Hispanic Cub Scout pack comes to Columbia

Monday, January 16, 2012 | 6:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:06 a.m. CST, Thursday, January 19, 2012
Luis Abad, 11, second left, and Alejandra Abad, 9, right, discuss in Spanish how to read maps as part of a Cub Scout Pack 121 meeting at Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Sunday. Adam Stansfield, 17, left, helped the younger scouts learn during the pack's weekly meeting.

COLUMBIA — Alejandra Abad likes to read fairy tales, dance along to her favorite artist, Selena Gomez, and practice cheerleading.

But every Sunday after the Spanish Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Alejandra, 9, joins a handful of boys bouncing around the courtyard outside. Wearing neckerchiefs and navy shirts, these Cub Scouts eagerly await their weekly meeting.


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Although Alejandra’s brother Luis is a Cub Scout, she doesn’t attend the meetings to observe like the other sisters. She is the lone female member of Pack 121. She's a girl in a Cub Scout pack.

“Technically, I’ve signed up Alejandra in the BSA Learning for Life program,” Cubmaster John Stansfield said. Sacred Heart, the pack’s charter organization, does not offer Girl Scouts.

According to John Fabsits, Boy Scouts of America director of development and marketing, Learning for Life is a coed character-building program.

Out of 27 Columbia Cub Scout packs and hundreds of children involved, Alejandra is the only girl participating in any Scout activity.

She participates in all of the events and attends regular meetings like the rest of the Scouts. 

“She was out there with her earrings and headband, and nobody gave her a second look,” Stansfield said. He described Alejandra’s involvement in Pack 121 as welcomed by fellow packs, too.

The national Hispanic Initiative

Noticing the growing population, the Great Rivers Council in Columbia decided to designate Pack 121 as a Hispanic pack — the city’s first.

Nationally, the Boy Scouts of America formed its Hispanic Initiative in 2007 in response to the growing Hispanic population. The goals are to engage the Hispanic community and encourage more Latino youth membership, executives and volunteers.

After roughly six weeks of recruiting outside Spanish Mass, Stansfield was able to put together a group of eight participants.

The outcome was successful enough to create the pack, but it is significantly smaller than his past group, which included more than 80 boys.

Stansfield recalled the difference between Boy Scouts 10 years ago, when his two sons were involved, and today. The organization has lower numbers even as the population of eligible youth has risen.

“What changed are the demographics of America's youth,” he said. “Hispanics are now more than 20 percent of this age group, but they account for only about 3 percent of BSA members.”

After attending Spanish Mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church for six months, Stansfield said he has learned that the Hispanic culture is family-centered, more so than the Anglo culture that dominated his Boy Scout troops for the past decade.

Stansfield and his wife, Julie, began researching ways to start a girls program, and they ultimately decided to open Pack 121 to both genders. 

Family-centered culture

Pointing to a large patch on her uniform, Alejandra said with a smile, “My favorite is when we go on Cub rallies.”

At a rally she attended in September, the pack learned how to fish, shoot pistols and use a bow and arrow.

The girl's mother, Rita Abad, said her daughter is always eager to do new things.

Alejandra’s brother is also a member of Pack 121. Both siblings are Webelos, fourth- and fifth-grade Scouts. Stansfield is happy with the opportunity to have a brother and sister in his pack; he thinks it brings them closer together and honors the Hispanic family-centered culture.

“If I am going to successfully recruit members to Pack 121, I have to offer an opportunity for the whole family, not just the sons,” he said. 

The Abads moved to Columbia from Ecuador five months ago when their father came to MU to earn his doctorate. The family learned about Pack 121 through Sacred Heart and was interested right away.

“It helps to not forget your first language and customs," Rita Abad said. "Like you’re a little bit at home.”

She also admires how quickly the Cub Scouts help her children learn new things; neither knew any English before arriving in the United States in August. Now they can carry on a conversation.

Scout troop traditions

Pack 121 might be unusual in Columbia from a demographic standpoint, but it functions no differently than any other troop. 

