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Undecided AOLs

We’re getting ready to wrap up our Arrow of Light year and scheduling a crossover for a couple of boys who are eager to move to their new troops - but Covid has made it hard to visit troops and a couple are still undecided. What do we do with them?
Do we award them all the Arrow of Light together, but only cross over to Scouts BSA the ones who have a troop picked out? And keep the others on our pack roster until they decide?
Or do we tell them time’s up - they have to pick one?

It’s so frustrating because things are finally starting to open back up again and there are opportunities in the next month to start to meet the troops. But many of those are also opportunities to start getting requirements signed off, so the two boys who know where they’re going understandably want to be officially Scouts by then!

AOL has absolutely NOTHING to do with crossing over. The undecided could still crossover into their first adult decision - could be a very strong and rich statement and ceremony.

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Historically, what our pack did with Webelos who had not yet selected a troop (or who had decided to not continue at the time of bridging) was similar to what we did with other scouts who left the pack.

  • Make sure that the parent is connected to the scout and receiving emails.
  • Make sure that all outstanding payments are resolved.
  • Make sure that all outstanding awards/rank/etc were approved and awarded to the scout and marked as such in Scoutbook.
  • Put an end date on the scout’s membership.

There’s really no relationship between whether or not a scout earns AoL and whether or not he/she bridges to a troop. I would not wait for all scouts to decide which unit they want to move into before awarding anything/conducting a bridging ceremony. It seems to me that it unduly penalizes scouts who have made that decision (assuming a reasonable lead-time on the ceremonies was provided).

There’s also nothing that requires that an entire den bridges at the same time. Present the awards to the scouts who have earned them (bridging or not), then transfer the scouts who have selected a troop to their new units if they are “eager to start Scouts BSA”. If the others want to stay around for a while, as long as they otherwise meet the eligibility requirements, I don’t see a reason to “toss them out” as it were. You could, if you only want to run a single bridging ceremony, push the bridging ceremony itself off until later. I would not delay the AoL ceremony, though, if you conduct something special.

I agree with awarding AOL ASAP to all of them. Then, I’d personally be willing to hold two bridging ceremonies given the circumstances. Once for those who are ready now and one for everyone else after a reasonable pre-set time. For the scouts that don’t bridge now, I’d continue to keep them active in the pack by inviting them to Webelos activities or pack activities while giving them a special role. Or if their DL is willing to continue meeting/doing activities with them, that works too.

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I’m not following what you mean by “crossover into their first adult decision” - what would that look like?

@ChristyDryden Well in my Den I made it clear to the parents that this was a Scout Decision, and we as a Den talked alot about how it was an individual decision. So the “Script” could be something like “Tommy and Jim have decided to further investigate troops in the area, to make the best decision for their Scouting Life in the Future; so we Cross you over to this important decision for you.”

A youth may join a Troop after turning 11, at age 10 1/2 and graduating grade 5 or after earning the AOL (6 mos in gr 5). A youth will remain on the unit charter until it recharters unless otherwise removed. I would, with the parents permission, release the undecided cubs names to the local Troop leaders and encourage a follow-up. Generally dens remain together and move to a troop as a new scout patrol.

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At the risk of taking this thread off on a tangent, youth can join a troop if:

  • they have completed the 5th grade and are at least 10 years old, OR
  • have earned the Arrow of Light Award and are at least 10 years old, OR
  • are age 11 but have not reached age 18.

Based on the original post, these Scouts have earned the AOL rank, so they are likely in situation 2 or 3 (above), depending on their age.

If some of the Webelos Scouts are undecided about the troop they want to join, they can continue with the pack until age 11.5 or until completing the 5th grade, whichever comes later. There are cons to this, but it is an option for those Scouts.

An option for the two Scouts who have earned AOL and decided which troop they want to join is to go ahead and turn in the transfer paperwork to their new troop. They can officially join their troops now and start getting requirements signed off, and the crossover ceremony can take place now or in about a month when all of the Scouts have made a decision.

I would recommend talking to the families and see what they would like to do.

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After talking to one of the parents, it seems “I don’t know yet” was really code for “I don’t want to tell you that I’m not going to any of them.”
Which just leaves one actual undecided - my own!
How much help should I be giving with this decision?

I facilitated three troop meeting visits plus one outdoor activity with the troop the majority of scouts seemed interested in. At the time, I got razzed for “doing too much”. I was really fortunate to have highly-involved den parents, and the scouts generally said “yes” or “no” about bridging early.

