The Class of 2019 at Blacksburg High School included an unusual cohort for any group of graduating seniors when six Eagle Scouts crossed the stage on May 31 to receive their diplomas: Trevor Carmack, Nick Czar, Nick Harrison, Christopher Keesee, Caleb Manuel and Jesse Parson.
The rank of Eagle is the highest achievement a Boy Scout can attain. Among other requirements, a Scout must earn at least 21 merit badges and serve in a leadership role within his troop, in addition to completing an approved project. The process requires considerable diligence and commitment on the part of the Scout seeking this rank.
The group from BHS was brought to the attention of The Roanoke Times by parent Mimi Harrison. “All six of these young men are outstanding students, athletes and citizens in our local community,” Harrison wrote in an email.
We reached out to the boys’ parents to learn more.
Harrison’s son Nick was a seven-year active member of Boy Scout Troop 704. Nick earned 26 merit badges, served as a Senior Patrol Leader and Troop Guide, and attended Camp Powhatan, the Claytor Lake Aquatics Base and the 2017 National Boy Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.
Mimi writes that for his Eagle project, Nick helped to construct and install a heart-shaped bookshelf in memory of his late cousin, Harper Grace Harrison, benefiting the organization #HeartForHarper. The bookshelf is located in Dr. Brent Carothers’ pediatric cardiology office in Lynchburg, where Harper’s parents (Nick’s aunt and uncle) collect and donate children’s books for other pediatric patients to enjoy and take home.
Trevor Carmack has been active in Scouts in three locations where his family has lived: Wilmington, North Carolina; Corning, New York; and finally Blacksburg. According to an email from his dad, Grant Carmack, Scouting runs in the family — Grant is an Eagle Scout himself, as is Trevor’s older brother Weston. Trevor got off to a strong start by receiving his Arrow of Light in Cub Scouts – the highest rank for boys at that level, and the only Cub Scout badge that can be worn on the Boy Scout uniform.
As described by Grant, Trevor’s Eagle project was a kiosk station at Smithfield Plantation: “the center display being a piece of walnut from the property about 160 years old, front side is a watercolor map of the grounds, laminated and behind Plexiglas, other side being points in history pointing to the tree rings.”
Nick Czar earned the Eagle Scout rank with Troop 706, chartered by Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, writes his mother, Robin Czar, in an email. “Nick joined Cub Scouts in third grade and earned the Arrow of Light before crossing over to Boy Scouts,” she writes. “He enjoyed many Scouting adventures during summer camps at Camp Ottari, Camp Powhatan and Claytor Lake Aquatics Base,” as well as other hiking, caving, kayaking, biking and camping adventures with the troop.
Robin reports that Nick is an animal lover, and he asked the Montgomery County Animal Care and Adoption Center if they had any needs that an Eagle Scout project could meet. The center requested waste receptacles on their grounds so that volunteer dog walkers had a place to discard “doggy bags.” So Nick led a project to design, build and install three waste stations. In addition, he is now also volunteering at the adoption center, Robin says.
Christopher Keesee is also an active member of Troop 706. “His Eagle Scout project consisted of work done for St. Mary’s Little Angels Preschool’s playground,” his mother, Kimberly Keesee, writes via email. “This involved pressure washing and staining a very large wooden play structure, removing old play equipment, installing a new swing set, repairing steps, replacing roof tarps and filling the sandbox with sand.”
Kimberly reports that Christopher plans to carry Scouting forward when he starts college this fall, by getting involved in Campus Scouts of Virginia Tech. As described on the website, this is “an organization that provides opportunities for college students to be involved in Scouting and leadership development by hosting events for the area Boy and Girl Scout communities,” such as the annual Merit Badge College.
Caleb Manuel, who started in Cub Scouts with the aforementioned Troop 704 in the first grade, has earned 39 merit badges, served in multiple leadership positions (Patrol Leader, Quartermaster, Assistant Senior Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, Troop Guide) and is now a Junior Assistant Scoutmaster, according to his dad, Phillip Manuel. Caleb has also served as a wilderness guide for Crew 718-U, a high adventure crew at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, and is a member of Scouting’s Honor Society, Order of the Arrow.
“For his Eagle project, Caleb planned and coordinated the building of seven portable raised garden beds for the Blacksburg United Methodist Preschool,” Phillip explains in an email. “The preschool uses these garden beds to teach the youth about sustainability.”
Jesse Parson, who has spent most of his life in Blacksburg, “started in Scouts in first grade as a Tiger Cub and continued on until he received his Eagle Scout award in 2018,” his mother, Rachel Parson, writes in an email.
“Jesse’s project was to build three benches for the Montgomery County Animal Care and Adoption Center,” she continued. “They provide rest for those who come to volunteer or adopt a dog. He received donations from the Mount Tabor Ruritan Club, Lowes and our Scoutmaster Don Barker.”
All six boys plan to attend college in the fall.
“Needless to say, these young men are humble, so the majority of their high school classmates and teachers are unaware of [their] achievement,” Mimi Harrison noted.
Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910. Only a small percentage of Scouts have earned the rank of Eagle since its inception in 1912.
Notable Eagle Scouts include President Gerald Ford, astronaut Neil Armstrong, director Steven Spielberg and former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
Learn more about Scouting at https://www.scouting.org/ScoutsBSA/.