Meetings are filled with learning activities, projects and new experiences. Although at times it’s hard to make a flexible program for children of varying ages, Stansfield manages to keep his troop engaged.

The Cub Scouts begin by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. One meeting was devoted to the American flag, and Scouts learned how to fold the flag and why it's important to keep it off the ground.

The following week, Stansfield, fully accessorized with his official campaign hat, arrived with a homemade trebuchet (a classic catapult) and several blocks of wood to make bootjacks.

While some Scouts hammered away at wood blocks, others played their own version of basketball in which the trebuchet launched a small ball into a basket.

Later, when Julie Stansfield demonstrated experiments with sodium acetate, the group was captivated by the chemical reactions.

While instilling the values of Scouting and building character, Stansfield said he enjoys letting his pack have fun in a structured environment.

"The secret is to keep it simple and make it fun because you never know what you’re going to get with kids."

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Corey Parks January 16, 2012 | 8:20 a.m.

So much for coming together as a country.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 16, 2012 | 5:36 p.m.

Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts represent private, not public, organizations. Further, ever since such organizations have existed it has been VERY common for pack and troop sponsors to be churches. This doesn't necessarily mean that all scout leaders or scouts belong to the church that is the sponsor, but often most of them do.

That tends toward pack and troop memberships having the same religion, coming from the same neighborhood, etc. Is that a bad thing? It could be argued. For the younger kids it could be that similarity might work better, whereas for older scouts an organization with more diversity would be best.

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks January 16, 2012 | 11:35 p.m.

It is not a bad thing that they are all from similar areas but the fact that they were speaking Spanish or Italian or anything else seems a little odd in the fact that I am sure the charters and guidelines for the programs are written in English.
I think it is great that it has helped them learn the National Language. I am guessing that they do not speak English at home as they arrived in the troop only knowing a few words. I would hope/think that they goal would be to eventually conduct all meetings in English. Failure to do that could cause problems among other troops.

In the Military we have to keep a watchful eye for like minded Soldiers hangout out together and getting stuck in their own world with language and activities. While living in Puerto Rico for a semester in college I was able to be around the Army Reserve unit down there and all they conversations where in Spanish but anytime safety or office Military customs were on display it was all in broken English as is mandatory. Not a single none Spanish speaking person in the whole base yet they still do what was right by Army standards.

Yes I know this is cub scouts and not Military but the connection is closer then most know.

(Report Comment)
McKenzie Kramer January 17, 2012 | 9:04 a.m.

Hi Corey, I am the writer of this article and would like to clarify that the meetings are in English, despite the way the picture captions my have had you thinking otherwise. Because Alejandra and Luis aren't completely fluent in English, they often speak to each other in Spanish. However, they address their fellow Cub Scouts and Cub Master in English.

Thanks for reading and I appreciate your feedback! I hope that cleared up some confusion.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 17, 2012 | 9:22 a.m.

I'm just happy to see Boy Scouts functioning and expanding after legal attempts to shut them down by liberals and ACLU.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 17, 2012 | 12:18 p.m.


The US doesn't have an official language at the federal level. In light of that, it's somewhat strange that you would refer to English (aka the language of England) as the "National Language"--capitalized too, as if our preferred means of communication is worthy of reverence or something.

Also, the article itself should have clued you in to the fact that these kids are learning English somewhere. Going from not knowing a word to being able to carry a conversation in 5 months is great progress, actually.

Lastly, if my tone appears unnecessarily mean, it also doesn't help that you suspected they were speaking "...Spanish or Italian or anything else..." Italian? Really? It's bad enough that apparently you didn't know where Ecuador is and had to guess what language they might be speaking, to me it's even worse that you could've Googled it in a few seconds and didn't, opting instead for a watered down version of the classic, bigoted "This is Amurrca!" argument.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 17, 2012 | 12:42 p.m.

Frank, we need to remember that when the Nazis legally assumed power in Germany in 1933 Boy Scouts and similar existing organizations were terminated in favor of a SINGLE organization: the Hitler Youth.

