“Oh, okay,” his mom said after her son Ron Shiflet asked for her help.

She hit pause on her ball game to go through a pamphlet on child abuse with him. They sat together in the living room, flipped through pages, and talked over things. Then, she signed his Scout Book.

He had just completed a necessary Scouting requirement to read over the pamphlet with his parents, as many Scouts do.

The difference? His mom was in her 70s, and he was about 50.

Since his mom was still alive, Shiflet, of Thatcher, Arizona, drove over to her home to spend quality time with her and because he had made a decision:

He, a father and grandfather, wanted to complete the requirements for an Eagle award.

His younger son was an eleven-year-old Scout, and his elder son was an Eagle Scout. But, Shiflet himself never earned his Eagle, something he regretted in later years.

So, after being invited to be a Scout assistant for his son’s troop, he bought a book and thought about working on it for a few weeks. Then, he determined  that he would go through the program himself.

The Process

Despite knowing he couldn’t actually earn his Eagle, he got to work.

He sat down with his eleven-year-old son (also his Scoutmaster). They looked at the first requirement, which said he needed to be a boy between eleven and eighteen.

He said his son sat there, looking at him, and knew he couldn’t pass. They simply wrote ‘FAILED’ on that portion and moved on.

“You flunked, Dad,” his son joked.

Still, he kept going.

It took about two years for him to complete the necessary merit badges and accomplish his Eagle Project. He participated in the same activities as the young men he lead–yet the experience was different for him than it might be for many teenage Scouts.

“My mother didn’t do it for me,” he said, laughing.

In ways, things were a bit easier for Shiflet. His adult insight and years of experience helped him when accomplishing merit badges. After being involved with music his whole life, the Music merit badge seemed pretty easy. And while others struggled with the Bugling badge, he’d been proficient as a trumpet player for years. So, it wasn’t too hard.

He also wasn’t being pushed by someone else to accomplish the tasks. The drive came from his own desires.

On the other hand, some things seemed a bit more taxing for a man in his early 50s.

Camping in a tent for 20 days just didn’t seem as fun as sleeping in a hotel. And, the Personal Fitness badge was very difficult. He started it, quit, then had to begin again.

“That was the hardest but probably most beneficial to me.” he said. “I’m still trying to keep it going.”

Shiflet also faced other obstacles. People didn’t want to help with his board of review because they knew it wouldn’t pass. (So, he asked his young son to be his Scoutmaster, and his wife became his board of review–a beneficial learning experience for his son.)

But, through effort and perseverance, he made it to his Eagle project. He helped switch an email list over to a Facebook page. With the aid of others, they developed a Facebook committee to ease the work of a single individual. They established rules and made critical decisions. The project is ongoing.

After years of not being an Eagle, he had done it! He unofficially earned his Eagle badge.

The Reward

“It was definitely worth it,” he said. The experience helped him better understand the Scouting program. He learned how essential it is for a young man to have a coach or mentor because many of the requirements were difficult and confusing for even him to do on his own.

“Some Scout leaders just go play ball,” he said referring to activities with Scouts. “Some Scout leaders take them camping. Scouting has little to do with camping and activities and a lot to do with growing up.”

He explained that the role of a leader goes beyond spontaneity. In order to help boys grow and achieve goals, there needs to be a lot of planning and organization.

By looking at things from the eyes of a boy, he was better able to understand his role as a leader.

Even better than working on his Eagle, he said the opportunity to work with youth has been most rewarding. From skunks at camp to whipped cream messes, he’s seen boys learn and grow through their Scouting adventures.

He wants that opportunity to be available to other Scout leaders as well. Completing Scout requirements is something he thinks may help Scout leaders receive insight into boys’ needs.

“I wish they (the BSA) would open it up for leaders (to become Eagle Scouts),” said Shiflet.

 

17 comments

  1. Avatar
    Erica Laster says:

    Consider the Wood Badge training course as a way to experience the scout experience, which includes an eagle-like project and benefits your unit.

  2. Avatar
    Caleb Poynter says:

    Great story! Really wish they would let Adult Leaders earn Eagle! Maybe one day! They would also make a very large profit if they did so because I know that I would do it and several other thousands Leaders would too!

  3. Avatar
    Kevin Young says:

    Fantastic story, and what better way could there be for a grownup to become trained in what it takes for a boy to get his Eagle? If adults could earn merit badges, there might be a much clearer standard for becoming merit badge counselors, which could lead to more consistency in the badge-earning experience. Scoutmasters would plan better outings if they were having to also earn merit badges, and more parents would get involved as their youth challenged them to start earning their own ranks. I would love to go through the experience of earning merit badges as an adult and would value them more than I did as a youth. I add my support to the “Golden Eagle” proposal!

  4. Avatar
    Brian Wise says:

    Excellent story! Congratulations on completing a worthy goal, Ron!

    I am in somewhat of a similar situation. I loved Scouts as a boy, but chose to drop out about a year before I would have earned the Eagle. I made the decision due to the fact that I had chosen to pursue music as a career, and at the time was practicing 3-4 hours a day, so something else in my life had to go. It was the right decision, but still, I always wished there had been time to do both!

