Year of the Volunteer—Northeast Region
Through Alice Breon’s tireless leadership, three-quarters of the boys at Marvine Elementary School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, participate in Cub Scouting. For many, Scouting is the only bright spot in their lives. One fourth-grader cried at an awards ceremony because it was the first time he’d ever received a badge—and perhaps the first time he’d ever felt valued.
Each Monday after school, Alice Breon runs a Tiger Cub meeting in her classroom at Marvine Elementary School in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Each Tuesday, she runs a Wolf meeting there. Breon’s Bear den meets there every Wednesday, followed by her two Webelos dens on Thursday and Friday. In all, 85 Marvine students—three-quarters of the boys in the school—participate in Scouting in Breon’s classroom each week.
The program is one of the few bright spots in many of the boys’ lives. Students who attend Marvine Elementary face numerous challenges. A high proportion are at risk academically. Ninety-eight percent receive free or reduced lunches. Most live in public housing or come from single-parent families.
And their families are often far from stable. One boy, for example, transferred to the school after his mother was murdered and he moved in with the father he hardly knew. Thanks to Scouting—and Breon—that boy and others are gaining hope for a better life.
Breon started Pack 327 in 2000 after a chance meeting in the school office with Scoutreach Executive Jimmy Torres of the Minsi Trails Council, who was there to drum up interest in starting a Cub Scout pack at the school. “I jumped at the chance,” said Breon, who had been an active volunteer in nearby Bucks County Council for more than a decade (and who continues to serve as an assistant Scoutmaster there). She started with a single den that year, steadily growing the program to include boys in all five grades.
Marvine’s principal at the time, Guadalupe Matías, quickly noticed the impact of Scouting. Boys who once spent time in her office due to conduct issues were now showing up on stage at monthly award ceremonies. The local United Way noticed, too. “They looked at attendance and tardiness and grades, and all those improved when boys were in Scouting,” Breon said.
What sustains Breon is not statistics, however; it’s stories. There’s the boy who approached Breon after a recent awards ceremony. “I cried on the stage when I got my badges because I never got a badge before,” he told her. It was perhaps the first time in his life that the fourth-grader had felt valued.
Torres, who still leads the Minsi Trails Council’s Scoutreach program, praised Breon for her commitment. “Alice is a person who is outstanding. She has so much energy within her,” he said. “She knows the program from A to Z and is an outstanding leader that anybody would love to have as a volunteer.”