I met an Eagle Scout this summer at camp that just turned 18 and had joined scouts at the age of 16. I always knew you could earn Eagle that quickly, but never met anyone that had. As a matter of fact, most stories that I heard were always of 12 or 13 year old Eagle Scouts and other Scouters complaining that that was too young. I’m not going to get into how fast or slow Eagle should be, nor am I advocating that we should put scouts “on a plan”, but from time to time, parents and scouts ask me what classes their scouts should take or how best to move forward, so it got me to thinking.
The Eagle I met, at age 16 joined during a recruitment night and told me that he sat with his parents and mapped out his path to Eagle on the night he joined. He shared this path with his Scoutmaster and other Scouters and they helped him along and he worked his path relentlessly for those 2 years. Good for him. I think if someone is in those shoes and they want to get Eagle, then look at rank requirements and open every merit badge and get to work… that’d be my plan.
I’ve always been of the opinion that a good goal to encourage most scouts towards was First Class in the first year and one rank per year after that. This goal helps Patrols earn the Honor Patrol Award, helps the Troop with JTE and although aggressive, it is very doable. So for planning, I’d start with Summer Camp:
1st year – (Scout to First Class Rank) Trail Blazer Program + Swimming & First Aid + 1 other
Central Florida Council’s Camp LaNoChe offers a Trail Blazer Program for first year scouts. It takes up half the day and will offer the scouts detailed instruction on most of the skills needed to earn First Class. Armed with this training and by camping with the troop monthly, Scouts can demonstrate most of the different skills needed to earn First Class well within the first year of joining. Also at Summer Camp I encourage First Aid Merit Badge, a fun Merit Badge and Swimming, because Summer Camp in Florida must include Swimming!
2nd Year – (First Class to Star) Cooking + Camping + Orienteering + Citizenship in the Community + 2 others
The second year of Scouting really needs to focus on perfecting the skills they learned getting to First Class. At summer camp, they can only go over what time permits, so there are often pre or post-requisites needed to complete merit badges. Cooking and Camping are both good second year merit badges and by actively participating in monthly campouts, they can knock out the pre-requisites nicely. Orienteering, while not an Eagle Badge, works nicely into rounding out Scout Skills and Citizenship in the Community will get them thinking about their commitment to Service. Community is also an integral piece of the Scout’s education in learning about how to run his own Eagle Project. Beyond Summer Camp, the scout really needs to start looking at leadership positions. One of the support leadership positions such as Librarian or Scribe will put the scout in a position where he can begin to learn what goes into leadership and service from an older scout’s perspective as he works with the ASPL.
3rd Year (Star to Life) Cit in the Nation, Cit in the World, Personal Fitness, Communication, Family Life, Personal Management
For the 3rd year, the scout should be one of the Senior Scouts and should be vying for one of the assistant leadership positions, learning directly from the Troop’s top leaders and filling in as needed. We have a camp called “Eagle Encampment” here in Central Florida, which is run by Eagles and will cover most of these requirements in one week of intensive study. At Camp the scout should focus on leadership and service related merit badges. Family Life, Cit in the Nation and World will help them flesh out some of their Project Management skills and hopefully help them nail down service organizations in which they want to contribute to. Communication will help them learn how to work with and communicate with others. Personal Fitness and Personal Management will help them with consistency, goal planning and follow through. This is also a good year to work begin a top leadership position as Patrol Leader or Troop Guide.
4th Year (Life to Eagle) Emergency Prep / Life Saving, Environmental Science / Sustainability + 2 others
This is the year to begin work on the Eagle. Most scouts, should they get this far probably have knocked out the last couple of merit badges before this, especially if they went to Eagle Encampment as well as Summer Camp with the troop the year before. This is also generally their last summer before High School, where life gets complicated with sports, homework and girls. I’d suggest going back to the support leadership position again this year at least until the Service Project is completed.
Now, how can you get a scout to work this plan? You can’t… or rather you shouldn’t! His path to Eagle is his to blaze. I can suggest how I would do it, I can provide mentorship and suggestion, but ultimately, the scout must decide upon his own how to proceed.
Why did I share this plan? There are a lot of new volunteers that can’t see the advancement plan from afar yet. My hope is that this kind of puts some perspective on how things work with and complement one another. Obviously it doesn’t need to be done this way, nor does it need to be completed in 4 years. Many, many great scouts for some unknown reason earn their Eagle at age 17+364 days.