One of Troop 98's scouts holding the flag as their weekly meeting begins.

Antonio McCall has been involved in scouting since he was just 14 years old. He followed his step-brother one day to a scout meeting at Wayland Temple Baptist Church in at 25th and Cecil B. Moore and never left.

“That was exciting to me, that was different to me,” said McCall, who’s 31 and the scoutmaster for Troop 98. “I’m a different kind of guy, I was a different kind of kid. So when I came here and heard that was an option, those were things that we would learn and explore, I was excited. Being that this troop is based in North Philly, there’s not a lot of that so I was excited that this was an opportunity that I could come every week and meet new people.”

Troop 98 is one of seven units in North Philadelphia and has been around since 1999. It was started by former scout master Roslyn Munson with her son, Aaron, who was one of her first scouts before McCall joined.

There is a steady group of seven boys who come to meetings on a regular basis, McCall said. Most of them come from the surrounding area of the church and other parts of North Philly.

Scout Master Antonio McCall helps one of the scouts set up the flag for their weekly scout meeting. Credit: Sydney Schaefer/Billy Penn

“I’m here because you’re here,” McCall told the scouts during one of their meetings earlier this fall. “As long as you come, I come. Use me as a resource.”

[pullquote content=”As a mentor you just pray that one day it will all make sense.” align=”right” credit=”Scoutmaster Antonio McCall” /]

Attendance does varies at times, mostly because of other activities that the boys may be involved in. McCall added that the challenging thing about being a leader to an inner city troop is having the continued drive to lead and be an example to the young men.

“A lot of these young men don’t know what it means to deny yourself for the sake of someone else,” McCall said. But as a mentor you just pray that one day it will all make sense.”

‘A life journey’

Devon Bright has been involved with Troop 98 for five years now. As the senior patrol leader, he oversees each scout meeting.

“Scouting has been a journey for me because when I first started scouting, I was just a kid growing up,” Bright, 15, said. “The scout masters helped me become more of a young man. So, it’s a like a journey of life, growing up and stuff, and having someone mentor you and teaching you how to go in the right direction.”

Bright’s grandmother was already familiar with Munson, who had suggested that she send Bright over to get him involved with scouting. Instantly, Bright said, joining became a great experience.

Troop 98 begins meetings with jumping jacks and pushups. Credit: Sydney Schaefer / Billy Penn

Bright sees scouting as something that he would like to continue to be a part of in some capacity as he grows older.

“I want to come back and help the young men growing up,” he said. “Like Aaron and Mr. Antonio have helped me.”

McCall keeps himself motivated by knowing what purpose he serves to his scouts — to be a resource and  provide a light in a sometimes a dark place.

“My purpose is to be an example for young people as someone was for me,” McCall said. “The challenge comes in when you have to stand there knowing they’re just waiting for your interaction to be over. It may not make sense to the whole entire group but if you’re able to captivate one you’ve done your job.”