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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Boy Scouts of America’s third oldest troop, Troop 3, still active in Somerville

5/11/2014 – Medford/Somerville, MA, 02155 – Views from The President's Lawn on May 11th, 2014. (Nicholas Pfosi / The Tufts Daily)

On Thursday nights at Connexion Church in East Somerville, 15 boys, supervised by two leaders, discuss how to earn their next merit badges and prepare for an upcoming camping trip. These boys, all between the ages of 11 and 18, are the members of Boy Scout Troop 3, the third oldest troop in the United States.

According to Troop 3's current Scoutmaster Taj Goodpaster, Troop 3 was founded in Somerville in 1909, a year before the incorporation of the Boy Scouts of America in February of 1910. Willis Munro was the troop's first Scoutmaster and in 1975 Munro was honored by the State of Massachusetts for over 65 years in service to scouting.

Somerville’s Boy Scouting community has seen its ups and downs over the years. According to Goodpaster, about 700 boys across the city were involved with Scouting at its peak, with a sharp decline in the mid-1980s and into the 1990s.

“We were down to one troop in Somerville, Troop 3, and it was kind of floundering because the Cub Scout pack had stopped, so there wasn’t that feeder group into the troop,” he said.

When Goodpaster became Scoutmaster in 2012, there were five boys on the roster. Today, in his third year, there are 15.

“When I stepped in, Troop 3 had been led for many years by a gentleman named Pat Sullivan, who’s actually a deputy fire chief here in town," Goodpaster said. "His boys had all gone through, had all made it to Eagle [the highest rank in scouting], and he was kind of looking for somebody to step in.”

The national organization, the Boy Scouts of America, has suffered backlash recently in regards to its exclusion of gay leaders and scouts. However, local troops have largely avoided association with these policies.

“[The national policy] is a big blemish on the face of scouting," Tim Sullivan, Assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 3, said.

In response, the Boston Minuteman Council, the branch of the BSA that serves the greater Boston area, released a statement in July 2001 affirming its commitment to the inclusion of all youth and volunteers, “without regard to color, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation or economic status.”

"There’s been a lot of backlash against the Scouts based on their national policies towards inclusion," Goodpaster said. "We certainly practice that [inclusion].  We welcome any and all into our troop and really appreciate the diversity of our community and like to be fully inclusive like that.  Like I said, it’s gotten a lot of bad press, and rightfully so they’ve been ridiculed, but I think that our council has really been a forerunner in showing that scouts can be inclusive.”

In terms of Troop 3, Goodpaster de-emphasized his own role, underlining the agency of the scouts themselves.

“Boy Scouts is really a boy-run organization so ... the boys basically kind of self-govern, plan their activities, execute their activities, and my main responsibility is [to ensure] that they do it safely,” he said.

One of these boys is Goodpaster’s son Alek, a sixth-grader who is beginning his second year in Troop 3. Alek explained his favorite things about Troop 3.

“You get to do a lot of fun activities, and I can hang out with my buddies,” he said. “We go camping a lot. We just recently did a kayak trip and 18-mile trek, and I’m looking forward to paintballing.”

Even though the troop has been in existence for 105 years, the lessons it teaches its scouts have remained the same.

“The values that we try to instill in boys are giving them a sense of responsibility and accountability," Goodpaster said. "The intent is that we nurture them into being responsible young men. We do that through a lot of ways. We do a whole lot of community service. We’ve done things like collect food for the local food bank, [and] we’ve done several clean ups in the Mystic River.”

Sullivan works alongside Goodpaster to help run Troop 3. Sullivan, who has been involved with scouting since he was in first grade and is a former member of Somerville’s Troop 3 himself, recalls the important role that scouting played in his life.

“The scouting experience isn’t just about the one meeting a week and the one trip a month thing," he said. "It’s the whole culmination between all those trips, all those meetings, all the outside stuff you do, all the community service hours you put in, spending so much time together with people who enjoy things that you enjoy. I hope [the boys] get out of it what I got out of it.”

Part of Sullivan’s job is staffing trips that the scouts take and supervising them in fun activities.

“It’s cool seeing kids do what they thought they couldn’t do ... when a kid overcomes a fear, or learns how to swim, or figures out how to light a fire with no matches, the sense of pride they get building a really good shelter ... It’s definitely the most enjoyable part [for me],” Sullivan said.

Sullivan hopes the troop can keep up the good work it has been doing for more than a century.

“I hope that the troop can continue to not just survive, but thrive, and I hope the numbers increase,” he said. “And I hope it’s the same for the whole of scouting.”