    I think BSA should definitely consider opening some kind of Golden Eagle program. I would certainly want to participate. And even if they don’t, I may just follow in Ron’s footsteps and go through the program on my own!
    Thanks all,
    Brian

  5. Avatar
    Joni Crane says:

    Maybe the NES would get volunteers to assist “Golden Eagles” -you are never too old to learn to lead. My mother is 74 and attended Wood Badge last summer while I served as a Troop Guide. Even at 74 there has been a huge shift in her thinking and teaching since she attended. She’s been asked to staff this year while I serve as Sr. Patrol Leader. Mother and daughter… She’s teaching Generations in Scouting…

  6. Avatar
    George Weight says:

    I proposed a “Golden Eagle” to National several decades ago. I’m not sure that influenced them to develop the Eagle Mentor badge or not; it’s now awarded as a recognition pin to those who help a young man along the Eagle trail and is given by the boy himself–similar to the parent pins. A recognition from the boy is special and unique!
    I see two possible reasons a “Golden Eagle” beyond the mentor pin might be considered. One is that it tends to increase the “association with adults” method of Scouting, just as it did with me when my Scoutmaster got his before the age limitation was imposed. If the award were to be allowed to be worn on the adult uniform (wearing only the knot and removing the badge is another decision that may need another look), it may enhance that method even more. The Eagle rank is one that boys clearly recognize and would relate to if the rank badge were allowed on adult uniforms–perhaps in a different location, or a redesign of the knot strip so it is clearly an embossed eagle.
    Another reason is that doing the requirements would make the men more aware of the award from a boy’s point of view, just as Ron Shiftlet has outlined.
    But I also think if such an award were implemented, it should have a bit of a different direction than the boy’s award and should be oriented towards an adult helping boys along the Eagle Trail with more specific requirements outlined than the very proper recognition from the boy’s mentor pin. Doing it alone is challenging enough, as Ron found out. But the requirements as they now stand are intended to lift the boy into manhood. We’d have to be very careful to insure an adult was not doing it for recognition only. If it does not benefit boys in some way, the current policy should stand.
    If, however, such an award were developed, it should be open to all adults–even those who earned the rank as a youth. And instead of recognition for service to the BSA, such as the “Silver” awards that are given to adults tend to do, its total purpose would be to recognize service directly to the boy with an award that would mean something more to him than the knots. (No, I’m not advocating discarding them. They have their place.)

  7. Avatar
    Karen Smith says:

    My husband has been an incredible scout leader for many years. When he was young, he didn’t have scouting available to him. This is why I wish it was also available for adults, or like Kim mentioned maybe a “golden eagle”.

  8. Avatar
    Blue ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    In the Young Women’s program, the adult leader’s are encouraged to complete the Personal Progress booklet and project, along with the young women they are working with. This leads to an adult leader earning her “Young Women’s Medallion” just as if she was a youth. It gives those that were unable to earn it, a wonderful opportunity! I did and I’m grateful I had the opportunity. Perhaps the BSA should reconsider allowing adult leaders the opportunity to earn their EAGLE by being a great example to the boys they lead and doing whatever is necessary from start to finish.

  9. Avatar
    Bill Solomon says:

    This was a great read and thanks for the example. I never did earn my Eagle for a lot of the same reasons you had but hope you can earn some great adult awards for your work an dedication to scouting such as the beaver award. Keep it up!

  10. Avatar
    Kim says:

    Congratulations – I agree that Eagle Scouts should have an age limit – but what about offering a “Golden Eagle” Status for those adults willing to put in the time to pass the requirements.

  11. Avatar
    John Paul Stoddard says:

    Congratulation on setting and achieving a personal goal.
    I believe you are correct in that today’s leadership have not ever experienced scouting as a youth and that many have no idea how to experience through the eyes of a youth.
    You have set an example for others in scouting by setting a goal and following through.
    If people knew the History of scouting, at one time Adults actually could earn Eagle Scout and were expected to.

    Today many of the Honors of Scouting go to people who make Donations

  12. Avatar
    Tom says:

    Gee, thanks. You’re about to turn every merit badge counselor life upside down as adults work on “virtual eagles” they can’t receive, and once they reach s certain level they will be asking you for the “right” to wear it and trying to reduce it to a game for adults.

    1. Avatar
      Diana Knapstein says:

      I agree that the Eagle rank should be reserved for youth. However, I think a “Golden Eagle” or similar award would be appropriate for those adults, men and women, who choose to fulfill all Eagle Scout requirements.

    2. Avatar
      Ron Shiflet says:

      Tom, your point is well taken and is a valid concern. My experience was just the opposite. I didn’t get the cooperation from merit badge counselors and committee members that I would have wanted to make it follow the rules a little closer. That’s why my son ended up being my scout master and my wife was my board of review. They both benefited from it but I basically ended up going at it alone. In the end, it was probably better for me, but in a state of irony, that’s the very reason I didn’t finish it in my youth….because I had no direction. The boys need a mentor who both understands the program and also knows where the resources are so he can point the scout in the right direction.

      1. Avatar
        Ralph says:

        This is a very cool accomplishment and I am glad you did it and that you have shared it. I also think the lack of cooperation from MB counselors and other adult leaders makes sense. They are all volunteers and they really should be able to just focus on the youth and not be expected to help adults too as part of the program. Ron, you are clearly a responsible, well-developed adult, who shouldn’t require the time and resources of other adults who are trying to help develop kids into people like you. 🙂

        That said, if there were an adult version of the Eagle, others could volunteer to be MB counselors for that program as well. And others would have to volunteer to manage the adminstrative part (probably not a volunteer, but someone in Dallas).

  13. Darryl Alder
    Darryl Alder ( User Karma: 9 ) says:

    Michelle
    Thanks for looking into this. When I read his post on Facebook I knew this would be an inspirational story. For me it catches the spirit of Scoutering (my word for adults that get it).

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