As Hatcher Matheny talks about his experience climbing a rock wall at a camp in Colorado, the 16-year-old is consumed with excitement.
Matheny, a student at Classen School of Advanced Studies, earned his Eagle Scout rank earlier this month along with six other Scouts from Troop 15.
The group of seven is the largest number of troop members to earn Scouting's highest rank since 1962. Troop 15 was incorporated in 1918, and today has about 35 Scouts.
The group has been to Europe and hiked 50 miles through New Mexico, but it was a carbon fiber rock wall that makes Matheny light up. He set the camp record for fastest trip to the top of the four-story wall.
“I loved it because everyone in the troop was cheering me on,” he said. “It brought everyone together.”
Togetherness isn't a problem for Troop 15. In a day and age when kids have more choices than ever when it comes to their spare time, Scouting remains relevant. If it isn't the gravitational center of their lives, it's pretty close, troop members say.
“It's a place where you can be yourself,” Matheny said. “Nobody judges. Some people in school look down on Scouting, but when you're actually in it you realize it's a lot of fun to climb a mountain with some of your best buddies and meet that challenge together.”
Like Matheny, Jaxon Self has been involved in Scouting for as long as he can remember. From Cub Scouts, Webelos and now as an Eagle Scout, he has pulled as much out of the experience as he can. His Eagle Scout project was a simple idea that ended up being a bear when it came to execution. In the end, it proved you can never have too many friends.
He set out to build raised flower beds for residents of Saint Ann Retirement Center in Oklahoma City. He needed the help of Matheny and other Scouts to complete the project.
“It was a lot more work than I thought it would be,” Self said. “Both of these beds weighed a ton, and it got frustrating at one point, but these guys made sure I stayed focused and we got it done together. It ended up being really satisfying knowing we could do that.”
Self and Matheny each have a sash full of merit badges. Self got to pilot a small plane briefly for his aviation badge. Fellow Eagle Scout Jacob Gilbert got his wilderness survival badge by sleeping in a handmade shelter overnight in the freezing cold.
“We have a skill set that's more valuable than sitting in front of a computer,” Gilbert said. “It's a solid foundation to go to. Everything in the world has changed and developed, but Scouting has been more or less the same for 100 years. Those skills you learn may not apply to your everyday life, but the lessons you learn while doing them do apply.”