First-Year Leadership Institute Student Already a Guiding Influence Among His Peers

By Tom McLaughlin

Upon arriving as a first-year student at Rutgers University–Camden this fall, Jacob Lapinson will embark on a unique and extraordinary journey via the Leadership Institute, preparing to stand as a guiding force and influence among his peers.

Jacob Lapinson

But first things first: Lapinson spent time this summer providing critical mentorship and guidance to other aspiring leaders.

From July 30 to Aug. 5, the Cherry Hill resident worked as the assistant senior patrol leader of program at the National Youth Leadership Training camp in Berlin, N.J. The training camp is held at various locations throughout the country for Boy Scouts ages 13 to 17 and Venture Scouts – high adventure, co-ed scouts ages 13 to 21 – to develop better leadership skills, which they can, in turn, bring back to their troops.

“The camp teaches these skills, but working as a leader at the camp truly allowed me to practice and hone what we teach,” says Lapinson, who will pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science at Rutgers–Camden.

As he explains, the training program is built to condense an entire month’s-worth of scouting into one week, which includes four troop meetings and a camping trip. In his role, Lapinson oversaw all activities to ensure that they ran smoothly, as well as delivered classroom-style lectures on topics such as public speaking, team development, creating a vision, and setting goals.

“It was an amazing experience,” says the Eagle Scout, who serves as a troop leader for Troop 166 in Cherry Hill. “Because the course is run like a troop, it is entirely youth-led, with adults there just to help with things like paperwork and finances.”

A scout since he was eight years old, Lapinson says that his outlook – and perspective on leadership thus far – has been shaped in part by nearly a decade of rewarding experiences in the Boy Scouts. Some of his most cherished memories, he recalls, are of climbing the face of a mountain in Pennsylvania while working toward a climbing merit badge; building a shelter for a wilderness survival badge and then cramming inside with nine troop members although it was only big enough to hold three; and the time he and his troop members hiked 12 miles through Gettysburg National Military Park in a torrential downpour.

“I think the most rewarding part of scouting was looking back at all of these awesome experiences I’ve had and all the great people I’ve met,” says Lapinson, who recently graduated from Cherry Hill East High School.

He adds that, as the age gap has grown between him and the youngest members of his troop – about an eight-year age difference – he became better prepared to lead children in various activities and improved his teaching and communication skills.

At Rutgers–Camden, Lapinson looks forward to further advancing his leadership skills and learning how to adapt them to his chosen field of computer science.

“I have always been interested in computers and problem solving, so I decided to go into programming,” he says. “My ultimate goal is to lead a programming team, probably in software design.”

Whatever goals he sets, he knows that the experiences he has enjoyed in the Boy Scouts, and the personal growth and insight that he gained along the way, have already given him a great understanding of what it takes to succeed.

“The two main pieces of advice that I would give others are don’t procrastinate and never give up,” he says. “There were many times that I thought I should give up scouting or trying to become an Eagle Scout, but my parents and scout master pushed me to work hard. It was definitely worth it.”

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