All Local, All The Time

Left Hand Laurel Michelle Law

Niwot resident Michelle Law, who was born in Illinois, raised in Ohio and moved to Colorado in 1997, is this week's Left Hand Laurel for her work as the Scout Leader and Advancement Chair of Troop 161-G, a scout troop established in 2021 when the organization simply became known as "Scouts."

"The biggest thing I see," said Law, who has been involved with scouts from the time she was a little girl, "is you start as an 11-year-old fifth-grader and mature into a competent young adult."

Law explained, "I grew up in scouting. We were big into camping and hiking and in the eighth grade, our troop took a trip to the Lake Erie islands. Then between junior and senior year in high school, we spent three weeks in Europe in six or seven different countries ending in Switzerland at the Girl Scout World Center Chalet."

That was, no doubt, a deeply formative experience and for her whole life, Law has been hooked on scouting. "I had just turned 16 and scouting provided opportunities to stretch myself. We learned about the outdoors and experienced adventures and a sailing trip on the lake. We did a spelunking trip, rock climbing and cave exploration," said Law.

"Girls didn't do stuff like that in those days," she added. "It was learning how to be a leader in training at 16. I was hooked."

Law and her husband, Mike, who was born in Michigan, met in Colorado in 1995 and married in 1997. The couple moved to Niwot in 2000. Their family includes three sons – Jared, who is 22 and disabled with cerebral palsy, Evan, 21, and Caleb, 18.

A graduate of the University of Denver with a master's degree from Colorado State University, Law had worked for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Chicago and D.C., but "had always loved Colorado" and ended up taking a job at CU Boulder as a radiation safety officer. After 22 years, she retired recently as Assistant Director of Environmental Health and Safety.

"At some point," she explained, "our sons joined the Boy Scouts here in Pack 161, which was established in 1965 from an earlier group called Troop 161, established here in Niwot in 1960. We've been loyal leaders and enthusiasts ever since."

Scouting has changed from its early days. Scouting now starts in kindergarten and goes through age 18 with "the advancement chair of Troop 161 here in Niwot including boys and girls."

Law explained that as the troop's Advancement Chair, she "is responsible for all merit badge activities and tracking for all awards and achievement."

There are nine girls and 27 boys who make up this group. Law explained that these packs of young people led by local highly committed adults "give kids connection to activities and outdoor adventures different than sports."

"Scouting is not seasonal," Law explained. "Cub Scouts meet in houses with parents and their leaders. Our groups of older kids all meet at the Niwot Grange or in private homes. My troop, including 11 to 18-year-olds, meets every Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Grange on 2nd Avenue."

One of the best things Law sees about scouting is its constancy. "You have connections with the same kids and adults for six or seven years. You have continuity. There are seven ranks to climb. Along the way you have to speak with other adults and you have a scoutmaster conference at each rank. At each rank, you are progressing, and learn how to have an interview and present yourself. The service components involve giving back to the community."

Some projects local scouts have completed as part of their journey up the ranks include building the pathway to the Niwot Sculpture Park, repairing an area of the Grange, creating space for a patio and picnic table behind the Grange, and installing the bench near the stairway behind Niwot High School. "Another way of giving back to the community," Law explained, "is to lead the local parades."

If that wasn't enough to keep local scout leaders like Law busy, she said, "We believe in being active out there with kids – canoeing and backpacking and working at Sea Base, a scout sailing camp in the Florida Keys."

Law explained that one of her responsibilities as the leader is "to help get kids to Eagle Scout status," and added, "It's a challenge and a lot of work and very rewarding. They start as little babies at 11 and mature into great leaders."

She reflected that during the height of Covid, Zoom meetings made scouting difficult but, "We're recovering and teens are regaining their social skills and learning how to be kind, and we try not to have screens as part of our meetings and activities."

"We adult leaders have regained post-Covid a sense of confidence that our scouts are learning to be leaders and are going to do great things. It gives me hope for the future."


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