The Andrew Jackson Council, Boy Scouts of America, honored its 2018 Class of Eagle Scouts at a banquet recently held at the Hilton Hotel. This year’s class was named in honor of longtime Scouter Jack W. “Jay” Cooke Jr.
Only about four percent of boys who enter the Boy Scouts obtain the rank of Eagle Scout. Along the four to five-year “trail to Eagle,” the Scouts have enjoyed countless adventures. These new Eagles have camped more than 50 nights under the stars and hiked more than 60 miles.
They are required to earn a series of merit badges designed to teach them skills in a variety of areas. Fourteen specific badges are required.
These include Personal Management (financial skills), First Aid and Life Saving among others. Still, other merit badges like Shotgun Shooting and Kayaking are just for the fun of it!
The Scouts must also complete a comprehensive Eagle Scout Service Project that requires they design and execute a project that benefits their local community. Completing the project requires that they collaborate with and manage teams of other Scouts. Last year Eagle Scout service projects contributed more than 7,000,000 hours of volunteer work to communities all over America.
The tradition of the Eagle Scout banquet goes back at least 70 years. Each year a local leader who has given much to the Boy Scout program is honored by having the “class” named in his honor. Past honorees include Warren A. Hood, E.B. Robinson Jr., J. Kelly Allgood and Ted H. Kendall III.
Each Eagle Scout is asked to pick an area of interest in which he might make his life’s work. He is then matched with a “sponsor.” The sponsor and Scout have an opportunity during the banquet to meet and discuss the Scout’s career. Many times this offers the opportunity for the Sponsor to become the Scout’s mentor.
Cooke has been involved in local Boy Scouting since becoming a Scout in 1971. He was in the Warren A. Hood Class of Eagle Scouts in 1975 and later served as assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 96 (Broadmoor Baptist Church) in the 1980s. Cooke also served for many years as the Scoutmaster for Troop 1 (St. Andrew’s Cathedral and St. James Episcopal Church). During Cooke’s term as Troop 1 Scoutmaster, membership in the troop increased from 20 Scouts to more than 140.
He currently serves as the chairman of the council’s Outdoor Program Committee and as executive vice president. In December 2019 he will become the president of the Andrew Jackson Council, BSA.
Cooke’s keynote address to the more than 500 new Eagle Scouts and attendees challenged them to give back to Scouting. He impressed upon them that no other youth program in the world is as well positioned to deliver the lessons of leadership, self-reliance, environmental stewardship and citizenship so vital in today’s society.
Scouting also provides to this generation the essential mental health benefits of time spent adventuring in nature and away from screens.
The best part of it all, said Cooke, “Boy Scouting is fun.”