James Nash Welch, a ninth-grader at Statesboro High School, recently received the highest and most coveted award in Scouting. Welch earned the Eagle Scout rank for the Boy Scouts of America, an award that less than 2 percent of Boy Scouts in the United States ever attain.
Involved in Scouting since he was 8 years old, Welch is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' Troop 648, under the leadership of Scoutmaster Billy Arthur.
Earning the highest attainable Boy Scout award takes years of hard work and dedication. A young Scout travels through the ranks of Scout, Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star and Life, earning merit badges, holding leadership positions and attending camps and meetings along the way. While a Life Scout, the Scout must serve actively in a position of responsibility for at least six months.
A total of 21 merit badges are required for the rank of Eagle, including 13 from a required list. Also while a Life Scout, the Scout plans, develops and leads others in a service project that benefits a church, school or community.
When the project is finished, the Scout completes an Eagle Scout board of review. Once the review is passed, the Eagle rank is conferred upon the Scout, usually during a formal ceremony that includes Scouts, friends and family and concludes with a reception in the new Eagle's honor.
Welch's Eagle Scout service project consisted of teaching 13 people how to use an app called BillionGraves to take more than 3,000 pictures of headstones and upload them to the BillionGraves website. The headstones were later transcribed, allowing others to search online for useful genealogical information contained on the headstones, including the exact GPS coordinates of each headstone.
At his recent ceremony, Welch earned the distinction of becoming a fourth-generation Eagle Scout. His dad, J. Andrew Welch, was also an Eagle Scout, and his uniform was on display at the reception.
His mom, Kristi Welch, also had Eagles in her family: her dad, Donald E. Robinson, and her grandfather, Donald J. Robinson. Therefore, James Nash Welch joined the legacy of his dad and his maternal grandfather and great-grandfather.
Other paraphernalia on exhibit at the reception were Welch's great-grandfather's Eagle badge, merit badges and a photo of the Robinson Cabin at Camp Gross, a former Boy Scout camp located on the shores of Cassadaga Lake, near Dunkirk, New York, which is named after his great-grandfather. Welch's grandfather's neckerchief and sash decorated the table.
Cora Robinson, wife of Donald E. Robinson and Welch's grandmother, attended the ceremony and pointed out a photo of her husband receiving his Eagle Scout rank.
"His father died when Donald E. was only 6 years old," she said. "So Donald J.'s Scout friends encouraged and helped him become an Eagle."
And it was that legacy that encouraged James Nash Welch to follow in their footsteps.
"At first, it gave me something to do," Welch said, speaking of Scouting. "Not many people learn to do this stuff that you learn in Scouting. It helps prepare you for later in life.
"Both my grandfather and dad earned their Eagle rank at an early age, so I wanted to do the same. Other people in my troop that I looked up to were getting their Eagle, so I wanted to do it."
Even as a ninth-grader, Welch recognizes the value of his achievement.
"It taught me skills like leadership and teamwork. I've heard stories that some people hire employees just because they're Eagles," he said.
Throughout his time in Scouting, in all aspects of his life, Welch sought to live up to the Scout Oath, which states: "On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight."
Though he's achieved his dream of Eagle Scout, Welch is already discussing future accomplishments, called "Eagle palms," and plans to remember and abide by the Scout Law daily: "A Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent."