Only five percent of all Boy Scouts make it to Eagle rank, and of that, less than four percent make Eagle Scout by age 14. Last week, Mount Shasta’s Tom Spence became one of the youngest to earn the distinction at age 13.
“It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” said Tom. “When I’m old, I’ll still look back at it and be proud.”
A member of Mount Shasta’s Troop 97 since 2010, Tom accomplished all the Eagle Scout requirements in just two years. Most Boy Scouts don’t reach Eagle Scout until age 17 or 18.
For his Eagle Scout project, Tom renovated the landscape on the north side of the Mount Shasta Post Office. He raised $2,500 to complete the project and members of his troop helped with the labor.
“I was going to try to fix up the area by the Scout House, across from the Sisson fields,” Tom said. “We’ve found knives and beer bottles there; once we found a guy sleeping in the bushes. But I found out it would cost $12,000 to fix that area, and I knew I couldn’t raise that much.”
So Tom and his dad, Jay, who is the ex-Scout Master of Troop 97, began looking for another spot that needed sprucing up.
“We decided on the Post Office... we wanted an area of town that had high visibility, and it was in pretty bad shape,” said Tom. He made a proposal to the postmaster, and the project was approved in July.
On Aug. 21, 220 man hours later, Tom and his fellow scouts completed the project.
Last week, Tom went before am Eagle Scout judging panel, where he had to demonstrate a variety of skills, including knot-tying and first aid.
“Basically, you need to know everything you’ve learned so far as a Boy Scout,” Tom said. “They also want to be sure you live up to the ideals of an Eagle Scout,” he explained.
The judging panel, which was conducted by an independent Boy Scout leadership group who had never met Tom before, lasted about an hour.
“When they were done, they said, ‘Today is the day you earn Eagle Scout,’” Tom smiled.
To become an Eagle Scout, a minimum of 21 merit badges are required. Tom has earned 30 so far. Tom’s next goal is a lofty one – he wants to earn all 121 merit badges, and he has until the age of 18 to do it.
“When I first joined and learned about Eagle, I thought I’d earn it before I was 16,” Tom said. In 2010, he flew through four ranks. When he reached Star Scout, Tom decided to work even faster and began thinking about his Eagle Scout Project.
The merit badges gave him a taste of several different careers, Tom said. In the future, he is interested in careers including electronics or architecture.
Though he’s not entirely sure where he wants to attend college, Tom said he’s considering the Air Force Academy. No matter where he chooses, there are several full-ride scholarships available to Eagle Scouts only, and Tom said he plans to take advantage of them.
Tom said his favorite thing about Boy Scouts are all the outdoor activities, including camp outs and hikes to the top of Mt. Eddy and Black Butte.
“Boy Scouts is the first thing Tom did that he was absolutely enthusiastic about,” said Jay. “School has always been fine. Sports are fine. But when he started Scouts and started learning all the different things, that’s when he really started to shine.”
Jay said Scouts has helped him discuss with his son things that some parents have a difficult time with, such as being trustworthy, loyal, kind, and thrifty, as examples.
“You discuss what those values mean, and talk about if they’re living up to those attributes... the structure and discipline he’s learned, the independence he’s gained through the Scout program is very valuable.”
Jay said it’s his life regret that he didn’t make Eagle Scout. “It’s one of the only things you can do as a youth that can continue to be listed on a professional resume,” Jay said. “We’re extremely proud of him.”
Tom thanked his dad for all the support he’s shown him over the years, and also the support of his mom, Trish, and older sister, Whitney. Now that he’s an Eagle Scout, he’s excited to begin working toward becoming a member of the Boy Scout honor society “Order of the Arrow” and attending the National Jamboree in 2013.