This past Sunday, three weeks shy of my oldest sons nineteenth birthday, we were finally able to host his Eagle Scout Court of Honor. His was the first Eagle Scout in his troop since the start of the pandemic two and a half years ago. And his story is a lesson in perseverance, and overcoming obstacles, when going for your goals and dreams.
What is an Eagle Scout anyways?
A lot of people know that achieving a rank of Eagle Scout in Boy Scouts is a big deal. Many know it involves some kind of big project. But unless you have a child in scouts you may not know the specifics.
To achieve a rank of Eagle Scout a teenager needs to:
- Get 21 different merit badges, including many specific ones like Emergency Preparedness and Citizenship in the community
- Hold various positions of leadership in the troop over time
- Earn all the ranks before Eagle (Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life). Each of these have their own requirements
- Complete a significant project of benefit to the community, demonstrating leadership, fundraising, getting approvals, etc
- Participate in a scoutmaster conference; board of review, and secure various approvals
How Hard Is It To Become An Eagle Scout?
As you can imagine, none of this is easy for a teenager to achieve. Most who become scouts drop out early on, in middle school. Why? This is when scouts and most other after-school activities start to transition from “fun thing you can do when you want” to begin to demand more of their time, energy and attention. Scouting isn’t exactly considered a place where the “cool kids” hang.
Getting an Eagle Scout rank requires spending time learning about subjects the scout may consider boring, in their spare time outside school. They may have friends in scouting but their other friends might pressure them to do something else. Many decide they would rather hang with friends, play video games, join other clubs, or sports starts to demand more of their time. And then of course when scouts turn sixteen, the promise of driving and part time jobs might take up their time. Not to mention dating.Shop Eagle Scout Items on Etsy
It’s never easy to do something when you get a lot of peer pressure to not do it. Or to do something more educational when you could be playing video games. And the project is usually considered the hardest of all – they need to lead all aspects of a complex project to benefit the community (from approvals to fundraising to execution). So no, it’s not easy to achieve an Eagle Scout rank.
At Nick’s Court of Honor, his former scoutmaster (who has since handed over the reins to a new one, leading his first court of honor) read out a list of names. They were the other boys who crossed over with Nick from his Cub Scout troop. Many others joined at the same time-so many they needed to form two patrols, or groups of kids.
Of all those boys, Nick was the only one to achieve a rank of Eagle Scout.
What Was His Project?
Even people who know nothing else about scouting usually understand two things. One, Eagle Scout is a big deal – even long after that person has become an adult. And Two, it involves some kind of big project.
It was a Covid memorial garden created at the nursing home where he and his father both work. The garden is for the entire community, but especially the nursing home residents and their friends and family, and employees impacted by the pandemic. It’s a place of quiet reflection where many people have stopped when coming into the nursing home.
Why a Covid memorial garden? It was inspired first by the work of his father. You may remember that my husband’s part time job having fun entertaining the elderly turned into a more than full time job cleaning a Covid filled nursing home in the early days of the pandemic.
Nick saw first hand the impact on his father as he bravely went to work each day as the rest of us were hiding at home and still washing our groceries. He decided his first teenage part time job would be in dietary at that same nursing home. Believe it or not, he was one of the first teenagers in the world vaccinated against Covid, in December 2020 when nursing home and medical facility staff were vaccinated. He worked there as Covid swept through the nursing home repeatedly.
Ultimately they would lose dozens directly to the virus, and many others to the isolation and issues caused by the pandemic. Many of those who recovered were never the same, impacted by long Covid. Employees were sickened, some hospitalized. All employees were traumatized in some way, unable to save their beloved residents, once fun jobs turned into nightmares.
He faced an uphill battle getting approvals for his project. The nursing home is technically a for-profit entity. Fortunately the BSA Guide to Advancement addresses this specific situation. They can be the beneficiary of a project that serves the community, which involves their property or requires their permission. This Covid memorial garden is specifically open to all members of the community who may want to stop and reflect there.
The project isn’t for the financial benefit of a for-profit company. Trust me, no nursing home is gaining additional business because they have a memorial garden out front. It’s for our community as a whole – especially the residents, their friends and family, and the employees. It’s in the front for anyone to see, and the nursing home specifically communicates that it is open to the public. It took time, struggle and hard work, but he was able to ultimately get approvals and move forward with his vision.
A few weeks before the ceremony my husband and kids stopped by the garden to freshen it up. The drought in CT this year meant some of the flowers had died and needed to be replanted. My husband and son both keep an eye on the garden and make sure it’s taken care of.
The Court of Honor Theme-Perseverance
For those that aren’t aware, a court of honor is the formal ceremony (and party) recognizing an Eagle Scout. They actually achieve the rank well before the ceremony.
There was one theme that came through loud and clear from multiple speakers at his ceremony-perseverance. Nick showed up to the meetings even when most of his patrol dropped out. Over the years he steadily climbed the ranks, achieving Life Scout (the one before Eagle) in 2018. By early 2020 he had one merit badge and the project between him and Eagle. We often talked about wrapping it up over the summer so he could go into his senior year in high school (and college application time) without needing to worry about scouts on top of all the other usual high school senior stress.
Well in March of 2020 the world changed. So did Scouts. And achieving the Eagle Scout rank, difficult in normal times, now seemed near impossible.
Instead of fun in person meetings, there was scouting from home. At first there was no way to earn merit badges at all. You couldn’t get together to do a project. We were all trying to cope with this new, confusing, and scary world. School had totally changed, and he couldn’t see his friends. He hated virtual school, which was how he finished out his junior year of high school. And he hated the hybrid school of his senior year, where the school would close down and send him home for weeks at a time. Focusing on anything was hard.
Finally, after much perseverance, he was able to get the go-ahead to do his last merit badge virtually. I have videos of him and his younger brother (who joined the class even though he wasn’t eligible for the badge, just to help Nick out) demonstrating various emergency situations and what to do.
Then it was time for the final uphill battle to get approvals and do his project. It took months, his entire summer before college, to get everything squared away and do the fundraising. Finally in September 2021, a month before turning eighteen, he led a group of scouts in creating the memorial garden. And days before his eighteenth birthday – while at the start of his freshman year of college – he wrapped up the final scoutmaster conference.
But that wasn’t the end of it. It took even more perseverance to stay on top of the approvals, and at one point his paperwork was lost when the district switched systems. He had to prepare for his board of review, which he was very nervous about. He was so excited when he passed, while in the middle of his first year of college, in March 2022. It was summer of 2022 before all approvals were in hand, and then the logistics of scheduling the court of honor meant it finally took place last weekend.
Never Giving Up
3,103 days was the time between when Nick joined as a brand new Boy Scout to when he had his court of honor. That’s eight and a half years of persevering, overcoming obstacles including a global pandemic, and never giving up on his goal.
He didn’t need the rank for his college application anymore. He’s a sophomore in college, working towards a degree in art education. He could have given up at any point along the way. When many others his age dropped out, when it got hard the first time as a life scout, or when the pandemic hit and made everything harder.
But he persevered. And now, for the rest of his life, he can call himself an Eagle Scout.
As he continues into adulthood it’s not that rank that will define him. Long after the medal is in a box, college is behind him and the court of honor a distant memory, it’s the lessons he’s learned about himself that will continue. He’ll know he can achieve things in spite of huge difficulty. He learned about persevering, about the criticality of follow up, how to break down a big task into smaller parts and focus on those. He learned that making a difference to members of the community is more important than an advantage on your college application.
So congratulations to Nick and all the other pandemic Eagle Scouts out there. May your stories serve as examples and inspiration to others.