you may not even know it," Brock said.

Before he became the chief scout executive in 2012, he watched the national coverage of a 2008 tornado that killed four Boy Scouts in Iowa. A Boy Scout said on the news that if the tornado had to hit anywhere, the best place was their camp because Boy Scouts are prepared, he said.

"It's about building kids of courage and character who do the right thing and put others before themselves," he said.

However, the national organization needs to keep up with changing times.

"We're trying to do things that are relevant in the eyes of the American people," he said.

To that end, the Boy Scouts has spent the past three years modernizing the Cub Scouts and making it easier for parents to understand, he said. The overhaul also has added more fun activities for the kids in what Brock called the "adventure-based Cub Scouts."

The Boy Scouts also created a new STEM Scouts program focused on science and technology that will be rolled out in stages nationwide after a successful pilot program in Knoxville, Tenn., last fall. It was created to provide a new relevant program that appealed to young people, he said. The program still will have the same principles as the Boy Scouts, but the experiences will take place in laboratories instead of the outdoors.

Locally, "2014 was one of our best years ever," said Nick Minardi, president of the Voyageurs Area Council. The Council is planning to expand its staff and revise its strategic plan this year after its positive year.

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However, the Boy Scouts is struggling to remain relevant, Minardi said. The leadership has several activities scheduled today to discuss how the Boy Scouts can bring together a diverse group and provide a safe place for young people in the community, he said.

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