I hear Hitler Youth was a very cool organization. You got to wear a uniform with a swastika arm band*, go for hikes and camping, and you were not only allowed but encouraged to beat up on Jewish kids and old Jewish men and women.

What red-blooded little Aryan wouldn't love that?

*- Arm bands just like the Fuhrer and the Schutzstaffeln (SS) wore. A family friend, Austrian, was a child during WWII; her father was SS. Her mother, a natural blond, colored her hair to make it even more blond, to look more "Aryan."

(Report Comment)
Corey Parks January 17, 2012 | 2:04 p.m.
This comment has been removed.
Corey Parks January 17, 2012 | 2:07 p.m.

@Joy: Go ahead and censor that last post if you feel the need. I was got caught up in the tone of Jon's post and continued it on without thinking.

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer January 17, 2012 | 2:16 p.m.

@Corey, I did indeed feel the need.

Send me an email if you want me to send you back the first part of the comment, which was entirely appropriate, so you can repost. I'm at

Joy Mayer,
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 17, 2012 | 2:58 p.m.

"you were not only allowed but encouraged to beat up on Jewish kids and old Jewish men and women."

Right Ellis, did you forget, "taught to report their parents for crimes or infractions against the State?"

I keep wondering. You,I and others that were around during these times are naturally aware of terrible circumstances of those enslaved (correct word, I believe) by the monsters of fascism and communism. Do you believe that our children have since been apprised appropriately, particularly in education, of the atrocities committed against those people? Online conversations have lead me to believe that answer might be, No.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 17, 2012 | 3:07 p.m.

Joy, I would appreciate it if you could forward me Corey's complete response, if you wouldn't mind. His post was removed before I had the chance to read it, and as matter of principle (to whatever extent I can claim to have principles at this point), I feel that I shouldn't duck out of the return volley if I'm the one who started flinging barbs.

Obviously this whole thing could have been avoided if I had been more diplomatic from the start, but until I get around to working on my etiquette, might as well reap what I sow and all that jazz.

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer January 17, 2012 | 3:59 p.m.

Jonathan, while I admire your principles, I think I'll leave it up to Corey to repeat his comment more appropriately if he chooses to.

To your second point, while i don't think diplomacy and etiquette are the same thing, I would surely welcome more of both. (More jazz would be nice, too.)

Joy Mayer,
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 17, 2012 | 4:18 p.m.

Is there such a thing as "diplomatic etiquette?"

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 17, 2012 | 5:34 p.m.

"Obviously this whole thing could have been avoided..."

Correct. I would like to have read Corey's response. My guess is it may have been entirely "appropriate."

(Report Comment)
Louis Schneebaum January 17, 2012 | 5:46 p.m.

This story, which struck me as quite positive, is strangely controversial... Sad.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 17, 2012 | 7:32 p.m.

Louis: I agree. (And I have no idea which "side" you're on, if any.)

I found it pretty shameful that a positive story about the BSA helping kids adjust to such a huge change in life was viewed as an opportunity to complain about immigration, language barriers, etc.

(While we're at it, same goes for frank too. "Why should I just congratulate the BSA for their efforts and leave it at that when I can kill two birds with one stone by weaseling in some cheap shots against the left in the process?")

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer January 17, 2012 | 8:09 p.m.

Louis and Jonathan, that's one of the things that's so interesting to me as an observer of online comments — how nimble people are at bringing controversy where none is expected. This story from December is another example:

I'm thrilled when we as journalists find stories like this one, and I'd like to use the comments section to hear from readers about what other moments and communities they'd like us to know about.

Joy Mayer,
Director of community outreach
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 17, 2012 | 8:24 p.m.

Do some wonder when the guru, J. Hopfenblatt was born? Or, if he was ever a Scout, or whatever"

Why on earth, would one not congratulate the BSA and GSA (in UK they were Girl Guides), no matter how many "birds" might be involved? A cheap shot at the left, in your opinion, not mine.:

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 18, 2012 | 5:07 a.m.

