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Forming the Whole Disciple Through Scouting

Q&A with Kylee O’Brien of Girl Scouts of America, Bryan Tran and Paul McKinley of Boy Scouts of America, Julia Schussman of American Heritage Girls


Tell me about your scout origin story: what level did you enter, and what kept you involved through your 
teen years?

Kylee O’Brien: I started Girl Scouts as a Brownie in second grade, and the people in my troop, as well as all the fun activities, kept me involved. After switching to homeschooling, staying involved in scouting prevented me from being isolated, enabled me to make friends, and to learn various life skills that interested me

Bryan Minh Tran: I joined as a Tiger cub in first grade. I chose to continue being involved since I wanted to get my Eagle and meet up with my friends at the troop. Now that I am closer to getting Eagle and have taken on more leadership within the troop, I am even more motivated to continue scouting (Eagle Scout is the highest rank attainable in the BSA)

Julia Schussman: I entered American Heritage Girls as an Explorer when I was 9. My mom was the troop coordinator, so it was easy to stay involved. Also, I enjoyed fellowship with my friends and learning from many of our outdoor activities. One skill I learned early on that I still enjoy is whittling with my pocket knife

Paul McKinley: I started as a Cub Scout in 2012 when I was 6. I built great friendships in Cub Scouts, and my friends and 
I moved to Boy Scouts in 2017. I remained involved because the other scouts and I had a lot of fun together and because it is an activity that I do with my dad. I enjoy the skills we gained and our shared outdoor adventures. I earned my Eagle Rank in 2024 and am still active in the program.

How has your time as a teen scout transformed you, personally and spiritually?

Bryan Minh Tran: I am more confident in myself, and scouting has given me more leadership experience. It has also provided me with a community where I can be open and learn more. Spiritually, scouting has transformed me by helping me understand the parts of the Mass and how to be reverent

Julia Schussman: Through scouting, I have faith-filled friends, and therefore, I have grown closer to God. In the AHG troop, we follow a faith program every year. We talk about our struggles and how to overcome them, and there are specific activities involving Catholicism, such as learning about our faith

Paul McKinley: Boy Scouts has taught me to be an effective servant leader. It has also made me appreciate my parish community. I have spent a lot of time serving the parish and serving in ministries in addition to my scouting activities as an altar server, thurifer bearer, lector, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, and sacristan. I also earned the Light of Christ, Parvuli Dei, Ad Altare Dei, and Pope Pius XII religious emblems for Boy Scouts, which helped me explore, deepen, and share my faith.

Is there a particular aspect of your scouting branch's creed or pledge that stands out or is especially important to you? Was there a memorable moment, event, or service opportunity that positively impacted you?

Kylee O’Brien: I learned much about nature in our outdoor camps, and many of the older Girl Scouts would teach me essential life skills. Even as an older Girl Scout, I still enjoy those camps, and now 
I can share what I learned with the younger Girl Scouts

Julia Schussman: Our AHG creed states that we promise to be helpful, so I try to be helpful both at home and outside the home. I led a service project where I taught and led girls through hours of crocheting items to donate to the Guadalupe Hope Society for women in crisis pregnancies and their babies

Paul McKinley: The scout oath is all about doing your duty to God, others, and self. During COVID, our troop volunteered to help with outdoor mass setup and teardown, and it allowed the community to continue to worship, helped the scouts 
to be needed, and kept us all outdoors and active.

If you had to use one word to describe teen scouting for you, what would it be and why?

Kylee O’Brien: “Engaging” because my troop's many activities are incredibly fun and interesting. As the girls in my troop have become older, we can now choose what badges we want. This differs from when we were younger when badges were selected for us

Bryan Minh Tran: "Leadership" because the older scouts must be leaders, and the younger scouts learn until they become leaders themselves. 

Julia Schussman: “Fellowship.” As a teen, I feel like I have more meaningful friendships than in the past. We also do a lot of activities together, and we bond as a team. 

Why is this scouting important to you personally as a teen? What do you gain/learn/give, and why is this important?

Kylee O’Brien: I can go on many hikes and camping trips with the girls from my troop and learn a lot about survival in the woods, such as starting a fire and cooking food while camping. I also have instructed younger Girl Scouts in these skills. 
 Bryan Minh Tran:  I give back my time to the troop by being a historian, and this is important to me since many older scouts have done the same for me when I was a younger scout (A historian takes photos for the troop activities). 

Paul McKinley: In scouting, I get to do things that I would never have had a chance to do alone. I also learned a lot of life skills, like cooking, planning, finances, first aid, conservation, etc. 

Can you comment about any challenges you faced while scouting as a teen? How about what most inspires you?

Kylee O’Brien: I am inspired by people like my older sister, who has done Girl Scouts for most of her life and never quit; even though she was challenged with her gold award, she still worked hard without giving up

Julia Schussman: One of the biggest challenges that comes to mind is managing my time and choosing what is important to do versus what is just a distraction. The thing that most inspires me is knowing that I have made an impact on some of the other teens in my troop

Paul McKinley: I learned that one of the biggest challenges as a leader is trying to motivate others. On the other hand, when you can get others involved and eager together, you will succeed and see the effort is worth it.

Why should a Catholic teen consider joining scouts, in your opinion? What do you wish they knew?

Bryan Minh Tran: A Catholic teen should consider joining scouts since it teaches everyone specific values, skills, and mindsets that could lead to a successful life. It does not matter who you are or what you believe in. 
Julia Schussman: The fellowship is uplifting, and the general atmosphere of AHG is positive. I have learned and taught many skills in and because of AHG. I would want other teens to know that there are a lot of opportunities through scouting to grow in faith and character

Paul McKinley: Scouting promotes values that are compatible with your Catholic faith. You will be surrounded by people who share those values and want to implement them. It is a safe place to try new things, especially outdoors. You build great friendships because you must work, struggle, and overcome things together. It is a safe place to try, fail, try again, 
and succeed.

Scouting as Formation of Faith and Life: Teen Scouts Reflect Vietnamese

Kylee O’Brien enjoys baking, cooking, drawing, photography, and filmmaking. She is a senior at Saratoga High School and is part of the Girl Scouts USA Troop 61692.  Her Parish is Sacred Heart in Saratoga.

Bryan Tran is a junior at Bellarmine College Preparatory and is a Star Scout in the Boy Scouts of America Troop 610, where he has learned perseverance. He and his family worship at Our Lady of La Vang parish.

Julia Schussman is a homeschooled high school senior and part of American Heritage Girls, Troop CA0312. She is working toward her Stars and Stripes award, AHG’s highest honor. Her Parish is Our Lady of Peace.

Paul McKinley is a senior at Bellarmine College Prep, an Eagle Scout, and a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster in Boy Scouts of America Troop 286. His parish is Holy Family. He will attend Colorado State University next year to study Construction Management.

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