Many teens spend their free time at malls and movie theaters. But not Autumn Cragle.
The 16-year-old aspiring teacher is the youngest female Cub Scout den leader in history. Her 10-year-old brother, who was begging to be a Webelos Scout, gave her the idea to start volunteering her time to the Boy Scouts of America.
“Ever since I was 13, I wanted to be a teacher,” Cragle says. “I usually would tag along to my brother’s meetings, and when the pack leader said they needed help with the children, I jumped right in.”
Since moving to Dallas four years ago, Cragle has led two packs of scouts. She now supervises 20 boys during weekly meetings and biannual camping trips. She says being responsible for a pack of 10-year-olds is sometimes overwhelming, but it's a rewarding experience.
“These boys are teaching me so much,” she says. “They are helping me be a better person, prepare for becoming a teacher and manage my time in more effective ways. I just want to help young kids in any way I can.”
Cragle hopes to use what she has learned to pursue a career as a special education teacher.
“My brother has ADHD, and he inspires me to do better for our next generation of kids,” Cragle says. “I think a good teacher is able to listen to the kids and make good decisions to help them. Good teachers look for ways to go above and beyond what they are actually required to do.”
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Cragle participates in a nontraditional education system, so she doesn’t spend seven hours a day in a classroom like most other 10th-grade students. She gives credit to her flexible schedule at her online charter school, Texas Virtual Academy, for allowing her time to volunteer. In fact, Cragle’s self-taught attitude might be what makes her such a great leader.
“I absolutely love being in TXVA,” she says. “Virtual schooling allows me the ability to work at my own pace, in my own home. It also allows me flexibility in my schedule; I can work early in the morning or late at night to get my assignments done on time. As far as extracurricular activities go, I am able to work my school schedule around any outside activities planned, such as camping with scouts and scout meetings.”
Cragle believes making time to volunteer is important.
“It gives people my age the opportunity to meet others and connect in a positive way,” she says. “Through volunteering, I am able to help kids younger than me, inspire them to be the best they can and give back to the community.”