Uncertainty and weighty decisions plague the near future. Texans are hurting from the coronavirus and the pandemic’s many consequences. But – let’s have hope – I’m here to tell you our future is bright.
This time of year I’m reminded of how smart, driven, and compassionate the next generation of young Texans are. Our future leaders are making a real difference in the world – and they’re starting by bettering the lives of their fellow Texans.
Last month, a high school senior in Waco named Aiden organized and hosted a citywide blood drive. He saw the need from local health centers, as the pandemic had scared away regular donors. Upon seeing the turnout for his drive, Aiden said of his community: “It warms my heart, it really does. Waco is such a good town, everyone here has the biggest heart.”
Gauri, a high school student in Plano, recently developed science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) workshops at North Texas elementary schools and Boys & Girls Clubs to encourage early exposure of young minorities and girls to STEM fields. Only a teenager herself, Gauri is already working to empower younger Texans and even the playing field.
Both Aiden’s and Gauri’s projects began in pursuit of joining an elite club. They seek to earn the Scouts’ prestigious Eagle Scout and Gold Award, respectively, and we all stand to benefit.
Earning the highest Scout awards is no easy feat. Less than five percent of Scouts have earned the Boy Scouts’ Eagle Scout and Girl Scouts’ Gold Award in the century that the esteemed titles have been around.
An Eagle Scout requires a Board of Review and at least 21 merit badges – each an accomplishment in itself. The Gold Award requires a minimum of 80 hours of work. And those who put in that work reap the benefits. Eagle Scouts can earn a Good Citizenship Award from the Marine Corps League. Gold Award recipients can enlist in the U.S. military at a higher pay rate than their peers. I’m proud to congratulate high-achieving Scouts in Texas with a letter of congratulations – more than 675 letters last year alone.
The most impactful requirement of these awards – and the one everyone knows best – is the service project. It brings me hope that young Texans all across our state are blowing us away with their innovative solutions to local problems.
This year, Abby from Volente was one of the very first young women to earn her Eagle Scout. She spent a whopping 373 hours designing and building benches and wheelchair ramps to make her local garden club accessible to all. The Board approved her award just last month. Congratulations, Abby.
Cami also broke barriers this fall as one of the first young women to earn her Eagle Scout in Dallas. To find a problem she wanted to solve, Cami didn’t have to get too creative. She saw how her community was suffering in the pandemic, and she stepped up to help her younger neighbors cope. Cami is helping elementary students learn as safely as possible with donated masks, hand sanitizer, and other supplies. And with this project, she’s teaching them a lesson beyond the classroom. Cami says of her inspiration: “I want to be an example to other girls, and I want to show them they can do anything that they want to do, and anything they set their mind to, it can be done.”
At a time when near-term uncertainties shadow every decision we make, I’m proud to share this good news about the future. We are in great hands with Cami, her fellow Eagle Scouts, Gold Award recipients, and so many other impressive young Texans leading the way. Let’s place our hope in them.