Balancing Life & Scouting

Maya Angelou once said that “All great achievements require time.” This quote could be used for any life lesson, but could not be more perfect for Scouting, as it takes time to nurture our leadership skills. National Youth Leadership Training had the ability to teach me this exact lesson; leadership skills take time to grow, and becoming a leader takes even longer. It is a journey through which Scouting teaches us how to become a leader for not only today, but in our everyday lives.

When I first joined Venturing, I was a 14-year-old girl who just wanted to be a part of the camping and high adventure world. It wasn’t until I started moving into the area level that I figured out that being a leader takes time. I took NYLT the first year my council offered a Venturing specific week. During that week, I gained the foundation of how to manage my time between all of my Scouting obligations and other responsibilities.

Throughout the years while staffing NYLT, there were times where I was holding three different Venturing positions and had a ton of responsibilities. At times it became difficult to manage all of these positions at once while being activity involved in NYLT. I was able to use the skills gained through NYLT to plan my schedule in a way that I could be accomplish my responsibilities. This way I was able to focus my attention on the task at hand and give each task my best.

There were a few things which helped me be successful, one of which was a calendar set with all of my school and Scouting commitments. From there I could prioritize the things I needed to complete first, and take out the unnecessary items, to allow more time for other commitments. I believe that it is up to the individual to have the selfdedication to put the time into Scouting and NYLT. The things we learn from the program, not only help us succeed today, but help us mentor the next generation into the leaders we have become.

Throughout my two years in college, I still say that the things I have learned from NYLT have helped me in my everyday life. Through the communication, planning, and goal setting of NYLT, I have had the ability to be successful in college while still managing a full load of activities. Every person is different on how much they can handle, but with the knowledge gained through Scouting and NYLT, anyone can accomplish what they want as long as they put their mind to it. Remember that “All great achievements take time.”

Give your audience what they need

The University of Vermonts Outing Club hold their club council elections once a semester– our normal meeting format had been changed so that everyone had a chance to give their speech to the entire club. One after another, candidates walked up in front of the lecture hall and gave their 2-3 minute platform speeches. Some of them leaned against the chalkboard (One of my biggest pet peeves), some of them stood behind the large desk – a few had shaky voices, and a few were fairly confident. The problem was that they all got up, spoke, and sat back down – like they were performing a well-rehearsed choreography, the same thing over and over again. I watched my friend, Abby, stand up and walk to the front of the room now filled with disengaged and bored individuals. She was running as the Social Chair and I was eager to see what she had to say. Without saying a word, she placed her computer on the desk and plugged into the halls sound system, she pressed her space bar and “Celebrate Good Times” by Funktown America blasted through the hall. Heads popped up everywhere to see her dancing back and forth to the rhythm, eventually turning it down so she could tell us all about her plan for an Outing Club Prom, and Outing Club Sadie Hawkins dance. She ended up winning her election by a pretty big margin – but not because of her ideas. The OC Prom and Sadie Hawkins dance was nothing new – we did it yearly! She didn’t have much content to her speech, but she knew how to capture, sustain, and capitalize on her audience’s attention.

The next time you’re giving a presentation, or a speech, or any public address for that matter, be mindful that the beginning and end are what the audience will remember. Trying to justify using a “Raise your hands if you’ve ever…..” kind of question as a hook is only hurting yourself. I challenge you to do something different, do something energetic, do something that involves a story or capture your audience’s emotion! When people hear music, their entire brain is stimulated, not just the parts devoted to understanding “EDGE”, so – obviously – the brain remembers it easier. Human brains are story telling machines, they will follow and remember a story much faster than it’ll take them to memorize the stages of team development by name.

Don’t just do a hook because its on your presentation plan form, your audience is investing their most valuable possession into your presentation – time – make it worth their while, and give them something to walk away with.

Effective Staff Developments

Staff development and shakedown weekends may be helpful for planning and preparing for your course, but remember that some staffers have been through it all before while others are new to the whole staff thing. As experienced staff attend training weekend after training weekend, be sure to not only keep them involved and engaged, but use them as valuable resources to help train less experienced and new staff members. Don’t forget the fun either!

Tips and ideas for planning and running an effective staff development weekend:


Staff development weekends are not only the perfect time to plan who-does-what for the course but also a great time to practice. Presentations, leading reflections, creating some realistic first aid scenarios, morning assembly shenanigans, you name it – set aside time to actually do the activities rather than just plan them. Your staff will feel more comfortable when course rolls around and most likely, be more successful in imparting their knowledge on others!

