The journey to Eagle Scout is a long one that only 2 percent of those who have participated in Boy Scouts have seen to completion. Most troops, if they're lucky, see one or two members achieve the youth organization's highest honor in a given year.
Last year, Troop 389, based out of Atlantic Christian School in Egg Harbor Township, saw seven members earn Eagle status, an accomplishment scoutmaster Bill Schmitz said he has never before seen in his 64 years with scouting.
With all the distractions the boys have had to push through to earn this honor, they should be commended, Schmitz said.
"You've got to keep at it," Schmitz said. "You've got to keep pushing, pushing, pushing. They're teens. They've got other interests, but they've got to make choices, and they made a choice to become Eagle Scouts."
The seven boys who earned Eagle last year were Vincent Varallo, of Mays Landing; Victor Logan, of Pleasantville; Miles Clark, of the Cardiff section of Egg Harbor Township; Ryan Goukler, of Ventnor; Asher Nothaft, of Pleasantville; Christopher Hoffman, of the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township; and Michael Winder, of the Ocean View section of Dennis Township.
On Jan. 12, all but Varallo reunited at the Court of Honor for Goukler, at which he was formally presented the rank.
To reach Eagle status, a scout must earn 12 required badges, like first aid, camping and personal fitness and nine more merit badges of their choosing. They also must complete an Eagle Scout Service Project that benefits their community. After the completion of the requirements, the scout submits his body of work to the local scout council for approval, at which point he is named an Eagle.
Clark, who helped found the group while a student at Atlantic Christian in 2005, said earning Eagle is far from a given.
"It seems like you're just going to get it, but it takes so much extra effort on your part, to make sure you're doing that on top of school work and everything," said Clark, whose project involved installing book shelves at Shore Medical Center's Pediatric Care Center.
Troop Committee Chairman Peter Karabashian, who has had that role since the troop was founded, said it was a conscious effort among Troop 389 leadership to push their scouts to earn the rank.
"We made the determination, internally, and started to speak to them and give them that goal," Karabashian said. "If they hear it, you hear something over and over and over again, it makes a dent."
While guidance from the top was crucial to achieving this honor, Karabashian also said the boys' holding each other accountable was a big part of the accomplishment.
The boys, most of whom are now 18 and in their last year of eligibility as scouts, are on to bigger and better things.
There's not a whole lot to the Eagle award, which consists of a pin and sash, and it won't exactly be a showstopper in the trophy case. But it's not the hardware, but the lessons learned along the way, that are the true prize, Hoffman said.
"Being an Eagle Scout really isn't the highest goal for us," Hoffman said. "It's not the final goal. It gives us a reference point to set our goals in the future. It's kind of the beginning."
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