Depending on the reference, the number of Scouts reaching the Eagle rank is between 2.5% and 5% of the boys who join the Scouting program. According to the national headquarters, the percent for 2007 was 4%. A very select group.
You become a Scout leader (or an Assistant) and you attend you first few meetings and go on your first couple of campouts. You watch how the boys interact and who takes on leadership roles. I think most adults believe they can assess pretty well which boys in the troop will make the grade all the way to Eagle and which ones will not. The Scout leaders of Troop 681 in Falls Church, VA. found that this was definitely not the case with the Viking Patrol.
The boys in the patrol were considered “Whinny, quick-to-quit goofballs.” Their most notable early Scouting experience was their first hike. After walking a quarter mile or so they went on “strike.” They sat down on the side of the trail and refused to go any farther. Not an outstanding start for a Scouting career.
It seems that everyone agrees that the change in attitude occurred on a 60-mile canoe trip in 2003. A 1.5 mile portage caused the day’s leg of the trip to be much longer than anticipated. They reached the campsite late- tired, worn out and hungry. They didn’t want to do the proper set up (pitch the tents, dig the latrines, hang the bear bags, etc). The leaders said proper procedures would be followed, but how the tasks were assigned and who did what was up to the boys. From that point the boys took responsibility for their patrol and began contributing to the performance of the troop. They began to assume troop leadership positions.
Their experiences followed more normal Scouting happenings- bear sightings, flying eagles, meteor showers. But campfires were sometimes still unique to the group. They discussed Thai food dishes and compared the cinematography styles of different directors.
In the end it became the same process for these boys as it is for each Eagle- set a goal, focus on doing what is necessary and achieving that goal. Each boy completed his project. They all wanted to go to Philmont and they completed a 90-mile trek. They decided to get their Eagles together. When someone decides to do all this late in his Scouting career, there are lots of things to juggle- high school sports, band, student government, church, community service activities and SCHOOL. They addressed all of these issues.
From this bunch of misfits grew a patrol of troop leaders. The group of 11 whinny kids developed into 11 Eagle Scouts. As leaders we can not prejudge the potential of our Scouts. Some start later than others. Some need that “mountain top” experience to understand their real potential. We need to give them all a chance.
The link to find out more about this story is:
Band of Scouting Misfits Attains Eagle Ranking