Summer jobs can be hard to find for young men with college aspirations. Summertime can also bring difficulty staffing Boy Scout camps. The Heart of America Council, which served nearly 18,000 campers at the Bartle and Naish reservations in 2013, has found a way to meet its needs by offering the Camp Staff College Scholarship Program.

Scouts can apply for staff positions beginning at age 15.

“When these older staff guys get to be seniors in high school and off to college, they can really take leadership,” says Bill Esry, presiding chieftain of the tribe of Mic-O-Say and president and chief executive officer of Blue Ridge Bank &Trust Company. “Keeping older staff guys around is better for the kids and better for the program. We can have the best facilities, the best programs, but without the staff, we can’t offer anything. It’s the most important piece in putting together the program.”

Esry says the scholarships began as a way to hold on to the college-age staffers. The young men go to camp for the entire summer. Their room and board is completely covered, and they receive a small paycheck. At the end of summer, each one who applies for a scholarship receives a check for college at a special ceremony. “They’re often in better shape than those who stayed in town and worked at (a fast-food restaurant),” says Esry.

This year the scholarships ranged from $1,000 to $5,000. More than 100 staffers received at least $1,000 each. A few years ago the minimum was half that size.

Funding for the scholarships continues to grow because donors see how keeping older staffers results in a better overall Scout camping program, Esry says. Members of Mic-O-Say’s Tribal Council make donation requests of each other and additional individuals and groups. Commissioners also engage in fundraising. In addition to annual gifts, an endowment fund is growing to provide perpetual funding to the scholarship program. Of the $144,000 distributed this year, more than $100,000 was raised during the year. The difference came from the endowment.

According to Esry, the scholarships have helped the program become so successful other camps from around the country have noticed are asking how they can get started.

Preston S. Conner, 19, of Independence, spent the summer on staff at camp Piercing Arrow on the Bartle reservation and is a scholarship recipient.

“It’s important because I’m in college and college is getting expensive and I want to give my time to Scouting instead of another job,” says Conner. “I like that I can do what I want to do and help other boys in Scouting. I like that I’m able to help and give back for all that Scouting’s given me.”

Conner, whose Mic-O-Say name is Shaman Lonesome Lost Wolf, worked in the dining hall, ensuring its cleanliness and meeting the needs of the campers, who eat family style rather than cafeteria style. “I don’t mind being behind the scenes,” says Conner, wearing olive Scout shorts and his beads. “I know I’m making a difference.”

The scholarship Connor received will go to the University of Kansas, where he is a sophomore studying computer science.

“I chose KU because that’s where my mom went,” says Conner. “For part of the day I’d be at campus day care. Sometimes I was with her when she worked in the library. I can remember being with her. I grew up on that campus and that’s why I wanted to go back.”

Conner is a 2013 graduate of William Chrisman High School. As a student he was a theater technician, captain of the boys’ swim team, and a member of the varsity scholar bowl team. As a Scout he earned the rank of Eagle as a member of Troop 221, and for his Eagle project he worked to rebuild and restore the Spirit Trail at the convent near Chrisman in time for the Easter trinity Masses in 2012.

Kyle S. Anderson, 35, of Blue Springs, was also a staffer and scholarship recipient, albeit a less traditional one. Anderson, whose wife of two years is expecting their first child, is working on a doctorate in educational leadership through Baker University. His goal is to teach at the post-secondary level. He is currently a teaching and learning coach at Staley High School in Kansas City North. Prior to Staley, he spent 12 years at Lee’s Summit North as a history teacher, the last few of which he was also was a school improvement leader.

Anderson earned his Eagle with Troop 110 then spent the next 10 years at the Rotary Youth Camp as a staffer for special needs Scout camps. He worked the last five years on staff at Bartle, initially as the lakefront director then as the assistant reservations director for programs. “It’s kinda like what I do at Staley,” says Anderson, “but for Scouts.”

Anderson says he feels “very, very blessed” with the scholarship. “I couldn’t have gotten a job for the summer here and gotten the help I needed for school,” says Anderson. “The existence of the scholarship program was a factor in getting to return to school when I did. Every bit helps.”

Anderson is animated as he talks about Scout camp. “That place had a profound impact on my life growing up. and I want to see it grow going forward,” says Anderson. “I don’t know that I realized it at the time, but the foundational skills for every job I’ve had since high school were established at camp.”

With his wife’s support, Anderson spends his summer at Scout camp and volunteers his time the rest of year because “as this ultra-competitive world puts demands on our time, we can’t lose sight of bringing up well-rounded young men.”