Breakout Sessions

Obviously buzz groups work well for practicing presentations and coming up with ideas. At your staff development weekend, don’t forget that returning staff and new staff are coming from different backgrounds. You may want to break your staff into groups to review or explain what it means to be an NYLT staff member. Discuss any changes, improvements, or new ideas with returning staff members. Explain the roles of different members to new staff. Come back together and maybe even set aside some time for new staff to ask the group, or an assigned or chosen experienced staff member, questions about their responsibilities. New staff learns as returning members have the opportunity to share their experiences while improving their mentorship abilities. Keep both groups involved. It’s a win-win!


Some program shenanigans are tradition – a morning joke, a particular skit during a campfire – remember that new staff members have different skills and new ideas to bring to the table. Save and add to the tradition. Keep your course everlasting and ever-changing!

Songfests & Fun

Like any NYLT staff function, fun is inevitable. Although your staff may enjoy planning and participating in practice round robin games, or realistic first aid, don’t forget to include time for staff fun. Sing a song here or there, have an hour long songfest, hold an impromptu campfire, play board games, Ultimate Frisbee, charades, go for a short hike, tell some jokes, have a story telling contest – with a prize! – laugh. Staff will get to know each other better and feel more comfortable around each other. You may be together mainly for business-fun but the addition of silly fun makes for an even greater time!

Roles and Responsibilities of Returning Staff

After someone staffs their first NYLT course, as either a Troop/Team Guide or as an Instructor, they have one very important task as staff development and preparation for the next course begin. That responsibly, that should be valued above all others as a returning staffer, is to pass on the knowledge and skills that you picked up as you yourself grew and developed throughout previous your previous experiences staffing NYLT. Seems pretty simple right? Well, there is a lot more to the process of imparting information to new staffers than one might think, its not as easy as just telling them, “this is what you do, and this is how you do it”. Just doing that won’t make make what you are trying to say resonate with in them to make these new staffers buy into what you are saying, whether it works or not. What you have to do, and this is guaranteed to be more difficult than anything you have faced as a staffer, and that is to be a mentor to the new staffers.

To describe the role of returning staffer’s job as mentor, without going into too much depth on what exactly mentoring is, as it is such a complex topic, we will sum up meeting with this description. Mentoring is a method of teaching in which the mentor provides the mentee with advice and guidance, and anything the mentee needs to be successful, while a significant degree of independence is kept. Mentoring is a difficult skill to master, but in the end, it is by far the most beneficial teaching method for both the mentor and the mentee.

Now the reason why the job of the returning staffer is to be a mentor for the new staff, is that regardless of what position you served in your previous years, you have a vast amount of knowledge that you gained through your experiences in that position, so it will be no trouble to impart that on the new staffers. If you think back to your first year on staff, do you remember how challenging it was to learn the ropes? Was there anyone who helped you through? If your answers to these questions are similar to mine, then you know how important those experienced staffers were to your success in your first year on staff, or in a new position on staff. The reason why NYLT is such a successful program is because everything that is done builds upon itself, and as new staffers come in and old staffer leave, information and skills are passed down, and each year the program gets better and better. If the cycle were to be broken, and returning staffers did not act as mentors to new staffer, then the course would go stagnant and development could not occur. Thus the role of the returning staffer is instrumental to the success of the course’s present and future, and no matter what position you find yourself in as a returning staffer, you job is to be a mentor, friend and leader.

Academic Research with The Academy

Many of us at the NYLT Leadership Academy have a passion for leadership development and team dynamics. We volunteer our summers to spend time with some amazing individuals – staff and participating staff alike – to further every ones knowledge on what it means to be the leader of a team. Personally, I am so passionate about this field that I have decided to pursue its studies while at college. Recently, the opportunity arose for me to conduct independent research and I immediately knew what field I wanted to look into. My current plan is to conduct formal, academic research this summer at the NYLT Leadership Academy in both Washington DC, and St Louis. The world of leadership and communication studies is very academic – did you know that everything we teach at The Academy is grounded in science? The Staph at The Academy is constantly looking to further their knowledge – so why not further it with our own endeavors?

Keep your eyes on your inboxes for further information as it becomes available as to how you can become a part of this incredible opportunity to make NYLT history, and contribute to human academic intelligence.

Implementing Technology Into Your Course

Technology is a powerful tool that can be used by NYLT courses. It can not only contribute to the effectiveness of your training, but can also serve as a distraction from your program. The goal is to encourage responsible use of technology. This can contribute many great things to your program, as long as it is managed properly.

Staff Development

Technology can be a very powerful tool during staff development. There are so many great ways to use it. From brainstorming and writing down ideas on a projector, to facilitating easy communication for your staff. Technology enables you to get work done and continue staff development and course planning when you are not together in person. If you can manage to plan for some course items away from in person development, you will be able to devote more time in person to helping your staff members with their presentations.

