More than 80 Boy Scout leaders and staff gathered in Park City Thursday for the second half of "Wood Badge," a six-day advanced training offered several times each year to leaders. But for the first time in the United States the course is being offered to deaf participants.
In the past, the training course has been held in English and Spanish; this week the program expanded to three languages by including American Sign Language. Oscar Santoyo, the Scouting with Special Needs and Disabilities adviser for the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America, said he is very impressed with the training program.
"What you're doing here is breaking new ground," he said. "This is a segment of our community that needs scouting. The sign of a good leader is a trained leader, which trickles down to a good experience for the boys."
The group separated into eight "patrols" of six to eight individuals. Two of the eight patrols at the gathering are comprised of deaf Scouters. In total, 15 deaf individuals participated along with two deaf troop guides.
Course director Jay Brown said he sees success with the program so far and believes the addition of deaf participants will strengthen the organization as a whole.
"We're much stronger when we're diverse," Brown said. "And that is absolutely the case here."
The Park City "Wood Badge" training course is the first in the nation to include deaf participants.
The organization spent almost a year adapting materials to be deaf- and hearing-impaired friendly.
Fifteen deaf participants and two troop leaders are involved in the program.