Ryan Miske has been involved with Scouting for almost as long as he can remember. Beginning in the second grade, he joined the Tiger Cubs, then the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Now a senior political science major at Carleton College, Miske's latest challenge was achieving four formidable
Scouting goals to earn the bronze Congressional Award.
The Congressional Award program is a private-public sector partnership created by Congress that recognizes initiative, achievement and service in young people between the ages of 14 and 23. Although the program is fully funded by charitable contributions, the federal government provides facilities for the Congressional Award Foundation in Washington, D.C. In 1997, approximately 350 bronze, silver and gold awards were earned by young people across the country.
The bronze, silver and gold distinctions each require a minimum number of months a participant must spend in the process of achieving four goals. For the bronze award, at least seven months is required; for the silver award, 12 months; and for the gold award, two years.
To earn the bronze award, Miske, who described himself as a goal-oriented person, excelled in four areas: voluntary public service, physical fitness,
personal development and expedition. With the support of four Scouting mentors, he chose goals that would help him develop his leadership skills. He pointed out that ever since he obtained the rank of Eagle Scout at age 15 he has "pursued leadership skills more than advancement."
Each of Miske's mentors evaluated his progress and reported their evaluations to the Congressional Award Foundation. One of the mentors, David Garrett, also became a personal friend. Ever since the two met, Garrett has offered Miske sound advice on Scouting and other matters.
"He [Garrett] has helped me with everything from getting elected national vice chief of Order of the Arrow to searching for a job after graduation," Miske said.
Order of the Arrow (OA) is Scouting's national honor society; scouts are nominated for membership by their own troop.
Michael Harris, another one of Miske's mentors, oversaw the planning and execution of his expedition goal, a two-day canoeing adventure through
Minnesota's Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). Although Miske had canoed before, he had never done so as intensely. He and two companions paddled through the maze of the BWCA's waterways approximately four hours a day with the help of a guide.
Although Miske's canoeing expedition was a challenge, he said he pushed himself even further with his physical fitness goal, serving as organizer and leader of three six-day hikes through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in New Mexico.
"I was the person who had to make sure we weren't way off track," Miske said.
Each hike took place at the Boy Scouts' high adventure base in the Sangre de Cristos. Miske was accompanied by approximately 10 other OA members on each of the three 50 to 60 mile treks through unfamiliar territory.
Miske further honed his leadership skills during his term as a section chief for the OA. His voluntary public service goal was the successful completion of his term in office, to which he was elected by the members of his OA geographical section. As section chief for the midwestern states, Miske's chief responsibility was to provide service and support for Boy Scouts throughout the Midwest.
His primary goals were to encourage Boy Scout troops in the Midwest to organize camping expeditions, to provide service to Scout camps (i.e. setting up tents and erecting permanent facilities at Boy Scout campgrounds), and to financially support the Boy Scouts of America by donating OA funds and raising money from other sources.
Miske's successful completion of his voluntary public service goal enabled him to serve the OA organization in a position of even greater responsibility. As a result of the ability he demonstrated as section chief, Miske was elected national vice-chief of the OA by his youth colleagues. In this post, Miske organized a national OA conference, which hosted over 6,000 members; represented the young adult perspective to the adult administrators of the OA and the Boy Scouts of America; and represented the national OA committee at OA events throughout the nation.
For his personal development goal, Miske sharpened his leadership and public-speaking skills by delivering inspirational presentations on leadership to OA members at three of the organization's national leadership seminars.
Miske typically addressed the attendees of each leadership seminar on three separate occasions over the course of a weekend, often speaking before an audience of 100 people. Miske said his public-speaking skills improved with each speaking engagement.
In addition to the time spent preparing his presentations, Miske kept a journal that charted his personal growth during the period of his approximately nine presentations.
Miske achieved all four of his goals by November 1996. He submitted written explanations of the accomplishment of his goals to the Congressional Award Foundation and was notified in December 1996 that he had fully met the requirements for the Congressional Award.
Last year, U.S. Rep. David Minge -- from Rockford, Minn., which is also Miske's hometown -- presented the bronze medal to Miske in a ceremony at Carleton.
Miske said he believes the Congressional Award process encourages young people to push themselves to the limit, and he is proud to have achieved all four of his considerable goals.
Miske said he feels he has a duty to give back to the Boy Scouts of America, an organization that has benefited him in so many ways. He said his leadership, organizational, people and public-speaking skills have greatly matured in the context of his Scouting experiences.
After graduation from Carleton this June, Miske hopes to work for a management consulting firm, and then earn a business or joint business and law degree.
Miske obviously believes the work he did to earn the bronze Congressional Award has been worth it, for he is already developing goals for achieving the gold Congressional Award by the year 2000.