In Presentations

Technology can play a huge role in your presentations. It can be a great way to engage your participants. A well placed picture or video can make all the difference in keeping your participants engaged. If you can manage to keep the participants engaged, you increase your chances of ensuring comprehension of your message. After all, isn’t this the purpose of a presentation – to ensure that the participants understand the learning objectives? The use of different video clips, sound clips, and pictures can be used as a tool to reinforce what you are teaching. Technology can be used to emphasize your points and to ensure understanding. In my opinion, this is the most important use of technology in a presentation.

Staff Communication

One often neglected use of technology on course is for staff communication. Cell phones can be a powerful tool to use for communication. This requires responsibility of your staff members. Your staff members can responsibly use technology in the background while setting a good example for the participants to follow.


A big concern I have seen when using technology on course and during staff development is its misuse. Often times, youth will want to play games or do other things. One of the best ways to address this is for your senior youth staff to set the example. If they are seen using technology in a responsible manner and convey the message that misuse is inappropriate, other youth will learn responsibility with their electronics. If you set the standard for your youth, set the example first, and give them the responsibility, you might just be surprised how technology can improve your course.

Technology can make a huge difference in the effectiveness of your course and the communication and development of your staff. As with everything though, it requires responsibility. If the correct example is set and the staff (both youth and adult) are held to a standard of responsibility, electronics can contribute to the effectiveness of both staff development and your courses without being a distraction.

Youth Leadership: Our Year in Review

It has been a great year for the Boy Scouts of America in the training of youth leaders around the country. Leadership courses are growing and expanding to new locations within the blink of an eye. With the growth and expansion more youth are able to receive quality leadership training. The youth leaders are able to take the skills they have learned back to their unit and community and put them to the test each and every day, by making decisions and leading using the youth led method. The growth has helped to reach more of the Scouting’s youth leaders, and teaching them skills that will last a lifetime.


This past year 183 councils had 285 NYLT Courses, in 43 States, Germany and Taiwan. That is an incredible amount of NYLT courses held! It is also great to see that you can find an NYLT course in almost any state, and a few places around the world. NYLT truly gives you the foundation and tools necessary to build yourself as a leader.

NYLT Leadership Academy

This past summer the NYLT Leadership Academy had its biggest numbers come through the program. 108 Scouts and Venturers came to Washington, DC to participate in the premier leadership training for NYLT youth staff nationwide. This summer the NYLT Leadership Academy will be hosting two courses in Washington DC from July 5 – 11, and July 12 – 18, as well as course in St. Louis, MO from July 26 – August 1, 2015. This will be the first year that NYLT Leadership Academy will be offered in two cities. For more information visit:


This year the National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience will be offered at all of the BSA’s High Adventure Bases. Meaning that you can have the NAYLE experience at Northern Tier, Philmont, Florida Sea Base or the Summit. For more information on NAYLE visit,

2015 is setting up to be a great year for youth leadership training within the Boy Scouts of America. It will be great to see where all these courses go in the future, and if 2014 is a sign, we can only expect great things.

Forming a New NYLT Staff

A new year brings a new set of NYLT courses and in most cases, new staff members or entirely new staffs. This new team needs to develop in order to be in the norming or performing stage by the time the first day of a course rolls around. Are you in need of some tips for forming and bonding your new staff? Look no further, we’ve got some ideas!

Create a Special Place

This may be the most important step in facilitating the bonding of a team. Remember that everybody acts differently when faced with a new group of people. Be sure each individual knows they won’t be judged on their personal opinions, hobbies, or interests. They’ll be more open to sharing their thoughts whether it’s a personal or business related conversation, which will make bonding much easier from the start.

Get to Know You Games

Get to know you games are more personal than team building games. They allow your staff to get to know each other not only as fellow staff members, but as friends. These don’t have to be hands on. Get to know you games can be as simple as a name game, time for short story telling, or question asking in a group. These games should help your staff bond as they get to know more about each other as well as learn how each individual communicates with others. As a senior staff member, this is a key time to observe your staff’s personalities for future TG pairings, role assignments, etc

Team Building Games

We’ve all played team building games. You’ve probably played quite a few in your day, maybe some too many times to count. There are always new games out there. Ask around your council or check the internet – or if you’re feeling creative, make up your own! Even playing a game you thought you’d mastered with a different group of people may bring different viewpoints or strategies. Games not only allow you to see each staff member’s true personality, but also how well they work and interact with others…with a few laughs along the way! Be sure to debrief after each game. Team building games may be a great tool to get people talking to each other and working together, but throwing in a reflection will reinforce the skills we teach at NYLT and with different minds working together you all might learn something new! Another key time to observe staff. *The Line Between Silly and Serious NYLT is fun, but at certain points, staff has to lead by example. This means that by training your staff to analyze the situation and act accordingly during staff development, you’ll be less likely to have problems and distractions during the few serious times throughout the course. With a closely bonded staff, members will feel more comfortable reminding each other to set the example if needed.

