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BRIGHT FUTURE: Scouts paint way to Eagle

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Trinity Episcopal Day School recent graduates Daniel Dunaway, left, and Will Maxwell, right, achieved the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve, and were honored on May 6 as Eagle Scouts. Their Eagle Scout project, which they completed together in the summer of 2010, was repairing and repainting the wood bleachers at Trinity football stadium.

By Mollie Beth Wallace

Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — When most people think about Boy Scouts, they think of camping trips and campfire songs. But for Trinity Episcopal Day School graduates Daniel Dunaway and Will Maxwell, the organization holds a much greater meaning.

Dunaway and Maxwell, both 18, were honored May 6 for achieving the highest rank attainable in Boys Scouts—Eagle.

“When I was little, all I wanted to do was be a Boy Scout,” Dunaway said.

Dunaway said he joined the Scouts when he was 11 years old and began climbing the ranks.

Brotherly competition was a constant source of motivation for Dunaway, he said, since his older brother, Kyle Dunaway, achieved the rank of Eagle as well.

Maxwell said he joined the Tiger Scouts at age 7, but took a break after that year until he joined the Webelos at age 11.

In order to become an Eagle Scout, boys must progress through different ranks, beginning with Boy Scout, and then rising through Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life, and finally, Eagle.

Once a Scout achieves the rank of Life, his journey is far from over. Each Scout must earn 21 additional merit badges and perform 30 hours of community service.

Another important requirement is the Eagle Scout leadership service project, which Dunaway and Maxwell began planning as Life Scouts.

For their service project, Maxwell and Dunaway worked together repainting the bleachers at Trinity’s football stadium. The task was no small undertaking. They worked for almost four months in the summer sun to finish the project in 2010.

Maxwell said in addition to participating in service projects, he was always willing to volunteer his time to the community in other ways, such as assisting with flag burning rituals at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

“Not a lot of people know that you can call Boy Scouts for simple things, and they’ll be more than glad to help,” Maxwell said.

While the path to becoming an Eagle Scout is a daunting task, both Dunaway and Maxwell said their efforts were entirely worth it.

“I think even my worst experiences helped me,” Maxwell said.

Both Scouts said they enjoyed attending summer camp at Camp Hood in Hazlehurst throughout their years in Boy Scouts.

Describing the harsh conditions at Camp Hood, Maxwell said he remembered sleeping in cloth tents and drowning in humidity.

Maxwell said the best part of the trip was getting in the car and going home with a sense of accomplishment.

“The Scouts really helped me learn to take more responsibility for myself,” Maxwell said. “When I first joined I was pretty meek, but eventually (Scouts) turned me into a stronger person.”

Dunaway admitted there were times when he thought about quitting, especially once he achieved Life rank. But his family, especially his older brother, encouraged him to keep working toward Eagle.

Maxwell said he experienced times of discouragement but never considered quitting himself.

“Halfway through (the ranks), we lost a lot of troops because they got busy and just didn’t care anymore,” Maxwell said.

Maxwell said he would encourage anyone, even young Cub Scouts, to do everything they can to become an Eagle Scout.

“A lot of them don’t understand how prestigious being an Eagle Scout is, how much help the rank is itself and the experiences, too,” Maxwell said.

Both teens said they gained a lot of experience from earning merit badges that has already helped them outside of Scouts.

Maxwell said the personal management badge, required for Eagles, was the most challenging, as he had to keep a log of his income and spending for 90 days.

“I applied a lot of the things I learned from that (badge) in an economics class I took in school,” Maxwell said.

Now that they’ve completed their journey in Scouts, both Dunaway and Maxwell said they appreciate the knowledge they gleaned along the way.

“It’s not just merit badges that you earn, but life lessons,” Dunaway said.

Maxwell said he learned the value of true friendship by working alongside fellow Scouts and learning from his Scoutmaster, Ricky Warren.

Dunaway said he thanks Warren as well for being a constant source of support.

“He’s the nicest guy I know,” Dunaway said. “He would take time to help me if I was behind on something.”

With diplomas and badges in tow, both Eagle Scouts look forward to applying their training this fall in college. Maxwell said he will attend Copiah-Lincoln Community College and study criminal justice, and Dunaway said he will attend East Mississippi Community College and study biomedical engineering.