I wouldn’t sweat the last scout (except insofar as it’s your scout) not having chosen yet.

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Yes when it is your own Scout it is hard. What I did as DL was Visit and Camp with every troop we could. Then let son choose - he chose the ONE I would not have chosen, but it was his choice, and I have been Scoutmaster the last 4 years.

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We had one family that was very clear that they wanted to shop around for troops, so I’ve tried to schedule a many visits as I could, but two of the troops were only meeting over zoom and a third was right at the covid capacity of their meeting space so at the last minute our visit turned into having a couple of Scouts come talk to us in the building next door. That gives troop #4 a bit of an edge, but it’s not the same troop as either of the others have decided, and of course, they’d both like a buddy to come to their new troop with them!
He’s so stressed out by this and I’m not sure how to guide him through it without taking over.

I would say that the key thing for scouts and parents to keep in mind is that joining a troop is not a “forever” commitment. If it turns out later that the troop isn’t the right “fit” for whatever reason, you can check out other troops. For some scouts, this may come after years of membership in the troop. For others, it might be after just a few meetings.

As a parent, find out how the troop handles transfer/reimbursement of unit dues (as opposed to national/council fees which are transferrable within the same registration year). I asked my son a lot of questions. What do you think about how the meetings run? What activities did you enjoy? Did you like any of the scouts you met? How did Troop X compare with Troop Y?

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That’s a good point. One of the troops we’re looking at made a point of stressing that it’s a decision that can be easily changed - but I think that may have been in the parent session so I’ll make sure my son gets that memo, too.
Part of what is making this stressful is that our pack has had a lot of gaps with no 3rd graders this year and no dens with kids who are now 6th or 7th graders. So the 4th & 5th graders have gotten pretty close.
He really wants to go where his friends are, but half of his scout friends won’t be picking a troop until next year! Pointing out that he doesn’t need to try to anticipate where they’ll end up because of it came down to it, he could always change next year might really help.

@ChristyDryden here is the other fact you may not know - Nationally all new Scouts BSA who join (from Packs or off the Street) - ~50% quit the first year.

If your son wants to be with younger friends I would suggest he join a troop and help make it one they want to join.

The Pack I belong to (as Wolf Den Leader) just did its crossing over ceremony two weeks ago. There was one AOL scout who had decided not to join a troop at this time.

The 7 scouts moving to a Troop crossed over to their new units. The scout choosing not to move on, was recognized as crossing over to his parents who then presented him with his AOL patch and pin. Because I am also the Scoutmaster for one of the troops that was receiving new scouts and knew he wasn’t moving on, I brought a small gift for this one scout and made a short statement after he crossed to his parents to the effect of “All of the troops here today hope that you will continue to let the Scout Oath and Scout Law guide you in life and would be happy to have you join our ranks if you decide to return to scouting in the future. Congratulations on earning Cub Scouting’s highest award.” - and then I gave him a small gift (a nice compass).

I think he appreciated the added recognition especially after watching his fellow den-mates get a more ceremonial welcome once they crossed the bridge.

As to the dilemma your son is facing in trying to pick a troop - my troop has been having undecided AOL scouts attend our meetings as recently as last week. I’ve told them not to rush, come to as many meetings as they want, and even given them the contact info of the other nearby troops to check out. Finding the right fit is important and I’m happy to facilitate that even if that means the scout joins one of the other troops instead.

I don’t know if this is universal or just my Council, but the scouts still in the Pack aren’t forcibly promoted to their next rank until like July. Meaning, your son has plenty of time to shop around. The Pack doesn’t need to end his membership right away. That can wait until he decides where he wants to go.

That one AOL scout that didn’t cross over to a troop, he’s been left on the Pack roster so he can choose to continue to do Pack events if he wants to. If he doesn’t apply to join a new troop before summer, his membership in the Pack will end when the hard deadline comes for promoting the other dens. At that point, he can always choose to apply directly to a troop of his choice if he changes his mind about leaving scouting.

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I just wanted to clarify that a scout cannot earn their AOL until 6 months after their 10th birthday. It is the first requirement.

AOL rank requirement 1 says:

  1. Be an active member of your Webelos den:
    for at least six months since completing the fourth grade OR
    for at least six months since becoming 10 years old.

So it is possible for a 5th grader to earn the AOL rank and be younger than age 10 1/2.

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That’s not entirely accurate. The requirement is:

Be an active member of your Webelos den for at least six months since completing the fourth grade or for at least six months since becoming 10 years old.

Thank you for pointing that out to me :+1:

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