Keep the Lines Open

Staff development doesn’t end when the weekend or meeting is over. Though everyone is busy, fun get-togethers like bonfires or a tool such as a Facebook group can keep your staff in touch on the off hours. This will allow your staff to get to know each other more than once a month. If you think your staff needs to bond more, but has little time to meet up, post in the group a little more often to keep them chatting. Be sure to follow the youth protection guidelines in creating this social media group, which you can find here:

Building Teams outside of NYLT

Anyone who works in an NYLT setting is automatically hooked – they love the people, they love the atmosphere, they love the productivity. Have you ever thought of why? It’s because we GET IT! Staffers know how teams are supposed to work together – I mean its what we teach after all! We, without fail, value each others input. We know what comes first, second, and third when a team forms. We know what do to when conflict arises among our team members – and we know what to do when things don’t go according to plan. The NYLT Community is undoubtedly poised to be one of the most successful groups of people out there – if only we could work with solely each other for the rest of our lives.

So how can we deal with this dichotomy between the “professional teammates” that we work with at NYLT, and the peers we work with everywhere else in our lives? How can we take NYLT material and truly apply it to groups of people who don’t know what forming, storming, norming, and performing mean? The NYLT Academy staph sat down for a discussion about this, and we came up with some interesting ideas.

What do we do at NYLT to start the team building process? Trust falls, name tags, and getting to know me games are all within the arsenal of anybody at a Scouting function. Have you ever tried to start a game of “Captain on Deck” with your research team in chemistry class though? Sometimes what we are comfortable doing in the scouting world doesn’t translate 1 to 1 in the “real world”. Instead, what about simply getting to know them through conversation?

Stapher Elyse agrees, she believes that the very beginning is probably the best time to simply get to know the members of your team. She says that a leader must know their team so that “he or she can play to their strengths and weaknesses.” The amount of information you can find out about someone through a simple conversation is amazing! In the case of a team being formed to complete an experiment & report for a chemistry class, try starting out your meetings with simple conversation – ask how everyone’s day is going, what did they do over the past weekend – anything to begin the process of building a report because that eventually leads to trust. A team that knows each other and cooperates will be far more efficient than a group of people who are simply working together on a project.

However, the team needs to form a vision of what they want their final project to look like. How does an NYLT alumnus start that conversation without simply asking “What should our vision be guys?”?
Instead, Stapher John Zanin said that you should have the team think about what their final product will be. Will your group be making a tri-fold poster, or a PowerPoint presentation, or maybe even a video to present your project? Stapher Patricia added that this is definitely part of the process that translates directly from NYLT to everything else – active discussions.

Team members must have an open mind, ask follow up questions, contribute to the conversation, and respect each other’s ideas – this will not only lead to a vision for the whole team to feel proud of, but it’ll also builds your teams trust and furthers their development. Once a vision has been informally established, continuing simple conversation about what goes into completing the project should be utilized to see where each teammate sees them self contributing to the project.

After your team gets started, constant communication is going to be the difference between success and failure. It may be tough to work with individuals who may not have the leadership toolbox that you have, but leading by example, and constantly talking about the vision that you want your teammates to achieve is the best way to success.

Service with a Smile: Why you should be a Servant Leader

There are two main types of leadership, autocratic leadership, and servant leadership. Autocratic leadership is best stated as leader first leadership. The leader will put themselves and their views above the views and opinion of the team. Autocratic leadership can be pictured in the way of a business, there is the boss and there are the workers. The boss is the one who directs the orders leading to their own personal vision, and the workers are expected to follow without question. When the autocratic leader is creating their vision they create their own vision, not the vision of the team. They also tend to not have a very personal relationship with their team members, and this may lead to a constant state of storming in the group. This form of leadership is successful in some scenarios, but does not allow a team to fully reach the performing stage.

On the other hand there is the form of leadership known as servant leadership. Servant leadership is people first leadership, where the leader puts the needs of their team before themselves. Servant leaders will not be the boss and just give out orders, they will gain the respect of the people and make them want to fulfill the leader’s vision on their own will. As quoted by John C. Maxwell “Leadership is unlocking people’s potential to become better.” A servant leader is one who will work to develop their people to the best they can be, who in turn will happily help them to complete their vision. Servant leaders will also take in account the whole team while creating their vision, giving each member ownership in the task they are out to complete. By giving the team a common vision they all share, the servant leader is able to motivate the team to success. A strong characteristic shown by servant leaders is how they will lead the team through a task, not just stand and watch them complete it. A few of the most well known servant leadership characteristics are listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, growth, and community. One of the greatest servant leaders of all time, was the religious figure Jesus Christ. Jesus always put the needs of the people before himself, and in turn he became one of the most followed leaders in all of history. This form of leadership is seen as the most effective leadership style known today.

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: Due to COVID-19 pandemic, all 2020 courses are postponed to summer 2021. Read more >