@ Joy Mayer:

Thanks for posting the flashback reference.

I join others who have said that you guys (at the Missourian) are doing a good job. But you'd better, because La Catrina and those Lutheran ladies are watching you.

(In spite of her appearance, La Catrina isn't regarded by the Mexicans as scary, but those Lutheran ladies...)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 18, 2012 | 6:01 a.m.

Frank Christian:

You asked me a question (above) about whether catastrophic events of the 1930s and 1940s (Nazi Germany) and 1920s to the end of the Soviet Union are properly taught and whether they actually resonate with today's young Americans.

Let's take "resonate" first. Even with intensive instruction, events that far removed in time aren't going to resonate in the way they do for someone who was alive in those times. It would be like Frank Christian and Ellis Smith studying the Napoleonic Wars: fascinating, but not (to the student) very relevant to our time.

As for teaching the subject, it appears to me to be ideal for visual instruction, and there's plenty of film available in archives.

I've never been to Russia (and likely never will). Young Germans today are pretty detached from the Nazi era. They view it as something over which they have no direct experience and obviously had no control or responsibility. I don't think earlier generations of their families have chosen to discuss the era with them (for reasons we might be able to appreciate). Recent problems in the Federal Republic with neo-Nazi groups may be troubling.

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 18, 2012 | 2:16 p.m.


It's a cheap shot regardless of how many links you can provide to try to prove that "the left" hates the BSA. This article had nothing to do with partisan politics until you decided to bring that nonsense here. I wonder how people would react if I tried to pull this one:

"Congratulations to that brave teacher who risked his life getting all those kids out of the the school building that went up in flames. I'm glad that there are still compassionate people out there, unlike those filthy conservatives out there trying to put this decent man out of a job thanks to their anti-education agenda and absolute disregard for the future of America."

(Report Comment)
Melissa Fayad January 18, 2012 | 3:24 p.m.

Moving past all the molehills and tempests in teapots, I want to congratulate the BSA and Pack 121. They are fulfilling part of the mission of the BSA by finding needs and filling them. A segment of the population of Columbia could be enriched by participation with the BSA and the BSA reached out to bring that segment in, and the BSA was also enriched by it.

For those who do not seem to know, the BSA is part of an international organization that is in most countries, has members of many religions (the belief in a Higher Being is the only requisite, if I understand correctly.) and now includes girls. The national group has meetings and I think that some members even get to go to international meetings. Take two steps back and the whole organization becomes very diverse.

Let us not be killjoys. Think about the kids and the experiences they are having and the skills they learn. It is very likely that any children that go to other countries to live after being in a BSA troop or Cub Scout Pack will join the local troop or pack and tell about their American experience. I have had my sons in BSA and Cub Scouts and would do it again in a heartbeat. And if my husband and I were living in another country, due to work or education, I would enroll them in the closest troop of that country's equivilant.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 18, 2012 | 4:18 p.m.

J.H. - It is not a "cheap shot" it is useful information you are unable to accept while trying to sound like a voice of reason.

Our left, liberal Democrats to narrow it down, went all out, even to destroy BSA if it would not provide for gay membership. BSA sticking to principles took it to SCOTUS and won.

Neither, I suppose, should I mention the "left" tried to mandate Spanish language for primary grades, as well as courses in black Ebonics in our public schools. Some said that Hispanic Democrat elected officials might consider constituents not able to speak English might be more likely to vote for them. Absurd, racist, supposition of course.

Your "building that went up in flames." is fiction. The law suits, defamation and loss of facilities for BSA, certainly are not.

(Report Comment)
mike mentor January 18, 2012 | 4:34 p.m.

