Twenty years ago, Andres and Rita Ramos didn't know anything about Scouting. Now they each put in 30 to 40 hours a week for its cause.
They work tirelessly in the Ogden area for the welfare of the young men.
"If you can get the young men going the right way, it shows that we have a product worth fighting for in the church," Andres said. "Where they are going, that's where the community is going."
Rita directs all of the Spanish-speaking training in the Ogden area. She also serves a great deal with the young men in her home ward. Andres works with the Young Men program in their home ward while also serving on the Young Men's general board for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Andres helped start Scout troops in Dallas and in San Angelo, Texas, in the late 1980s. He also worked on establishing a troop in Monterrey, Mexico, while living there with his family. But it wasn't until moving to Utah that he and Rita became immersed in the organization.
"Here is where the Lord just opened up the doors and our hearts opened up," said Andres, who credits his son Andres' initiation into Scouting as one of the major factors that led to his involvement. "He got ready for Boy Scouting, and that took Mom and Dad deep, deep, deep into the waters of Scouting."
Several years ago, the Ramoses were asked to work with the 18 boys who attended six different branches in Ogden. At least 12 of those boys went on to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.
One of the primary reasons that Andres and Rita work so hard for the Scouting program is to keep the young men out of trouble. They have specifically worked to recruit into Scout troops boys who come from troubled homes or have gang involvement. After working to "sell" the boys on the idea of Scouting, the young men tend to latch on to the activities and camaraderie.
"A lot of them like it, because it's something to do," Rita said. "(With Scouting) they can still be cool. Sometimes people give these kids a hard time because of the way they dress. But they're good kids; they just need help."
One young man who came from a difficult background recently attended a high adventure leadership camp. At the concluding meeting of the camp, he arose to speak but was overcome with emotion.
"He choked up and he could not even talk because he was changed. His spirit was changed," Andres said. "He epitomized the whole spirit of the course. All of a sudden I have hope that he will go on a mission."
The Ramoses strive to prepare young men for full-time missionary service. For them, there is no better way to do that than through Scouting.
"It shows them how to be a good missionary," Andres said. "It teaches people skills. Scouting helps us put missionaries out there and will give them experiences to make them better missionaries."
Said Rita: "After they have some success Scouting, they believe they can go on missions."
Their idea of Scouting goes beyond courts of honor and camping in the Uinta Mountains. As they work each day, Andres and Rita remember the big picture.
"We're not doing Scouting for Scouting's sake," Andres said. "We're doing it for the benefit of families and the community. We Scout for the increased (church) activity that will make them better people."
They also hope their efforts will erode biases that people may have toward the Hispanic community.
"(Scouting) unites people with the community; it unites people under one flag," Andres said. "That's the flag of all of us. And they're actually doing something for the community with their service projects."
Andres and Rita try to "showcase" their Scouts. They require that the boys attend meetings and activities in uniform. The Scouts in their branch will carry a banner in the Ogden 24th of July parade today.
Andres and Rita also provide the Scouts with community service opportunities, such as landscaping in a park or painting fire hydrants.
"People think all Hispanics are gangbangers, but they're not," Rita said. "I want the people of the community to see that there are Hispanics here doing some good."
Andres said the major elements of Scouting are found in the Hispanic culture. He specifically mentioned that the frontiersmanship, folklore and military components of Scouting can all be found among Hispanics.
"(Some leaders) don't see the benefits," Rita said. "There are so many benefits to this whole movement. You can't think of it as a program. You have to see the face of the boys."
The couple is working to prepare Ogden's first bilingual Wood Badge training to take place in September. Their advice for current or future leaders is to make an effort and put in the time for Scouting.
When first called to work with the Scouts, Rita thought that success was not possible. Their perspectives have since changed.
"We believe in Scouting by faith," Andres said. "We feel that the Lord's involved. If you don't believe the Lord's involved, quit and go home."Said Rita: "I know it's hard, but we're talking about our kids. Vale la pena."
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