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Boy Scouts Launch Campaign To Attract Hispanics

The Boy Scouts are making their debut "en espanol," with an advertising campaign launched Thursday and a soon-to-come Spanish-language Scout Handbook intended to draw Latinos to the ranks of the nearly century-old organization.

The Spanish-language campaign, called "Valores para toda la vida," translated as "Values for life," includes television, radio and online spots that speak to the nation's largest minority in their language.

The outreach is intended to keep the Scouting movement relevant and growing as the country's cultural landscape shifts, taking a toll on Scout ranks. Boy Scouts of America is still the country's largest youth organization, with 2.8 million members, but that is half its membership in its peak year, 1972.

There is more competition for the attention of boys now. The country also looks different than it did 30 years ago, and the Scouts haven't kept up with the change. Latinos make up one in five children in the United States, according to the U.S. Census, but they are only 3 percent of Scouts.

The organization hopes to double its Hispanic membership by their centennial in 2010, and the campaign is a key part of that push, said Bob Mazzuca, Chief Scout Executive.

In the ads, boys and girls in uniforms explain what they like about Scouting _ perspectives that Scout leaders hope will introduce the venerable organization to a new audience while resonating with Latino values and culture. The children in the ads say Scouting taught them to help others, but they also talk about the soccer games they love, and how their family can take part in activities as well.

The Scouts are making changes designed to accommodate Latinos, based on information gathered with the help of a Washington-based media and marketing company and a committee of Hispanic leaders.

One example: including family members in traditional scouting activities such as camping trips.

"We recognized in the Hispanic community the absolute importance of family _ of doing things as a family," Mazzuca said. "So we've modified our program delivery to include family in many ways that our programs historically didn't."

The approach worked for Concha Roque, whose son, Nicholas, joined the Boy Scouts after meeting them after mass in Montebello, east of downtown Los Angeles. Roque was raising her sons without her husband, who had returned to Mexico, and liked the idea of an organization that gave them role models.

It also pleased her that she was invited along on Nicholas' first camping trip.

Translating the Scout handbook will help other Latinos feel welcome, Roque said.

The book, expected to come out in December, will feature a cover that touches on core Scouting themes _ boys rafting in the background, an eagle in the foreground. But it will be a clear sign the Scouts are interested in attracting Latinos, said Nicholas Roque, 17, a high school senior.

"It's like a welcome mat," he said. "It says we're open to them."

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