Most young men who earn the rank of Eagle Scout as part of the Boy Scouts of America do so in their senior year of high school. But a 15-year-old Indian River High School student has done it as a sophomore.
“In all honesty, I wanted to beat my brother,” said Will Douds about completing his project so early.
Eagle Scout is the highest attainable rank in Boy Scouts, and requires a young man, according to the organization’s website, to be active in his troop, demonstrate he lives by the principles of the Scout Oath and Law, and earn a total of 21 merit badges.
“You go through several ranks. First, you go through Scouter, then you complete requirements and get to Tenderfoot, then Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and then Eagle. You have to hold leadership roles in the troop throughout that and be a role model,” he explained.
“The troop is not necessarily run by the adults,” he noted. “It’s run by the kids. So, for about a year, I was the senior patrol leader of the troop. I ran everything that happened within the troop — meetings, campouts, volunteering and stuff.”
Once a scout has achieved the rank of Life, they may then plan, develop and create a project that would be of service to their community.
Douds, a member of Ocean View Troop 281, chose as his service project to build a new sign for Holts Landing State Park, as well as transplant a number of trees.
“It took about a year,” said Douds of his project. “I knew I wanted to do something for Holts Landing because the troop stays there a lot and they let us stay there for free.”
Douds worked with the Friends of Holts Landing to find out how his efforts could best serve the organization and park.
“We asked them if they had any ideas for big projects. They gave us a list, and on the list was building a sign and transplanting some trees in front of their maintenance shed, so we picked that and got started on it.”
The Friends group was “very involved” throughout the sign’s design process, he said.
“We came up with sketches and things like that. The Friends approved what they liked and then they sent that up to the State, who runs the park, to see if they would approve it. It was sort of back and forth on the sign for about six months.
“It was a good learning experience, because a lot of it was getting up in front of a big group of people and talking, going through all the red tape, filling out paperwork and sort of learning how everything works.”
Not only did Douds have to design the sign and have it approved by the State, but he also had to raise the funds to pay for it.
“I asked a lot of friends and family to donate. Contractors for a Cause donated a large portion,” he said, noting that Ad-Art Sign Company built the sign.
The new sign was installed on Dec. 2, 2017, with the help of about 15 scouts, their parents and friends.
“I’m very proud,” said Doud’s father, John, who is also the troop’s scout master. “There are very few young men — I think it’s less than 3 percent of Boy Scouts — who make Eagle, so for someone to do that is very impressive.
“It’s a huge undertaking. To do that at 15 years old is incredible. So, yeah, very proud.”
Now that his project is complete, Will Douds will turn in his paperwork, which will be reviewed by a committee.
“If the committee approves it, then they send it back down. Then I’ll go up for an Eagle Board of Review, where they test me on everything… You’re in a room of about three adults, and they’re asking about scouts, what you’re doing, things like that,” he said, adding that the Board determines if a scout will receive their Eagle.
Will Douds has been involved in scouting for about 10 years, and said he would encourage other young men to consider joining the organization.
“I’ve met a lot of good people in it. Going camping is fun, going to the meetings…. You learn about leadership and teamwork, things like that,” he said.
Once he receives his Eagle, Douds said, he won’t be as involved in the troop as he has been in previous years, but he does plan to stay active.
“When I turn 16, I can be a junior assistant scout master,” he noted.
Douds is one of about 50 young men in Troop 281. When he’s not scouting, Douds swims and runs track for his high school, and is involved with the school’s Leo Club.
“I go to the beach, surf, stuff like that,” he added.
Though college is a few years off, Douds said he’s considering studying medicine for his future career.
Boys and young men in the community may become involved in scouting from first grade to age 17.
“There’s no requirement to make Eagle Scout. Just come out and have fun, and while you’re having fun, you might learn something about the country, your community and citizenship. That’s what it’s all about,” said John Douds.
Troop 281 is heavily involved in its community, often volunteering for community events.
“I don’t know if they realize how much we do volunteering,” said John Douds, noting the large number of service hours the troop contributes to the community. “We always help with different volunteer events, like 5Ks and stuff like that. We help the church out, Friends of Holt’s Landing… I think we’ve done it so much that organizations are now starting to call us.”
Will Douds said scouting has been a great part of his life, and completing projects like his Eagle project is important.
“For younger men like myself, it teaches you a lot about leadership,” he said. “It’s important to give back to the community.”