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Cub Scouts form den of distinction in Forsyth County
All members are sons of naturalized citizens from India
Cub Scout Pack 207 Den 14 member Likith Vallabhaneni colors a photo of the city of Cumming logo during a recent visit to City Hall. - photo by Crystal Ledford

CUMMING — For more than 100 years, the Boy Scouts of America has been among the most quintessential groups for boys, teaching them self-reliance, respect and how to enjoy nature as an American. However, one local Cub Scout den is taking that last part to heart.

Like many others, Den 14 of Pack 207 in Cumming is comprised of a few fourth-grade classmates who enjoy the outdoors, clean rivers and tour areas around the county.

Unlike most — and possibly any other — all seven members of the den are the American-born sons of naturalized citizens from India.

“Ours is totally a different kind of a group,” said Vijay Voota, den leader. “The reason being, we’re all immigrants who’ve come to this great nation, naturalized here and now citizens.

“We’re all learning the way governance works here in this county together.”

Voota said that he never intended to start a Scout den, though he now wishes he had earlier. Instead, he said the initial interest in the organization came last year after an open house at Dave’s Creek Elementary.

“There was a kiosk which was for Cub Scouts,” he said. “We didn’t know anything about it until we walked up to that kiosk and found out, like what does it do.

“It looked like a great opportunity for us to learn a lot through the scouting experience and that’s how it all started.”

Since August, the den has learned about the local ecosystem, participated in a river cleanup and led the Pledge of Allegiance at the most recent meeting of the Cumming City Council.

“They got here about 4:30 [p.m.], and we gave them a tour of city hall,” said Crystal Ledford, the city’s public information assistant. “We just kind of walked them around … and talked about the different features of the building and the different departments and what all they do.

“They met with Mayor [H. Ford] Gravitt for probably about 15 minutes or so. He talked with them just about the role of the mayor and the council and local government.”

Ledford said the visit may have been the first to city hall by a group made up entirely of first-generation Americans. Voota said the grouping was pure happenstance.

“Ours is a unique one through coincidence,” Voota said. “We all sat together at a bench, and then they said, ‘OK, this is one den.’ And then we realized.”

Voota added that they would welcome more variety.

“I wish there was more diversity, so there would be more exchange of information,” he said. “Or someone who has already been there in scouting to be part of the group so he can advise us.

“Or maybe on the flip side that this was also pretty good. None of us know anything, so we have the common goal to learn as much as we can. We’re all excited for that.”

Though the focus of the den has always been on the children, he said parents also benefit.

“We’ve not been educated here. We’ve not been born and raised here, so we miss all that stuff,” Voota said. “The biggest benefit is that we learn more than the kids.

“We are like a more mature bunch and we know what we lack. This is a great opportunity for us to fill up that void. So we are enjoying learning the culture, the ecosystem, the environment and all that scouting programs offer.”