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Young Eagle Scout.

Since its founding in 1910, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has featured a merit badge program to help Scouts develop areas of personal interest and acquire knowledge in a broad array of fields. To qualify for Scouting's highest rank of Eagle, youngsters must earn at least 21 out of the 120 merit badges currently offered.

On July 30th, during a ceremony in Elk Ridge, Utah, 13-year-old Christopher Haskell received another 11 merit badges to go with the 109 he had already earned, making him possibly the youngest Scout ever to receive all 120 badges. The BSA does not keep track of such age-related information, but Renee Fairrer, associate director of marketing and communications for the BSA, told Salt Lake City's Deseret Morning News for July 29th that she has interviewed hundreds of Scouts for news stories in recent years "and this is only the second time I've run across a young man who's earned all 120 merit badges." The other youth was older than Christopher.

Christopher earned his first badge (for fishing) the day after he entered the Scouting program. Thereafter, according to the July 31st Provo Daily Herald, he worked almost daily on badges, "changing the oil in the family car for a mechanics badge, working eight hours a day for three months for a salesmanship badge."

Christopher's favorite was the science badge, followed closely by the sports badge. His least favorite badge was auto mechanics (which he found "boring"), while the most difficult was public speaking. "I didn't like to speak in front of big groups of people," he told the Daily' Herald. Christopher's mother credits Scouting with helping him overcome his shyness.

For his Eagle Scout project, Christopher invested 324 hours working with nine fellow Scouts to build a city financed retaining wall around tennis courts in the Elk Ridge city park, and constructing bench-high block walls around the park's play equipment so parents could sit while watching their children. His mother describes achieving the rank of Eagle as "the best experience in his whole life." Christopher says that Scouting has taught him "a lot of leadership skills," and believes "the merit badges can help me get future jobs." The Daily Herald notes that he "has turned some projects into hobbies, such as collecting stamps, something he doubts he would have started without the merit badge program."

Christopher set his goal of earning every merit badge before his 14th birthday after a family friend, Kendall Gibson, mentioned how much fun it would be for him to do so. She had no idea at the time that her comment would play such an important role in sparking his enthusiasm. She credits Christopher, in turn, for making a positive impression on all members of his troop, including her own son. "I think he really did encourage all the kids to work better on all the badges," she told the Daily Herald.

Christopher plans to continue as den chief for the Webelo den his mother has led for the past four years. Webelos is a Scouting program for boys who have completed third grade or are age 10. And after turning 14 on September 8th, he plans to enter Varsity Scouting, a program for young men ages 14 through 17 that includes projects in the fields of advancement, high adventure, personal development, service, and special programs and events.
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Title Annotation:The Goodness Of America
Author:Lee, Robert W.
Publication:The New American
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 8, 2003
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