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Bayside Scouts earn honor for U.S. history knowledge

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By Ayala Ben-Yehuda

Queens’ largest and most diverse Cub Scout pack, Bayside’s Pack 255, set a new precedent Friday when it became the first pack in the New York area to bestow on its members the United States Heritage Award for civic knowledge and community service.

The award, adopted by the Boy Scouts of America just last year, recognizes Cub Scouts who have demonstrated knowledge of early U.S. history.

Eighteen boys in second through fourth grades raced to the front of the cafeteria at IS 25 in Bayside to accept their awards and shake the hands of City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose), who gave the restless pack a brief introduction to their roles in government.

“I have no doubt that someday, somebody in this room will have my job in the future,” said Padavan, who said he had been active in his son’s Scout troop.

Padavan invited the pack to visit his office in Albany and promised to arrange a pizza lunch — an idea that drew wild cheers from the audience of several dozen elementary schoolers.

Avella quipped, “The city’s in worse shape, so I don’t know if I can offer you pizza, but I’ll see what I can do.”

In order to receive an award, Scouts had to answer three pages of questions about the country’s patriotic history, name the original 13 colonies and explain the meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance in their own words.

As a whole, the pack recently held a toy drive, a coat drive, and brought gifts to sick children at Flushing Hospital.

Each United States Heritage Award consisted of a card with the Scout’s name on it, a silver medal, and a patch with an American flag background, an eagle and a star.

“As a melting pot of cultures and nationalities, our pack comes together as one,” said Cubmaster Shawn Spencer, who counts more than 15 ethnic groups in his 92-member pack.

Spencer said the Boy Scouts adopted the award in the wake of Sept. 11, but he pointed out that the terror attacks were not the main reason he introduced it to his group.

“It was a way to get them to pay attention to the United States, where they live, what they’re a part of as far as being good citizens [goes],” said Spencer.

Evelyn Buchanan, a Flushing resident, looked on proudly as her son Michael, 9, received a Heritage Award as well as the Naturalist, Readymen and Citizen Activity pins.

“It’s an accomplishment. They had to answer a lot of questions,” said Buchanan, who also praised the cultural diversity of Pack 255.

“He gets a chance to meet other cultures. They all get along, and there’s no politics,” said Buchanan, who is black. “I like that.”

Clara Sarmiento, whose sons David and Daniel Rios are members of Pack 255, said the youngsters do not think in terms of cultural diversity.

“Everything is a group experience,” said Sarmiento.

William O’Buckley, 8, seemed to bear out this theory. When asked what he liked about scouting, he said simply, “I like learning new things.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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