I always hate to be the first one to post on top of a great post like the one above from Melissa, but I think there is one commonality that is crystal clear. Both the controversy here and the one that Joy linked to were caused by misunderstanding. I don't want to preach when I am with you all, but if we stopped to read every word carefully and then think for a second, we might save ourselves some time and energy getting worked up over nothing. The magic tree was called the magic tree from day one and was never a traditional christmas tree, but the assumption was that it was "downgraded" to the magic tree due to political corectness. Here we had a misunderstanding that because a few spanish speaking kids were "allowed" to converse with each other in spanish that the troop conducted their meetings in spanish which is not the case. Maybe we should ask questions if we are not sure what's going on instead of making assured corrosive comments...

"I think I'll stick with love. Hate is much too great a burden to bear."
Dr. Martin Luther king Jr

(Report Comment)
Jonathan Hopfenblatt January 18, 2012 | 4:45 p.m.

Aaand, frank completely misses the point once again.

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 18, 2012 | 5:38 p.m.

Mr. Mentor referred to "Here we had a misunderstanding that because a few spanish speaking kids were "allowed" to converse with each other in spanish that the troop conducted their meetings in spanish which is not the case".

I did not! "I'm just happy to see Boy Scouts functioning and expanding after legal attempts to shut them down by liberals and ACLU." Does this not somehow indicate that I am pleased with the BSA and am happy that their legal problems seem to be over? That I mentioned those instigating their problems is the concern of our our new guru. I belonged to Troop 9 of the BSA here in Columbia, learned much and enjoyed it all. That I am attacked because I noted the extreme problems BSA has suffered from gay rights activists shows where, we as a nation, are at, today.

(Report Comment)
Michael Williams January 18, 2012 | 6:17 p.m.

If the point is that BSA has been under attack by left-wingers for years because of their philosophies, teachings, activities, and beliefs, then I agree one-hundred percent.

I'm happy for this pack; the children will learn much and have fun doing it. The picture is absolutely adorable and says more than all the words accompanying it. Including the subsequent posts.

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 18, 2012 | 6:52 p.m.

@ mike mentor:

I agree with your sentiments (your above post) but I feel you are far too astute not to recognize that some of the twists that occur in comments on these topics are NOT the result of failure to read the article and/or to understand the article's content.

At least a few "diversions" have been carefully designed. Hopefully, Joy and the Missourian staff won't go into cardiac arrest upon learning that.

I will plead guilty to a few "diversions," and in a few cases I have seemingly caused one particular poster to become apoplectic. It's almost like Pavlov and his conditioned dogs.

[They say that confession is good for the soul.]

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer January 18, 2012 | 8:01 p.m.

Ellis, no cardiac arrest here. And it's by design that we DON'T have a policy that insists people stay on topic.

I do worry that people who might be otherwise inclined to share their observations could instead be turned off when controversy or argument appear on what is basically a nice feature about the community.

So, divert away. The comment policy allows for it. But don't be surprised if I jump in and try to divert right back!

Thanks for your contributions, sincerely.

Joy Mayer
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
frank christian January 18, 2012 | 8:17 p.m.

Joy - I like your "So, divert away. The comment policy allows for it. But don't be surprised if I jump in and try to divert right back!"

I can compare it with one of J. Robertson's official stances for Trib. Something like, personal insults are not allowed, but posts that some consider insults, may in fact be the truth, it's my call. Call'um as you see'um!

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 19, 2012 | 5:54 a.m.


Thanks. For a specific instance of a deliberate topic "alteration" go to the story in August 2011 about the landing of the final NASA Space Shuttle flight. The topic obviously wasn't in the "community" venue, but it definitely was in the University of Missouri System venue.

And the alteration garnered one fully expected "spastic" response. :)

[We've been part of this university for 141 years. Nobody has to like it but it's now time to accept it.]

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer January 19, 2012 | 8:25 a.m.

Ellis, if this is the one you're talking about, I find it appropriate and interesting.

Joy Mayer
Columbia Missourian

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith January 19, 2012 | 1:42 p.m.

@ Joy Mayer:

That's the one.

There have been others (this one came readily to mind).

There will be others in the future, where circumstances apply.

In connection with the three astronauts, here is something more recent:

(Report Comment)

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