Johnston ends tenure as Boy Scout leader
By Angie Landsverk
During Julie Johnston’s 10 years of leading Boy Scout Troop 634, she learned right along with the members of the troop.
“Coming into Scouts, I didn’t know about Scouts or what I was getting into. I had never camped,” she said.
Johnston camped more than 300 nights during her tenure as the troop’s scoutmaster.
She participated in 12 summer camps and went on seven high adventure trips.
“I’m very confident in the outdoors now,” she said. “Ten years ago, I was a fish out of water.”
Johnston reflected on her years in Scouting and decision to step down as the troop’s scoutmaster.
“It’s hard to leave,” she said.
She decided to do so now, because the boys who went through Boy Scouts with her sons are now coming of age in the program.
“You just feel it in your heart that it’s time to go,” Johnston said. “The normal flow is you go with your boys. I stayed on extra, because the boys in the group are like my sons. I love the boys and families.”
The troop’s spring Court of Honor, held May 18 at Riverside Park, included a number of surprises for Johnston.
She received flowers and gifts. Some of the Eagle Scouts she worked with sent video clips. State Rep. Kevin Petersen presented a plaque to her, recognizing the years she served as the troop’s scoutmaster.
That evening, Johnston introduced Jon Eller as the troop’s new scoutmaster.
“I knew something was being planned, but we were also planning for others who are leaving,” she said.
Mike and Jenny Grant and Chris Johnson are also stepping down from the troop’s leadership team.
Also most recently involved in the program with Johnston were Cheryl Duberstein, Dean Sondrol and Bryant Esch.
Johnston stressed the recognition should not just go to her because many people are involved in the troop.
“You know you can’t do something forever. It has been my passion. It has been my full-time job,” she said. “My husband supported me and our family so I could immerse myself in the program.”
Johnston’s husband Jim initially suggested they involve their two sons, Aaron and Ryan, in the program.
Jim had been a Boy Scout.
“It gave me an opportunity to be involved with my boys, doing something that matters,” Johnston said.
From 2000 to 2005, she was part of the Cub Scout leadership.
When her sons moved up into Boy Scouts, Colleen Selle was the scoutmaster.
Johnston said Selle provided a foundation for the troop. Paulene Kipke was the assistant scoutmaster, and Richard Pearson and Doug Christie were among Johnston’s mentors.
Others involved at that time included Kent Pegorsch and Greg Wasrud.
It was Johnston and Pegorsch who got into planning high adventure summer trips for the troop’s older boys, taking them into the back country.
“Of course, we wanted these experiences for our sons,” she said. “You’re not only challenging the boys. It’s a personal challenge for us.”
The first such trip they planned was kayaking in the Apostles Islands.
Other trips included 12 days backpacking at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, a trip she did twice, as well as five days backpacking at Isle Royal, eight days canoeing at Northern Tier High Adventure Base in the Boundary Waters, five days backpacking on Grand Island off the coast of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and five days on a Voyageur Canoe Trek on Lake Superior.
The Voyageur Canoe Trek took place in 2013. The canoe held 14 people, including all of their gear and equipment.
“It was always the trip I wanted to do,” Johnston said. “That certainly was a highlight for me.”
Other highlights for her included earning the Wood Badge in 2005, which is Scouting’s highest level of adult leadership training, and assisting 27 Scouts in achieving Scouting’s highest rank of Eagle Scout.
Johnston said being the scoutmaster allowed her to provide a foundation and experiences which may lead to achieving Eagle Scout.
“When you are an Eagle Scout, that stays with you forever,” she said. “It teaches the boys, but it teaches the leader as well.”
Both of her sons achieved that rank. Aaron did so in 2008 and Ryan in 2010.
The main focus of Boy Scouts, which is for ages 11 to 18, is leadership, character building, citizenship and outdoor skills, Johnston said.
During the school year, the troop meets every Monday night and also camps one weekend each of those months.
Summer includes a high adventure trip for the older boys in the troop who want to be challenged.
“We focus on being good citizens, putting other people before ourselves, being a good friend,” she said.
Johnston told the boys to think about the words in the Boy Scout’s oath and law, to embrace them and to think about who they want to be when they look in the mirror.
She had high expectations for the boys in her troop, and she said they met them.
“These are very special boys. They thrive not only in Scouting but in other parts of their lives,” she said.
The middle and high school years can be challenging years for young men, and Johnston said solid role models need to be provided.
She watched men fill that role.
For Johnston, being involved in Scouting also allowed her to be around families who have shared values.
“It was a great group of young men to work with,” Johnston said of the boys in the troop. “It’s been a good run, a good hike.”