COVID didn’t stop these scouts from achieving highest rank
by Steven Felschundneff | firstname.lastname@example.org
Earning the rank of Eagle Scout is difficult and requires years of dedication. In fact, according to the Boy Scouts of America, the requirements are so rigorous that since its inception only four percent of scouts reach the highest rank.
So, it is remarkable that this year seven members of Claremont’s own Boy Scout Troop 407 achieved Eagle Scout rank—and in the middle of a pandemic. This is the largest class of new Eagle Scouts in Claremont since 1972. Jim Martin, who has been the Scout Master for Troop 407 for more than 30 years, received his Eagle Rank in 1977. His son Zach is among those earning the rank this year.
According to the BSA website, to earn the Eagle rank the scout must rise through all the other ranks, earn 21 merit badges, serve six months in a position of responsibility, perform a service project in the community, participate in a scoutmaster conference and complete their board of review interview.
In 2019, the last year for which the organization has records, 61,366 youths reached the Eagle rank, about eight percent of the total membership.
A key component of reaching the top rank is an extensive service project that the scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Below is a rundown of the seven scouts’ projects.
Ezra Rowe, 15, designed, built and installed 10 interpretative signs at the San Dimas Nature Center which is also an animal sanctuary. The goal was to educate visitors about the animals residing in the sanctuary. Ezra spent six months working on the project, raising $1,575 and invested more than 190 hours of work.
Phillip Quintanar, 17, installed a drip irrigation system in the rose garden at the Historical Society of Pomona Valley’s historic La Casa Primera in Pomona. The drip irrigation will both sustain the existing garden and provide water conservation.
Coen Martinez, 15, started out 10 years ago playing T-ball with Claremont Little League and wanted his project to benefit future players as well as the fans and parents. He raised more than $3,000 for renovations of the baseball diamonds at Claremont’s Griffith Park, including fixing up the helmet and bat racks and installing new shade awnings for the bleachers. The project was a collaboration with the city of Claremont and many community members.
Zachary Martin, 17, re-landscaped the front entrance of a parking lot at the Claremont United Church Of Christ that was overgrown. The work included removing existing plants, preparing the ground, choosing new plants, designing the layout, removing the old irrigation system, and installing a new drip irrigation system.
David Hastings, 17, recently lived in London, where he completed his Eagle project fixing up a garden for preschoolers at a park that was associated with the local school. Over the course of two days, and with the help of other scouts, David renovated six large benches, converted two tractor tires into planters, painted four converted planters, and applied a protective stain to a new shed to protect it from the weather.
Jude Emmert, 16, set up a tutoring program for refugee kids through Claremont Canopy, a local group that helps refugee families resettle in the area. At first Jude was tutoring one youth outside of the scouting program, but when the pandemic hit he realized there were going to be many more students who needed help. He met with representatives from the school district and Claremont Canopy and began getting high school students to sign up to tutor. He helped the kids log into the iPads, launch Canvas, the software that the school district uses for online learning, and connect with the Zoom meetings. Although the project is now complete, Jude has kept the tutoring going this school year and plans to continue until he graduates in 2022.
Ian Birt, 14, provided new blankets and custom beds to The Ontario Rescue, a no-kill animal shelter in Montclair that specializes in the re-homing of abandoned and neglected cats. Ian and his crew created 16 special beds that allow more than one cat per to be homed in a single cage as well as an additional 9 sets of fleece blankets. He also collected 1,000 gloves and boxes paper towels for cleaning.
“Many of these scouts worked throughout quarantine assisting the other scouts in completing their projects. They have helped fundraise, dig ditches, make blankets, learned about irrigation, welding, helped tutor and provide research,” Coen’s mother Ali Martinez told the COURIER. “It’s been a big year for our troop.”
While the projects were very much hands-on, the pandemic meant that the boys had to conduct their board of review interviews via Zoom, which was quite different from the usual process.
“Becoming an Eagle is the highest rank in the scouts that you can get, so it’s a big deal. Usually you have an in-person and a court of honor where they are all honored and it’s a big to-do. So COVID has put a damper on our celebration,” Ms Martinez said.
Asked about the unusually large number of Eagle Scouts this year, Ms. Martinez said Troop 407 has grown significantly over the past few years and she foresees that they will continue to have several Eagles each year. She credits the growth in part to the shift in society overall to discover outdoor activities, which scouting actively promotes through camping and hiking outings.
Ms. Martinez said spending time with her son was her greatest benefit from the scouting experience. She also enjoys outdoor recreation and completed a 20-mile hike in one day with Coen.
“I enjoy hiking with him and just being able to talk without technology and to get to know the real him,” she said. “Parents often don’t have that kind of time to be with their kid, to walk for 20 miles and listen to them.”
Asked about his Eagle project, Coen said it was satisfying to have it done. “It’s important to me, I feel good that I finally completed it after all the hard work,” he said.
He said his favorite part of scouting was hanging out with his friends, camping and the camp activities including archery.
“I have learned a lot of leadership skills and about the outdoors—things I can teach my kids later on,” Coen said.
The troop, which meets at the Claremont United Church of Christ, has about 70 scouts including both boys and girls. Two additional scouts, Aiden Ramirez and Will McDermott, have completed thei Eagle projects but still have to do the final interview and are expected to become Eagle Scouts in 2021.