Thirty-two Scouts earned their Radio Merit Badge on this crisp fall day at collaborating Jamboree on the Air (JOTA) sites in Rhode Island at Camp Champlin and in Massachusetts at Camp Norse near the Cape. Multiple local radio clubs and Scout troops planned all year to make this a post-pandemic success. Team leads from the Newport County Radio Club (NCRC) were John Vecoli, KC1KOO; Doug Belcher, KC1NFL; and Mike Cullen, K1NPT. NCRC hams on site in RI included Jim Sendrak, KC1LYG; Henry Guzeika, W1GUZ; and Paul Fredette, K1YBE. Blackstone Valley Amateur Radio Club hams present included BVARC Club President Ken Trudel, N1RGK. The camping weekend event was a welcoming opportunity for youth to build confident self-leadership in this supportive hands-on learning community partnership between scouting and amateur radio.
As part of the Radio Merit Badge, the Scouts eagerly took turns getting on the air to talk with stations on all bands and modes. Not a shy bunch, the youth were eager to share their dreams and rag chew about overcoming challenges. Alex in 6th grade chatted on 2-meters with Mark about his dream of becoming a Disney Imagineer and exploring the secret tunnels he had read about. This sparked further conversations on air and off, including from hams who had worked on the tunnels as adult tech professionals. Everyone acknowledged Alex was someone with clear goals and the drive to follow through on his dreams. Another Scout with dyslexia was curious to hear about one ham’s son who had the same learning challenge and now worked at NASA – thanks in part to the always-curious, hands-on learning, right-size coaching that the ham community does so well. Another Scout leader asked the NCRC about following up with a VE session so a number of the new Radio Merit Badge Scouts in his troop could follow up on a new dream to achieve their own Tech license and call sign while still in high school. One 7th-grade Scout clearly had fallen in love with amateur radio, and his extended family of hams were encouraging him to get licensed soon to inherit his grandmother’s call sign! (Although maybe his mother or Scout sisters will take up that legacy first?) Stay tuned. For many youth, JOTA is a first introduction to never-imagined new pathways of belonging and exploration.
Many thanks to the whole village of radio operators who help build resilient networks for our shared future. Contributed by NCRC (RI) Club President Nancy Austin, KC1NEK.