By Sue Moore
Six young men attaining Eagle Scout rank in one year from Vicksburg’s Troop 251 is an amazing feat, according to Kevin Borden, Scoutmaster for the last four years. Out of a troop of 50 members, that’s a pretty great number to hit, with several more Scouts in the pipeline for 2017, he said.
In the U.S., more than 100 million boys have participated in scouting since its founding; less than 3 percent have made it to the exalted rank of Eagle Scout according to the records, Borden said. “The requirements have gotten more stringent over the years to earn the necessary 21 merit badges needed to become an Eagle Scout. They also need to plan and complete a big service project that shows their leadership capabilities before they can take part in the Court of Honor ceremony.”
Those receiving their Eagle Scout rank in 2016 include Brady Copeland, Charles Brunett, Josh White, Cole VanderMeulen, Tanner White and Caleb Conklin. All are attending Vicksburg High School except for Copeland, who graduated in 2016 from Vicksburg.
Borden started with many of these boys in Cub Scouts and watched them grow into mature leaders, he said. They have engaged in community service with idea of giving back firmly embedded in their activities, he enthused. “Their leadership abilities have made them better individuals. They often go into Scouting with no idea or vision of where life will take them. For example, the boys run the troop, taking guidance from the leaders, which can be very empowering.”
Brady Copeland, oldest of the six, just made it under the wire with his project at Hogsett Lake to clean up metal guard rails, tangled with an invasive plant species, before he turned 18 last year.
All candidates for Eagle rank must complete their merit badges and leadership project by the magic date of their 18th birthday. Brady is working at Houghton Manufacturing until he leaves for Air Force basic training in Texas on April 4. Because of his Eagle Scout status, he can enter the Air Force with an Airman rank rather than Airman Basic, the entry level for most recruits.
Josh White built four benches that he had installed at Tobey Elementary School this fall along with clearing the site for the benches and enhancing Captain Drew Russell’s memorial garden on the grounds of Tobey. The lumber for his project was donated by Big C Lumber in Schoolcraft. He is a senior, playing alto saxophone in the marching band and tenor sax in the jazz band. He has enlisted in the Marines and will report to basic training at Parris Island on July 10th.
Cole VanderMeulen built a small retaining wall and benches at the disc golf course for his project. He is a senior and totally involved in the VHS music program, playing trumpet. He has offered his services to play Taps for the VFW in Portage when they need him for ceremonies. He plays in the jazz band and pep band. He has attended Blue Lake music camp for four years. He auditioned for the Western Michigan University trumpet studio and is thinking about majoring in music there.
Charles Brunett has already decided to enlist in the Marines upon graduation this year. “I’ve wanted to be a soldier all my life. Those are real guys,” he says. His project was to beautify the Fulton cemetery in time for the Memorial Day parade as that is his home town. He lives on the family farm and has relatives buried in the cemetery. The work involved cleaning up the grounds and a trash area that was overflowing with debris and repainting the perimeter fence. His Scout helpers in the project repainted the flag pole.
Tanner White is a junior at VHS, playing football and travel baseball. He is junior class president and president of the National Honor Society while carrying a 4.11 grade point average. He has joined the Bulldog Clay Target Team that was recently organized as a club sport by some of the Scout leaders. His project involved building benches, backstops for kickball and soccer goals at Sunset Elementary school, carried out at the age of 15. He hopes to become a sports analyst or broadcaster and is beginning the hunt for the right college to pursue this opportunity.
Caleb Conklin, a junior at VHS has been active in many sports, including soccer, football, basketball, baseball and travel baseball. He pitches and plays outfield. He is a member of the National Honor Society. His project was to build a recreational site for his church’s playground in Centreville. It required 200+ man hours to organize, build and raise the money. He sought donations from friends, family, and church members and as well as receiving donations from multiple home improvement stores.
“There have been lots of good times with this group of boys,” Borden says. “We have taken them camping in Canada, Ohio and West Virginia, and right here in Vicksburg at the scout cabin on Barton Lake. It’s been a terrific learning experience.”