Hintonburg resident Jose Antonio Ramos Mendoza – or, as he’s known to his friends and fellow scouts, Tonito – is the first scout in Ottawa’s 32nd St. Matthius group to receive the Chief’s Scout Award. The Chief Scout’s Award is the highest award that can be achieved at the Scout level in Scouts Canada.
“It’s probably been thirty or forty years since the award has been issued to anyone,” says Mendoza’s Lead Scouter, Steve Fischer. The award is the accumulation of three years of hard work, but it was an undertaking that came naturally to the young scout.
“He was our keenest guy in terms of badges and that sort of stuff,” says Fischer. “Other kids like badges and get them, but he was the only guy who kept coming to me, asking, ‘Can work on something else?’ When he came back this year, I said, ‘Let’s go for the Chief’s Scout Award.’”
“He’s a great kid… a month ago, he got his standard first aid. He had to spend a whole weekend with adults at a first aid course downtown with a bunch of fifty- year-olds. He was very determined and we’re all quite proud of him that he worked so hard at it.”
Mendoza’s mother, Rita, echoes those sentiments. “Oh my god, I feel really proud,” she says. “It’s really hard to describe. He worked so hard. He’s a good kid. I can’t complain.” As for the award winner, his feelings are much more simply put: “It feels good.”
Earning the badge required Mendoza, 14, to excel at a number of skills, exercise leadership, and commit himself to volunteer work within the community. He researched and learned about different levels of government, aided Fischer in organizing Scout camps, and helped his fellow scouts work to get their knife permits, among other tasks.
“It’s quite a bit more involved than just running with the pack,” Fischer admits. “It leads you towards being a civic-minded and real community volunteer.”
Working towards the award has not only been about giving back to the community, but also receiving its support.
Family friends, Mimi Golding and her husband Tim, took Mendoza under their wing and helped with all the “onerous requirements outside of Scout Headquarters,” Fischer adds.
“That phrase ‘it takes a community to raise a child’, he’s an example of that. He’s really been thriving with all that help from friend, family, and cohorts.”
Despite all his hard work and dedication, the new Chief’s Scout Award winner isn’t all serious.
“He’s a totally fun guy. Kids would always want to be in his tent or in his van. He’s kind of a quiet guy around adults, but with kids he can spin a yarn like nobody else,” says Fischer.
“Some kids have tiffs with this kid or that kid, but he’s one that everyone loves,” says Fischer. “He’s been setting a great example for the other kids too. A lot of kids did a lot more badge work. They’d see him up at the front getting this badge and that badge and then the others would pull me aside and say, ‘Hey, how hard is it to get that one?’”
Mendoza will be advancing to the Venturer Scouts program, where he’ll be able to exercise the leadership skills he’s learned over the past years and have more of a say in organizing different activities.
“He was wondering whether he should move up next year, and I said, ‘You know what? You’re ready for it.’”