Success on the Path: Supporting Youth Pursuing Top Section Awards

For many senior youth, spring is an opportunity to set their sights on pursuing a Top Section Award. White Tail Beaver Scouts are encouraged to attain the North Star Award by setting out on their Northern Lights Quest. While there is less use of symbolic frameworks in other Sections, the thinking behind the Northern Lights Quest is still important; as winter draws to a close, youth should be encouraged to think about whether they will pursue their Top Section Award.

While the specific requirements for the Top Section Award vary from Section to Section, the fundamental steps are the same for all youth. In order to achieve the Top Section Award, a youth must:

  • Complete a Personal Progression review.
  • Attain a set number of Outdoor Adventure Skills.
  • Complete a set number of community service hours.
  • Complete a Top Section Award community service project.

Youth nearing the end of their time in their Section will likely already have the number of Outdoor Adventure Skills required for their Top Section Award. If not, spring outings offer a great opportunity for a final push. Whether planning a hike, a canoe trip or simply camping in the front country, encourage youth trying to achieve their Top Section Award to seek out opportunities to advance in their Outdoor Adventure Skills.

Spring is also a great opportunity for youth to offer community service in support of their Top Section Award. Your Section might have some community service activities that it does every year. If so, it can be worth reminding youth pursuing their Top Section Awards that the meeting they dedicate to a park or roadside cleanup should be counted as service hours toward their Top Section Award. It may also be that another Section in your Group has a community service activity in the works that youth from your Section would be welcome to join. For example, a Scout Troop might be planning a shoreline cleanup—why not invite the Cubs and Venturers to take part, too? Don’t forget Scoutrees—it’s a great community service opportunity for youth of all ages!

A Top Section Award community service project has three components:

  • It should be individually challenging and meaningful.
  • It should involve the interests and abilities of the youth.
  • It should make a positive difference in the local, national or global community.

Youth should be encouraged to regard their Top Section Award project as their capstone experience in their Section. While the project a youth sets out to complete should be realistic and attainable, it should be appropriately challenging for that youth—something the youth probably wouldn’t have been able to manage before joining the Section. In other words, the youth should feel a great sense of accomplishment when his or her project is finished.

Youth should be encouraged to use their imaginations when coming up with Top Section Award projects, but they should also receive support from their Scouters and parents to ensure their projects are attainable, and to come up with a plan (in writing) of the steps involved. Don’t be surprised if youth do not have many ideas for Top Section Award projects; there’s nothing wrong with putting forth some suggestions if necessary, or gathering ideas from other youth in the Section. As with other youth-led adventures, hearing a few ideas might spark a youth’s imagination and lead to a truly original project.

A number of helpful resources have been developed to support both youth and Scouters with questions about the Top Section Awards.

  • The Top Section Awards (Requirements and Transition) document succinctly describes the steps that youth from each Section should follow to achieve their Top Section Awards. The document also describes the different roles youth should take in each Section according to their personal progression, and the uniform placement for the Top Section Award badges.
  • The Top Section Award Flow Chart for Scouters describes the roles of the Section Leadership Team and your role as a Scouter in supporting youth who are pursuing their Top Section Awards.
  • The Section Leadership Team Top Section Award Flow Chart describes how the Section Leadership Team can evaluate and support youth in the Section pursuing their Top Section Awards.
  • The Top Section Award Log is a tracking sheet for an individual youth pursuing his or her Top Section Award. This resource is applicable for youth from each Section; Beaver Scouts and Cub Scouts will likely need help from a Scouter or parent when going over the resource. The Top Section Award Log can be useful as a resource for introducing youth to Top Section Award requirements, tracking progress along the way or reviewing what a youth has already accomplished.

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