If you’re going to be a Boy Scout, definitely become an Eagle Scout.
That’s the advice that seven Scouts, who all achieved the Eagle Scout level of the program and who are all graduating from Ballard High School this year, have for younger Scouts.
“If there’s anybody who’s questioning if they should join Scouts, join,” said Samuel Douglas of Slater, one of the seven.
“You can always quit,” said John Fulk of Slater, another of the seven. But then he and the others laugh, because they can’t imagine anyone wanting to quit after getting involved.
“But always go for Eagle if you are in it,” said Riley Fleener of Slater. That’s what he and his six classmates did.
Along with Douglas, Fulk and Fleener, the other Scouts who are seniors at Ballard this year include Peter Matthews of Huxley, Alestair Metcalfe of Cambridge, Adam Orgler of Huxley and Bill White Jr. of Slater, whose father Bill White Sr. is the current Scout Master.
To listen to the seven Scouts talk and answer questions about their Scouting experience, one can tell they’ve been around each other a lot. They often finish each other’s thoughts and sentences and they even correct each other’s wording if they think there’s a better word to be used. They have inside jokes that only the seven of them likely understand, and there is a strong mutual respect between them that is very evident as you visit with them.
As a group, they agree that what they’ve accomplished together is pretty impressive. All of them earned the Eagle Scout rank, which is the pinnacle achievement of Scouting. Six of the seven have become part of the Order of the Broken Arrow, a service-based area of Boy Scouts, for which you are elected by your peers. Even the seventh of them, Matthews, was elected for it, but he couldn’t be at the gathering where he would have accepted the designation. They are all also part of the Brotherhood, and the list could go on, as they explain that Scouting, even for adults, has many levels and layers of achievement and involvement.
Among the seven, some have been members of their troop, Troop 163, since the first grade and others have joined the troop in other elementary school years up to the sixth grade, when the last one of them joined.
When you ask them how important their parents and leaders were in the process, pretty much they all agree that they were very important.
“They were the driving force to keep me going when I might have wanted to stop,” said Douglas. He admits, there were times that he thought it was all a little too much, but those thoughts were quickly curbed, he said.
“I don’t think I ever gave my parents or leaders enough credit for all the help … the actual hands-on help when I needed it,” said Matthews.
“For me, the biggest driving force behind (Scouts) was probably my parents,” said Metcalfe, who said his parents were never OK with the idea of him quitting, which made him not OK with that as well.
“My parents motivated me, because there were times I wanted to stop (with a project). I could do it later,” admits Orgler. “There were times when I was highly stressed out and they’d tell me to keep going.”
Fleener said while parents and troop leaders (this troop has known two — White and, in their younger years, Dana Danks) are important, he believes that Scouts also have to have a driving force within themselves. “Parents are definitely a driving force, while leaders have supported us going through it.” Fleener believes these people can support you if you have the drive to make it happen.
Fulk said he agrees with what all the others say about parents and leaders, but he feels he was more influenced by his peers. It was his peers who were talking about all the neat things they were doing in Scouts that first got him interested. “So I encouraged my parents, ‘Hey, let me do this,’” he said. They did, and then he was able to achieve things with leaders’ support. Leaders, the troop agrees, not only involve the Scout Master, but also the other adults who assist and help. Fulk said he’s relied heavily on peers and older Scouts to motivate him.
White Jr. said he believes that anyone can succeed in Scouting, “but you have to have the right mindset. These guys are like family; they’re figuratively like my brothers.”
And like great brothers, all of them tried to be at each others’ sides when they each completed that all-important Eagle Scout project, which had to be something that improved their community and was of service. Here’s a rundown of what they each did:
Douglas built clothing pantry collection boxes for the Slater clothing pantry.
Matthews built storage containers for the Huxley Public Library’s home-school boxes.
Metcalfe built a miniature food pantry that is available at all times outside the Huxley food pantry.
Orgler built two vertical flower planters that had flower pots in them for the local clothing pantry and also one for the school’s garden, where they grow herbs.
Fleener built a living fence with bushes at one of the Ballard Soccer Club’s fields.
White Jr. built a deck and porch area at the Slater food and clothing pantry, which eliminated a dangerous step and made the building handicap-accessible.
Fulk created an outdoor living lab for elementary students at the Cambridge elementary property. This project got reactions from his fellow Eagle Scouts, who say it was probably their favorite of all the projects to work on, because they could see so much progress as they cleared out an opening in a wooded area by the school, where Fulk built benches for students to sit on and created an outdoor study area.
Along with service, these seven Scouts say they’ve had fun. Their favorite thing, they agree, has been the camp outs, especially the longer five to six days camp outs in the summers. “Last summer we went to Porcupine Mountains in Michigan,” Metcalfe said. While there, they took a 12-mile hike around the entire range.
The Scouts have also enjoyed canoe outings, like one they took to the Boundary Waters in Minnesota, and honestly, they say some of their best times and memories made are from the long car rides they’ve taken together. There’s nothing like being stuck in a car with a group of great guys, one of them remarked.
Metcalfe also states that he’s appreciated the leadership aspects of Scouting. As the current Ballard senior class president, he said because of Scouting, he feels he’s more inclined to accept leadership roles in his life. He’s even enlisted in the Iowa National Guard.
Douglas said Scouts has put forth the value of hard work for him, and Fleener adds that Scouting certainly gives a person all the different life skills one needs.
So what does the future hold?
Douglas is going to Luther College for music education. Matthews is going to South Dakota State University and will be a member of the swim team. Metcalfe, who is now in the National Guard, will go through the ROTC program at Iowa State. Orgler plans to study aerospace engineering at Iowa State. Fleener will play soccer at Grand View University. Fulk is headed to DMACC to pursue degrees in fire science and business. White Jr. is also headed to DMACC to enter the diesel tech and welding programs. Also, Fulk and White Jr. say they plan to join with some older Eagle Scouts to run a prairie-burning business.
Toward the end of the interview, High School Principal John Ronca stopped in to say “hi” to the Scouts, a pretty darn impressive group of kids. To see seven Eagle Scouts in one school class is rare. One of their mothers sent us a statistics, “since the inception of the Eagle Scout award in 1912, 2.01 percent of eligible Scouts have earned Scouting’s highest honor.”
So if any other class coming along can have seven Eagle Scouts, or possibly eight, and break this record, the Eagle Scouts of the Class of 2017, with total respect as they verbalize the words, say, “Bring it on!”