he line of kayaks moved beneath the sandstone cliffs carved by Lake Superior.

Venture Crew 228 cut along the shoreline, taking in the majesty of Painted Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Staring upward, they marveled at sedimentary layers exposed on the cliff face, revealing brilliant shades of gold, rust, orange and other colors.

The view alone was worth the trip. But the fact that the young adults of the Venture Crew had planned the route, organized the camping and raised the money to go made it that much more memorable.

Story continues below gallery

“It definitely gives a lot of opportunities that we wouldn’t get before. I don’t think we ever would have made our way to Michigan if we’d weren’t in Venturing. And you get closer with your friends,” said Abigail Wallace, 15, president of Crew 228.

For adventure-minded teens and young adults, Venturing has emerged as a way to forge organization, responsibility and leadership skills. The branch of Scouting is open to both boys and girls ages 14 through 20, and revolves around group activities, weekend trips and longer voyages that are entirely planned by the members.

Members have be diligent about managing their time and balancing other responsibilities such as school and work, Wallace said.

“It’s youth-led, so we get to do it as long as we go through with it,” she said

Venturing is a smaller subset of Boy Scouts of America which was formally created in 1998 to provide a program for older Scouts that blended adventure, leadership, personal growth and service into a single organization.

Currently, about 158,000 teenagers and young adults are members, with another 58,000 adult volunteers helping to guide them.

Venturing groups have been established throughout Johnson County, including crews in Franklin, Greenwood, Edinburgh and the southside of Indianapolis.

The core idea behind Venturing is to let members figure out their passions and adventures, and then give them the means to pursue them. The options are broad and limitless — adventure might mean rappelling down a cliff for one group, while it could mean volunteering in the community for another.

Activities are a blend of everything in between.

Venture Crew 316, based at Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic Church, has taken small trips tobogganing in northern Indiana and to the National Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. Last summer, the crew visited the Philmont Scout Ranch, a 137,000-acre wilderness area in the Sangre de Cristo range of the Rocky Mountains in northern New Mexico.

The crew has plans to go scuba diving, and will take a canoe trip to Boundary Waters in Minnesota.

“It’s a lot more youth-led than other types of Scouting. Adults are there, they supervise a lot, but the youth get to make a lot of the decisions,” said Nicole Ziegler, 15, the president of Crew 316.

Ziegler learned about Venture Crew through her brother’s involvement in Boy Scouts. She thought that the approach — letting the Crews choose their own path — sounded interesting.

Plus, as a coed institution, she could do the hiking, camping and other activities that she enjoyed doing.

“We all get to be a lot more involved with the planning of it,” Ziegler said.

The crews come together in regular meetings, planning out the type of activities they want to do in the coming weeks. Most are shorter day trips or overnight voyages somewhere near central Indiana.

They might decide to go rollerskating, take in a movie or plan a camping trip in Hoosier State Forest. Lock-ins, which bring members and their friends together for team-building, are held throughout the year.

“We try to do something every month. We might have a lock-in one weekend, and then not have anything for the rest of the month. Then the next month we might go ice skating or roller skating. Then we do high adventure things once or twice a year,” Wallace said.

The crews also do more extensive trips. Leaving for four or five days, they branch out into wilder areas for such adventures as backpacking in the Upper Peninsula. In June, Crew 228 will be visiting St. Louis to sightsee at the Missouri Botanical Garden, Gateway Arch and St. Louis Zoo.

When the crew has decided what they want to do, organizational assignments are passed out. One member might be in charge of lining up lodging. Another would figure out transportation. A third makes reservations with for the activity.

“We plan ahead. Someone figures out what activities to do here, and brings back that information,” Abigail Wallace said. “I had to learn a lot of time management and have your priorities set. You have to have good communication skills to make this all happen.”

Adult volunteers shadow each member, staying out of their ways as they make arrangements but also providing support and ensuring the job gets done.

“What Venture Crew tries to do is get youth leadership. Once they decide what they’re going to do, whoever is in charge has to figure out where we’re staying, how much it’ll cost, how we’re going to get there and what chaperones are going,” said Mike Wallace, committee chairman for Crew 228. “They have to structure it and figure out the entire trip. That’s why you have an adult shadow, to make sure all of those things are followed through on.”

The appeal of Venturing is the chance to essentially choose your own adventure. But for the young women involved in the organization, it provided an opportunity to do activities that they previously were excluded from.

Nicholas Wallace, Abigail’s twin brother, was already a member of Boy Scouts when he discovered Venturing. He was invited by one of the Scout troop leaders to form a small group inside the group that organized high-adventure outings, such as weeklong camping trips. Eventually, that led to the formation of a Venture crew.

For as long as her brother has been in Venturing, Abigail Wallace had tagged along and done unofficial troop activities. She jumped at the potential to join the coed crew.

“I’ve always been a tomboy, so I’d hang out with him and his friends. With them, I get to hang out outside and camp and things like that,” she said. “It’s one of the few opportunities for girls to take part.”

If you go

Venture Crew open house

When: April 24, 6 to 7:30 p.m.

Where: Grace United Methodist Church, 1300 Adams Drive, Franklin

What: To learn more about Venturing and see if you’re interested.

At a glance


Venturing is for young men and women ages 14 through 20 (and not yet age 21), or age 13 and finished with 8th grade.

About one-third of Venturers are young women.

As a Venturer, you will join other young adults in planning activities and operating your Venturing crew.

Focus areas of the Venturing program include the outdoors, arts and hobbies, sports, religious life and STEM.

Venturing gives young adults challenging, exciting adventures such as scuba diving, cycling tours, climbing, and rappelling, and hobbies such as shooting sports, service projects and community service, living history, video gaming and golfing.

Although outdoor activities are a major part of Venturing, the program also features life skills such as leadership development, public speaking, interviewing and mentoring.

Using the seven leadership methods of Venturing — leadership, group activities, adult association, recognition, Scouting ideals, high adventure and sports, and teaching others — this program for youth helps prepare them to become responsible, caring adults.

Venturing impacts nearly a quarter of a million youth every year.

How to get involved: Find a Venturing Crew at BeAScout.org.

— Information from Boy Scouts of America

Author photo
Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.