Mitchell High School seniors Jordan Beukelman and Aidan Patrick are in the 4%.
Of the over 100 million American youth who have participated in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) since the organization’s inception in 1910, only 4% achieve the rank of Eagle Scout.
Beukelman and Patrick saw over a decade of dedication to the Scouts actualize over the weekend, as each were named Eagle Scouts at their courts of honor.
Becoming an Eagle Scout is no easy task, but that’s by design, according to Mitchell Troop 72 Scoutmaster Pat Oleson.
“One of the big things is it is a commitment, it’s a huge investment of their time,” Oleson said, emphasizing that a Scout must desire the rank of Eagle.
A Scout’s journey could begin as early as kindergarten, when children are eligible to become a Cub Scout. After fifth grade, Cub Scouts can become Boy Scouts, where the program homes in on Scouts learning leadership skills and earning merit badges to move through the ranks.
A Scout must obtain 21 different merit badges to apply for Eagle Scout status, demonstrating proficiency in activities including camping, first aid, cooking, emergency preparedness and more. Some badges can be earned quickly, while others take time.
“(Scouting) teaches you a lot of leadership skills, but also a lot of other things like through the merit badges,” Patrick said. “For example, the emergency preparedness (merit badge) taught you what to do if disaster struck.”
Patrick said his favorite merit badge was wilderness survival, which included learning to build a shelter out of materials found on the ground at Lewis and Clark Recreation Area near Yankton. Beukelman’s favorite was the scuba diving merit badge, which inspired him to get his scuba certification.
Eagle Scouts must also complete a service project, designed to benefit the community or a religious institution or school. Before a Scout can begin on their project, it must earn approval from their scoutmaster, among others.
Beukelman designed and constructed a litter storage cabinet for Fur Get Me Not Animal Rescue in Mitchell.
From the unknowing eye, the cabinet appears to be nothing more than a rolling island to store food and other supplies in the rescue center’s cat room. Open the door, and you’ll see litter boxes for cats and kittens to use. The animals can access the litter boxes through a small hole cut into the side of the cabinet.
“I noticed that in the rescue, Shelby has two cat rooms, and a lot of the animals are stray feral cats that need to find a home,” Beukelman said.
“It keeps the litter pans enclosed, keeps smell down and makes that specific room look a little bit nicer,” Beukelman said. “It contains that mess.”
Patrick, a longtime tennis player, was looking to give back to the program that gave him so much.
“I asked my coaches what needed to be done and they immediately pointed me to the benches,” Patrick said.
The old benches were constructed of wood, and had deteriorated over time. Using the plans from another Eagle Scout’s project, Patrick upgraded four of the player benches at Hitchcock Park and constructed two of his own from scratch.
“The Eagle Scout before me still had all of his plans, so to keep it uniform we just followed the plans,” Patrick said. “The hardest part was the actual construction of them; it took a few people.”
A Scout is thrifty, reads the BSA’s Scout Law, which calls for Scouts to “work to pay their own way.”
Because these projects aren’t cheap, Beukelman and Patrick raised funds to offset the costs.
“The hardest part is trying to find the funding. I was very lucky in that I was able to start a GoFundMe and pushed it out like crazy over social media,” Beukelman said. “Luckily the public was very willing to give, and they gave very generously.”
Patrick secured funding for his project through a grant from the Mitchell Tennis Association.
The projects are just two examples of countless community improvement projects that Eagle Scouts have taken up over the years.
Oleson said in his 20 years as Scoutmaster, other projects have included sheltered benches on the bike trail, landscaping projects for local churches and schools and recreation additions at local parks and campgrounds.
Despite the positives that come from Scouting, Oleson points out enrollment is declining. Instead of giving up, he says he tries to instill the value of the program before Scouts tend to drop out of the program.
“I lose a lot of boys toward the end of their middle school era because they have to choose between Scouting and sports,” Oleson said. “Hopefully, they can get most of what they need by the time they get to high school.”
Beukelman notes that Scouting will reward youth based on their dedication to the program.
“Scouting is one of those things where it’s as much or as little as you put into it,” Beukelman said. “I can attest that Scouting will teach you some of the hardest, but best lessons of your life.”
Beukelman plans to continue his involvement with Scouts for as long as he can. He intends to enlist in the Marine Corps after graduating from Mitchell High School in December.
Patrick isn’t sure what his future involvement might look like. He’s deciding which college he’d like to study microbiology at after graduating in May.