In 2017 when her son Arnav earned Eagle, Sangeet Srikanth told fellow parents at his Troop 355 Newton Court of Honor:
“It structures their lives and gives them the most valuable experience that even the best high school education cannot provide.”
“None of the experiences in Scouting can be measured in terms of letter grades, GPA, test scores – but you can witness and experience it everyday in your son’s life,” added Srikanth. “As a parent, I can attest that scouting makes parenting easier.
“But Scouting also does something no other activity can: It helps [children] develop a strong, positive moral character – it is integrity, courage, fortitude, honesty, loyalty, being fair and just; caring, trustworthy, and responsible.
“As a high school teacher, I can say that our education system does not teach several life values & skills in classrooms; you learn them outdoors.
“It is a latent collection of all these experiences that make them, in the end, self-reliant human beings!”
In his famous essay “Self-Reliance,” transcendalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said of boyhood education:
“The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried.”
Over 180 years later, Emerson’s fellow philosopher Srikanth — who emigrated to the United States to achieve a Master’s Degree at Boston University — told the BSA’s official blog, “As a driven and motivated woman, I have been in pursuit of academic achievement all my school years.
“But after coming to the U.S. and getting exposed to a lot of activities that kids can get involved in, I wanted them to be holistically educated and not focus only on academics.”
Through Scouting, Sangeet, a recent addition to the Mayflower Council board, says her son and now her daughter Anishka have done just that and have tried much more than they would have solely in the classroom.
“Many scouting skills prepare them to face a challenge, learn teamwork, and plan ahead of time. And if things go wrong, they go wrong,” Srikanth recently told MayflowerBSA.org. “You bounce back and try to try a different way or a different thing.
“For example, when they’re doing an Eagle project, many things go differently than planned. The deadlines, the project proposal, and many aspects help them understand it’s not always as you plan; you must just be ready for things to change.”
“And you should be willing to change and make newer plans because the old one doesn’t work anymore,” she said.
Of course, Scouting recently changed, too, just in time for Sangeet’s daughter Anishka to join Newton Troop 209G.
“Fortunately, the BSA started enrolling girls in 2019, and the next thing she did was enroll in Scouting,” said the elder Srikanth, who marveled at the maturity and confidence her daughter garnered through Scouts BSA. “She became accommodating but at the same time stood up for justice and started speaking for herself.
“Her ability to differentiate and make correct choices helped her mature much faster than some of her peers.”
Through the eyes of her children and with her own Scouter’s eyes (Sangeet is also the Scoutmaster of Troop 209G), Srikanth recently enlarged her Scouting family – several hundred times over.
You see, Sangeet joined the Mayflower Council Board with a focus on Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion (DEI), and alongside peers across the BSA landscape, will look to ensure Scouting truly is for everyone.
Srikanth believes the national organization is moving closer to the truth of the Scout law through its inclusion initiatives.
“Now that we have started taking girls, it’s more diverse… including kids from different socioeconomic backgrounds, people of color,” she explained.
“My son, I think, was the only South Asian child. But now I see many Indian families putting their kids into Scouting, whether a boy or a girl,” continued Mayflower’s Diversity Chair. “And I know quite a few families that I can proudly say got inspired by my talking to them in the last three years about how Scouting has shaped my son.
“And I can definitely tell you that if my son were not in Scouts, with those seven years of Scouting and what it did for him, he would’ve been a completely different person in terms of his personality, taking up responsibilities, and being able to face failure,” she said. “In high school and college, he faced many failures, but he accepted failure and dealt with it much better than I did when I was his age.”
To that point, Sangeet believes Scouts give kids a safe space to try, fail, and try again.
“Failing in front of a boss, a team, or an office, or even in college, is scary,” explained Srikanth, whose son Arnav will soon graduate from the University of Illinois. “But if things have gone wrong [at times in] 5th, 6th, and 7th grade and in front of 20 other Scouts, they learn how to deal with it pretty fast.”
Today, and with those valuable experiences in mind, the new board member is ready to spread the message about the merits of Scouting to an ever-expanding group. Being independent, speaking up to themselves, and being able to go in front of an audience and present themselves are all skills developed through Scouting, explained the Scoutmaster.
Meanwhile, the fun — especially fun found outdoors — remains a program highlight.
Seeing her children have experiences she did not makes Sangeet Srikanth want to give others the same opportunities.
“The camping and outdoor trips, outdoor experiences with the hiking and the swimming and all the activities that we do, [Arnav and Anishka] both have enjoyed and loved the outdoors,” she said. “I come from a background where I never had any of these [experiences]. I grew up in India and was raised in a very conservative time; there were not many things girls were allowed to do… There were so many restrictions.
“So I had always wanted to do something adventurous but couldn’t,” she added. “When Scouting came my way, it was like living my life again through my kids.”
And Sangeet’s adventure continues! Look for more from Srikanth and Mayflower Council’s DEI work in the coming months.