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Scout executive earned counseling degree at YSU

Former Girard resident serves 10,000 troops

EDITORáS NOTE: This is one of a series of Saturday profiles of area residents and their stories. To suggest a profile, contact features editor Burton Cole at bcole@tribtoday.com.

Before switching careers, John Brkic worked about 18 months at Kent State University at East Liverpool as an academic advising career coach.

“Working with people and trying to make communities better is what I’ve always wanted to do,” he said.

That position neatly tied into what are his primary duties of the job he holds now — director of field service within the Great Trail Council of the Boy Scouts of America. It’s vital to encourage young people to connect more with, and give back to, their communities, as well as be of service to others, he said.

More than 100 years ago, the Boy Scouts of America built its mission largely around teaching young people a variety of life skills to help them become more responsible, caring, charitable and self-sufficient citizens. The Boy Scouts evolved into being about building positive relations and stronger communities.

Brkic graduated in 2004 from South High School in Willoughby. In 2011, he earned a master’s degree from Youngstown State University in counseling, with an emphasis on student affairs, leadership and practice.

He began his Scouting career in 2013 in Warren, where he served as district executive before becoming district director four years later. In 2019, he was promoted to field director before his most recent advancement in the organization.

His goal and outreach efforts were rewarded in January, which is when he was promoted to director of field service. He covers field operations in Mahoning, Trumbull, Medina, Portage, Summit and northern Wayne counties.

The council serves more than 10,000 Scouts in the region, including about 2,800 in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, noted Brkic, who recently moved from Girard to Akron to be closer to his office in Stow.

While many Scouts face challenges such as learning and applying first aid, one of Brkic’s was having to adjust to changes brought about by the health pandemic.

“At first it was a little difficult as we began doing a lot of different online programs. When everything first happened with the coronavirus I thought, ‘What do we need to do to not interrupt what we have been doing for the Scouts?'” Brkic said in an interview earlier this year.

Events included “Camp Out at Home” in March, during which Scouts created campsites at their homes and took photos of themselves camping and posted them online for a contest.

“We have Scouts who know how to set up the equipment and run youth services programs and meetings,” he said. “The Scouts are taking an active role in running the meetings They are showing leadership skills. They know the technology and how to run it.”

Now it’s September, which schools should be back in session. But there is no uniform schedule or plan is in place for every district in the 5 1/2-county area to begin the school year, Brkic said. Consequently, he’s had to come up with more innovative ways to recruit students.

Many area and regional school districts have opted for a hybrid model that includes in-class instruction combined with online learning. Others have chosen to begin strictly virtually.

“This year, most schools would have been in session for a few weeks now. The majority of schools began Monday,” he said. “We have to pivot our selection and try to plan for every scenario.”

Brkic and his staff are working on a contingency plan that aligns with a virtual model. He’s also assisting them with adjusting to, and operating in, changing environments and scenarios, the conditions for which were created in mid-March when the pandemic hit, he recalled.

“On March 13, we sat down and completely changed our mindset on everything we’re doing this year,” Brkic said.

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, the council has as its top priority keeping Scouts and staff safe via abiding by state and local health department mandates. As a result, outdoor meetings with 10 or fewer people have been promoted more heavily, wearing masks is mandatory and all sanitary procedures are being followed, he said.

Brkic said the mission remains the same: Help Scouts grow and develop into caring, responsible people.

“I’m very excited to have been able to move up as quickly as I can in the Boy Scouts of America organization. I’m really excited to continue my career with Scouting and serve families in northeast Ohio. How we help kids grow is very important to me, and I’m happy I get to do that in my home area,” he said, adding, “We’re all a team in Scouting. We either win together or lose together and I’m here to make sure we all win together.”

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