By Terry Rogers
Sam Seibert, who recently received his Eagle Scout designation from the Boy Scouts of America, has another accomplishment to celebrate. He was the first in Delaware to earn all 139 merit badges available through the organization. He says that the organization has added another two badges since he aged out of Scouts, but at the time, he had earned every badge available.
“In Cub Scouts, they have a similar system to merit badges, where you earn belt loops and pins,” Seibert said. “As a Cub Scout, I quickly learned how fun it was to explore some of the more unfamiliar belt loops and I went on to complete all of them. When I turned eleven and began Boy Scouts, I was thrilled to see there were over a hundred merit badges and within the first year, I had set a new goal of earning every one of them as well.”
Mr. Seibert said that he kept an eye out for the most efficient way to complete each badge. Since the badges cover a wide range of topics, it was sometimes difficult to find counselors in the area. He learned the best way to complete many of them was through summer camps and merit badge colleges as badge colleges are set up on weekends where he would go to classes in order to complete requirements.
“There was usually a block schedule where you could take four badges and have an hour and a half to two hours each day to work on them,” Seibert said. “Often, these had prerequisites and homework assignments as well in order to have the badge finished by the last day. Merit badge colleges and summer camps helped make the task of finding and earning the more obscure badges much easier. Throughout my years in Boy Scouts, working on badges was a continuous effort and I got into a routine where it was a normal part of life. Because most of them were so exciting, most of the time the hardest part was simply documenting all of the things I had done to satisfy the requirements.”
The hardest badges to earn were those that required learning and perfecting a skill as well as those that required research and learning. He said the most difficult skill badge he earned was Fly Fishing because he had to successfully catch a fish using the technique. He never had been fly fishing before so becoming good enough to actually catch a fish was challenging.
“I took the badge at Camp Henson, a summer camp,” Seibert said. “By the fourth day of camp, I had completed all the requirements except actually catching a fish. The last day was given to us to spend practicing our technique or, for those who had already caught a fish, for fun. I spent the period practicing, but was never able to catch a fish. I went back after the rest of my classes and continued to try into the evening with no success. I went back every morning, lunch break and afternoon, every day for the entire next week before I finally caught a fish the following Friday. Although it was exciting to finally catch a fish, I think I have had enough fly fishing for a while.”
Earning the Eagle Badge also presented some difficulties for Mr. Seibert. He said that the Eagle Project was the biggest requirement, requiring him to create a service and leadership project that benefits the community and shows leadership. He found the idea terrifying as he struggles with social anxiety. The idea that he would have to lead a team of people to complete a major project seemed impossible.
As he came up through the ranks of Boy Scouts, Seibert learned that 2012 was the 100th anniversary of the Eagle Scout and that those that earned the designation that year would receive a special patch. He set a goal to earn Eagle that year. Once he set the goal, he began planning for his project, which was revitalizing the living classroom at Sussex Tech over the fall of 2011 as well as during the spring and summer of 2012. Once he had a plan, he said it was simply a matter of following the plan until the project was done.
“Although I enjoyed earning all my badges, probably the most fun to earn was Backpacking,” Seibert said. “It was the last badge I earned and it was an outdoor type badge that really required action to complete. I had never backpacked before beginning the badge, although it was always something I was interested in doing. I kept the badge toward the end because I knew I would enjoy it more if I were older and it would give me more experience. In a way, I used many of the other badges in order to complete this one. I started backpacking in the spring of 2014 with a fellow Eagle Scout, Josh, with a ten-mile hike with packs in Cape Henlopen State Park. We created a plan to hike most weekends, with increasing weight, distance and number of days to build ourselves up for the culminating trek. Over Labor Day Weekend, on a stretch of the C&O Canal, we covered 56 miles over five nights. We were dropped off at Hancock, Maryland and we proceeded to walk west along the Canal and Potomac River until we reached Cumberland.” Mr. Seibert said that some of the sighs were the Paw Paw Tunnel and Fifteen Mile Creek Campground with one of the most beautiful views he had ever seen. He also said that the pizza in West Virginia and a bench they found after 53 miles were also highlights on the trek.
Scouting has been in the Seibert family for generations, Mr. Seibert said. His father was in scouts and his brother reached Eagle Scout as well. His sister was a Girl Scout, receiving the Gold Award, the equivalent of Eagle Scout in Girl Scouts. Since he was involved in scouting with them, he developed a scouting mentality at a young age. He was more excited to begin when he was six and felt the same way when he became a Boy Scout at eleven. He says he cannot remember a time when he did not want to be a scout.
Mr. Seibert says that he thinks scouting promotes the types of behavior that lead to success. He has learned so much from scouting that it is “hard for him to imagine his life without it.” Earning Eagle Scout helped him overcome many barriers that had been holding him back. It allowed him to become captain of the drum line when he was in high school and finishing all of the merit badges showed him that he can do anything he sets his mind to do.
“I have continued to set my goals high,” Seibert said. “Just his past year I auditioned and was accepted for the Berklee College of Music, part of which was an intense interview session that reminded me of my Eagle Board of Review. I also applied and was accepted to the Disney College Program, which I learned about from another Eagle Scout who participated in the program.” Mr. Seibert is in Florida now and working in the Disney College Program.
He said that there is a stigma that is attached to scouting that has hurt the organization somewhat but he believes Scouting is not just one thing.
“It is not just about summer camp or going to boring meetings every week or doing additional school work,” Seibert said. “Scouting is about promoting success for young people and helping them find the way for them to reach success. As someone who has always been reserved and quiet, scouting has helped me get out of my shell and explore the world. It has helped make me into the person I am today and I am proud to say that. It will help you grow into the person you want to be and it will help you overcome anything that could ever stop you.”
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