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Saluting the heroes who are preparing for the future

We’re saluting the heroes who are taking advantage of a Scouting program designed to get teenagers prepared for a career.

SCOTT, Ark. — The motto of the Boy Scouts of America's Scouts BSA is "Be Prepared." 

For decades, teens in BSA learned how to react in any kind of situation or emergency, and for Explorers, a Scouting program for older teens, their main goal is to get prepared for a career.

In a very tight labor market, that has made finding anyone to take on tough and strenuous jobs, an Explorer post in Scott has been preparing to respond to emergencies.

"We have our volunteer firefighters who are leading the explorers, " said Wes Downs, a member of Post 911, chartered by the Scott Volunteer Fire Department. "They help us understand everything, and we've been learning a lot."

"We do a training [session], like vehicle extraction training, learning how to use the jaws of life and the cutters and the airbags, learning how to roll up fire hoses," said Gunner James, a fellow Scott Charter School junior who talked his buddy Wes into joining the post with him.

The chance to make some big moves at a young age attracted them both. Throw in some family influence and a chance to use power tools and it was the start of a career for both.

"We've used our leveraging tools, which is an airbag system, and we lifted a Yukon off of like an Altima," Downs described.

"I've had family [that] has been volunteer firefighters," said James. "One day, I just had that bug all of a sudden, I just wanted to do volunteer firefighting."

The fire department had been wondering how to tap into that bug while trying to recruit more help, and the Explorer program offered a way to hook teens early.

"There's a great need," said Aaron Ruby, an adult leader of the post and a firefighter. "We all work. We all have full-time jobs, and a lot of times, we're in Little Rock, or we're out of town. The more volunteers, the better."

The teens are still too young to respond to calls, but they get to work twice a month with the volunteers, training alongside them. It puts them on a path to stepping up to help when they turn 18 or when they are stepping out into a career.

"There's so much that you gain through experience, especially if you're doing this full-time," said Ruby. "Real world situations and all sorts of scenarios that could come up that you just have to learn to be problem solvers, and quickly, stay calm."

They also help teach the importance of paying dues.

"They save the grunt work and the heavy work, they save that mostly for us," said Gunner.

Though it's served up with enough fun to envision a future of serving their neighbors.

"I honestly wanted to become a mechanic, actually," said Downs. "Then I started working here and I was like, this is what I want to do. I want to make a difference in someone's life."

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