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From Cub to Eagle: One Suncoast Scout’s Journey

| Jodi Schwarzenbach |

I remember when my son came home from school that day in second grade, eager to tell us there was a meeting for anyone interested in Cub Scouts.  We decided to attend, and once they started talking about camping, spending summers out in nature, earning merit badges, and a code of ethics you had to follow…he was hooked.  That was eleven years ago, though it could be yesterday in the way I can recall that first meeting with such clarity.  My son’s scouting journey began that night.  I wanted to share some of the highlights and bittersweet moments from cub to eagle.

If you are thinking of getting your child into scouts, be ready for a commitment.  Weekly meetings are the precursor to fundraisers, charity and civic events, badge requirements, summer camps and much more.  Packs run with the volunteerism of past scouts and parents, willing to deep dive into the world of scouting.   The underlying theme throughout all of this is dedication and determination.  I am thankful my son has been discovering the importance of these two attributes throughout his scouting career.

One of the first things young scouts learn is the Boy Scout Law.  It goes like this, “A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”  Pretty lofty goals for a group of youngsters, but over and over again, in my son and in his peers, I have seen scouts exude these qualities.  Recently, my husband and I were loading heavy equipment for an event.  Various scouts repeatedly asked us if they could assist us.  They were so polite and courteous.  Another time, when my sons were young and going to travel on their own, there was a snafu at the last minute before boarding the airplane and I found out they wouldn’t be supervised during the flight.  I was quite upset and not sure if I was going to let them continue on.   A young man nearby overheard our situation and introduced himself as an eagle scout.  He assured me he would watch over the boys during the flight and call me when they landed safely.  He did just that.   


Throughout a scout’s time with a pack, they have opportunities to assist area groups with major events.  Some of their duties include clean-up, parking, selling items, organizing, and providing courteous information.  They also learn lifesaving and survival skills which puts them out in nature for a majority of the time, sans electronics.  I have seen how packed their days are with activities that allow them to learn, have fun, and just be kids.  By the end of the evening, when their heads hit the pillow, they are tired and content from the day they had.   Scouts are encouraged to provide inclusivity to all members, and their activities and merit badges are structured so everyone can excel at whatever they love.  The scouts are incredibly supportive of each other, with many coming back to volunteer in packs years later.

Some of my fondest memories as a mom have been watching my son work for and earn a particular badge.  The skills he has acquired throughout this process are invaluable.  When he got his first email address and we were trying to come up with something catchy, he chose the word “eagle” in it, as a reminder of his goal to achieve that rank.  As I look at photos of him in his scout uniforms throughout the years, it is hard to fathom the eagle scout I have now is the same little boy so eager to achieve.  It all went too fast for me and probably seems like an eternity to him.

A couple of weeks ago my son had his Eagle Scout project.  The preplanning it took to get it together was nothing short of difficult and laborious.  He chose to clear a nature path adjacent to his school which included getting administration on board, working with local entities to gain permission and access, and collaborating with people to identify protected plants and create signs.  He learned sometimes it takes several meetings with officials to get a green light to move forward. He got real-world experience in keeping his cool under pressure and how preparedness negates a lot of stress.   On a recent Saturday, twenty or so of his friends, family, teachers, his coach, and scout mates gathered and got the job done.  He had to call everyone to order, assign duties, make sure safety was adhered to, and be a cheerleader for all of us to keep working.  He did a wonderful job leading his team.  My husband and I mused that the scope of his project was more than many adults will be tasked with in their lifetime. 


Though he hasn’t officially been awarded the rank of Eagle Scout, that will happen in the coming months.  Until then, I am flipping through my memories and photos with a bittersweet and insatiable need to relive all of it.  I’ll always treasure watching him pack and organize his summer camp supplies.  I marveled that the weight of his pack, stuffed to the brim with extra clothes, sleeping bag, first aid supplies, mess kit, flashlights with extra batteries (a scout is prepared), and usually a note from mom saying, “love you so much,” didn’t make him fall over.   I counted the days until he got back each summer.  I always noticed an extra twinkle in his eyes upon his return, like he became one with the wilderness during his time away, and that set well with him.  I have vivid memories of my boy carrying in the American flag at school assemblies in his Class A uniform, looking so dapper and serious.  I saw him stay the course and achieve a goal he had set as a young boy.  My Cub is now an Eagle.  My heart is full.  I’ll forever remember our scout days as the best. 

Photos courtesy of Jodi Schwarzenbach

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