Twenty-six-year-old Manuel Piedia enrolled in boy scouts as a young child living near the Grand Concourse.
After a few years, the two volunteers who ran his troop, Troop 300, needed to to work more hours, and had to quit scouting – consequently the troop disintegrated, ending Manuel’s scouting days.
Boy scouting had become a huge part of his life, and in it’s absence, Piedra continued to stay true to scout law – a list of 12 moral codes that scouts are sworn to abide by.
“I thought to myself ‘maybe I can steer myself back onto the right path,’” explained Piedra, who said his neighborhood choices often complicated his life at that young age.
Problems like this arise fairly often in areas where parents work multiple jobs to keep families afloat, leaving them little extra time to volunteer for programs like the boy scouts.
This serious lack of volunteers was identified by the Greater New York Council of Boys Scouts leading to the concept of hiring paid leaders for troops in underserved areas. The program was called ‘Scoutreach’.
Piedra, by age 11, was able to begin scouting again through the program.
“My journey was full of experiences and memories, it definitely steered me in the right direction,” he said, reminiscing about when he discovered he would be able to scout again.
Today, as a specialist and a scout leader himself, Piedra provides the same training and mentorship that he once received as a young man.
He works at different schools throughout the borough each day of the week, and believes his work brings to kids the same effect that being a boy scout had on him at an early age.
“I walk into schools and people say ‘hey Mr. Manny can’t wait till program’” said Pieda, “I think being relatable helps these kids.”
Piedra is currently working on a early childhood education degree at Boricua College.
“A lot of people take it as an outdoors program, yes it is, but it’s big on character development, and mentorship” said Piedia.
Adrian Kennedrew of Fordham is a 16-year-old Scoutreach beneficiary who began scouting at six-years-old. Now, after having stuck with scouting for more than ten years, he looks back at his experience as a scout.
“It’s hard to explain, but they want you to succeed… and it gives you a very nice feeling you really don’t get anywhere else,” said Adrian, who feels proud of what he is doing, especially when he observes his peers getting caught up in the streets.
“A lot of important people are Eagle Scouts and it got them to where they are today,” Adrian continued, “and many people don’t know that.”
Scoutreach has programs at 33 public schools throughout the Bronx.