Highest Honor

Why do so many youth in Payson become Eagle Scouts?

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The high number of Eagle Scouts in Payson, according to one former Boy Scouts Scoutmaster, is the result of adults pushing and supporting them toward this goal.

The Eagle Scout is the highest honor a Scout can receive, and all work to become one must be completed by a Scout's 18th birthday.

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Eagle Scout Tommie Cain prepares old U.S. flags for a flag retirement ceremony that will be performed by area Boy Scouts. Residents can drop off tattered or torn flags at Legacy Home Furnishings, 107 E. Highway 260 in Payson.

Dan Hill, a former Scoutmaster, said the reason behind the high number of Scouts in the Rim Country is likely due to the children's support system.

"The biggest reason is that there are a number of adults who understand the project and how it is for boys," he said.

A Boy Scout must earn four badges before he can attempt to become an Eagle Scout. Scouts start out as a Tenderfoot before going to Second Class, First Class, Star, Life and Eagle Scout.

"By the time you get to Eagle you have fulfilled hundreds of requirements," Hill said. He added that there are 21 requirements alone for the final badge, which must include several hours of leadership and service skills.

"Each boy has to complete a project, and leadership is a main component part of that project," Hill said. "They have got to show they provided leadership toward that project."

He said it does seem that there are more Eagle Scouts in the Payson area than other parts of the country for some reason.

Hill said, "A lot of boys make it to Life, and they have to shamefacedly say ‘I got to Life, but I did not finish.'"

However, in Payson, there are a high number of boys who strive to finish what they started. Part of the credit, he said, is the adults who are around the Scouts.

"(The adults) are either Eagle Scouts themselves or young men who did not finish, but wish they had," he said, adding that he was a Scoutmaster for five years, in which 15 boys earned this badge.

"I really had good boys to work with," Hill said. "There were 30 who came through my troop, so (15 Eagle Scouts) is a high percentage. It is not normally like that."

He said when a boy first becomes a Scout, the idea is that he will progress through the ranks.

If it is made a priority, a boy can become an Eagle Scout in two years, though it takes most much longer.

One of the goals is to provide opportunities to the Scouts that will give them the chance to fulfill some of the prerequisites.

Each of the last three ranks a Scout must complete to become an Eagle Scout take six months.

For example, the camping merit badge requires 21 nights of camping. Hill would take his Scouts out camping one day a month year-round and for a full week in the summer.

Tyler Stern, currently a Life Scout, is aiming toward becoming an Eagle Scout.

"As far as (becoming an) Eagle Scout goes, my parents would encourage me to work for it," he said. "It is so fundamental and important in your life."

When Stern was 14 years old his motivation kicked in and he began focusing on his Eagle Scout rank as a serious goal.

"I am (hoping to get it) in the next four months," he said.

David Hill became an Eagle Scout in October 2003 at the age of 13.

"I started getting into it when I was 11," he said. "I started Cub Scouts when I was 8 years old, and ever since then I wanted to become an Eagle Scout.

"It helped a lot with leadership skills and to get things done. " To earn the honor, David Hill helped to clean up burnt homes for five days after the Rodeo-Chediski Fire.

"It was a pretty good sense of accomplishment," he said.

Tommie Cain became an Eagle Scout in January 2006.

He said he credits all of the adults in his life that pushed him toward this goal.

"I know (I accomplished this) because of all the help," Cain said. His Eagle Scout project was building a table for the genealogy center.

"It has given me more confidence," he said, adding he believes what he has learned will help him later in his life.

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