SIKESTON -- Only about 4 percent of Boy Scouts usually go on to earn the rank of Eagle -- which is the highest in the organization. Among other circumstances, those who have earned the badge say the amount of time, dedication and hard work may keep so many of their peers from earning the rank.
Earlier this month, three Sikeston scouts, all from Troop 59, received their Eagle Scout badge at a ceremony in Cape Girardeau. The merit exemplifies their planning and leadership skills in a project that benefitted their community.
"They have to do an individual leadership program," said Troop Leader Lynn Hasty. "They have to develop an idea and the project, then lead a project that will benefit the community."
This year's recipients from Sikeston were Chaz Marshall, Elias Birdwell and Clay Hawes.
Hasty said the projects are extensive, and although the boys had worked with prior Eagle Scouts to complete projects, they weren't to do any of the manual work, but instead plan and lead. "It's not that you have to do a project but that you have to lead a project," said Hasty. In fact, the projects are judged before they are even completed, with approval given based on the planning and feasibility of the project.
Those who were named Eagle Scout this year said it was difficult to come up with a project, but usually knew it was the one when they came up with the idea they implemented.
"I was kind of having a hard time at first, because you really have to find your own projects," said Birdwell. But, when his stepfather, the preacher at Hunter Memorial Presbyterian Church, mentioned that the parking lot needed to be re-striped and a fence around the graveyard could use a new paint job, Birdwell knew he had found his project.
Since he began thinking of potential projects, Marshall wanted to do something in the downtown area. He ended up leading a team to landscape and paint the bandstand at the Malone Park. "Someone brought me the idea, and I really liked it," he said.
And Hawes earned his badge by organizing other scouts to paint equipment at the Matthews City Park. "It was one of the first things that just kind of popped into my mind," said Hawes. "I pass it every day on the way to school and it's just something that I saw that needed to be done."
Each said he spent between 80 and 100 hours working on the project. "It's hard to say, but I spent quite a bit of time planning, taking pictures and telling people what to do," said Birdwell.
For all, it was difficult to resist the urge to pitch in and help with the work, but they tried to concentrate on just leading.
"I wanted to help them, but you're not supposed to," said Hawes. "I felt like 'it's my thing, but I wasn't doing anything.'"
"There were a lot of younger kids that showed up (for my project) and for a lot of them, it was their first experience at painting," said Hawes. So, he spent a lot of time instructing.
But the urge was too hard to resist for Marshall. He pitched in "just to get the job done."
When someone earns their Eagle Scout badge, it places them in a better light.
"It says that he can set a goal for himself and achieve, can show leadership when it is required, and is capable of living the Scout oath and promise and making ethical decisions," said Hasty. He said that employers look at that when hiring for jobs, and the military also looks highly upon it. "One who achieved it a few years ago joined the Navy and automatically was a rank higher and received more pay, just because he was an Eagle Scout," said Hasty.
This year's three achievers said that they think the skills they have learned and characteristics needed to be an Eagle Scout will help them in their future. "Being an Eagle Scout in the workforce shows employers you know how to work and that you know how to handle pressure," said Marshall. To earn the badge, he continued Scouts have to work hard and earn the respect they receive.
"I've always looked up to the older kids that got Eagle," said Birdwell. "Every time somebody talks about it, they talk about how much it's going to help you in the future and I've always wanted to go on and do it because it would be like something I had accomplished."
Hawes said he feels proud of achieving a longtime goal, and it's an experience he will never forget. "Ever since I was a tiger cub, earning Eagle Scout was kind of my main goal," he said. "At first it was kind of hard getting everything together, but in the long run, it was a lot of fun."