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Youth-Led, Youth-Built

A donation of $50 million dollars from the Stephen Bechtel kicked things off for the Summit. Since then, many large, generous donations have followed. And on top of that, it’s service that keeps the Summit moving forward.

Youth-led, youth-built. That is the theme of SummitCorps: The New River Experience, an Order of the Arrow project that is working to build and restore several miles of hiking and biking trails throughout the New River Gorge.

With guidance from the National Park Service, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, the National Guard and the Boy Scouts of America, SummitCorps is in full effect with hundreds of Scouts from across the country hard at work building trails and making sure that all goes well.

Headed to work
Scouts on their way to work on building trails (Photo from the Order of the Arrow)

From the actual construction of the trails, to the logistics and recreational activities, Scouts are involved in the process making this one of the largest youth leadership projects in the country. While adults and officials from the collaborating organizations are available at all times and are watching closely to help ensure safety, SummitCorps is a youth-driven project.

The Instructor Corps (I-Corps), made up of Order of the Arrow members ranging from the ages of 17-21, was on site in the New River Gorge for over three weeks before the project started to learn the ins and outs of trail building, safety and the area. Now, it is their turn to take charge and teach the younger Scouts how to build the perfect mountain biking trail.

On the inside, this project takes hundreds of hours in planning to make sure everything is successful – this includes the work and the fun. To do this, a group of section chiefs are in place to run operations.

[pullquote]“Out in the field, we have youth working. Here at the Armory, we have youth running the program and divisions.” – Brandon Azoulai, Week 1 Youth Incident Commander[/pullquote]

Brandon Azoulai, a section chief from the Northeast Region, is serving as the youth incident commander for week 1, meaning that he is in charge of, well, just about everything.

“I am the youth incident commander for this week, so my role is to oversee all of the different divisions such as operations, logistics, programs and recreations – all of the different departments,” Azoulai says. “I am here to ensure that this is a youth-run project and that things go off well.”

In December, at a national meeting, individuals were assigned a week to take charge of SummitCorps.

For these leaders, this project has a special meaning because of the partnerships and relationships that are being built, and also because they are helping to make a new home for the Boy Scouts.

“It is fantastic. Three years ago, we [joined] with the U.S. Forest Service to work on projects in five national forests. Now, we are continuing this in a national park,” says Azoulai. “Not only are our guys helping the National Park Service and any citizen that wants to use the trails, it is also adjacent to our new Summit property and future Scouts will be able to use them.”

Another benefit of this youth-run project is the level of leadership that is being taught from all aspects. As Azoulai says, it is preparing and encouraging future Scouts to take on these roles.

“Out in the field, we have youth working. Here at the Armory, we have youth running the program and divisions,” adds Azoulai. “It builds our leadership skills and inspires the youth coming here as participants to pursue and develop their own leadership skills.”

Tell us, what was your favorite leadership project?


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