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Earning Eagle Scout Rank Requires Passion, Leadership, Commitment

Ethan Goetz (right) works on his Eagle Scout project making markers for Marshall Middle School’s cross-country course.

In addition to a president of the United States, numerous other politicians, astronauts, college presidents and professors, medical doctors, actors, professional athletes, Nobel Prize winners and the founder of WalMart, Sam Walton, have all achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest, most prestigious level in the Boy Scouts.

“Big picture, the Eagle rank has been the pinnacle of Scouting going back to 1912. It is the culmination of a Scouting career, shows maturity, leadership and continued involvement, and its lessons have never been more important,” said Adam Goetz, Scoutmaster for BSA Troop 935. “Nationally, it is estimated that of those who enter the BSA (Boy Scouts of America) program, only 4 percent will ever achieve the rank of Eagle.” Troop 935 meets in Franklin Park and covers sections of the North Hills.

As Goetz explained, the Eagle Scout rank is the grand finale for Scouts, and as evidenced by the small percentage of those who actually achieve the rank, it is a difficult rank to earn.

According to the BSA, the requirements for Eagle Scout projects are numerous: the Scout must have earned 21 merit badges (14 from a specified list), be a Life Scout for at least six months, and undertake a project that will benefit the community that demonstrates planning, leadership and execution. The Eagle Scout rank must also be completed before the Scout’s 18th birthday.

“The project itself is much more than the actual project—and watching our oldest go through the process last year, this became very clear,” said Goetz. “It is important that the Scout finds something that they are passionate about and that would serve a need in the community, but it is also about planning, budgeting, the ability to work with different parties and coordinate and lead fellow Scouts in its implementation.”

Goetz’s son, Ethan, a cross-country runner for North Allegheny, created 22 markers and an overview sign on the cross-country course at Marshall Middle School for his Eagle Scout project.

“You could say that he added permanence to the course. Now, it is well marked for the runners and the many community members who use it,” Goetz said.

At the end of the project, the Scout goes before an Eagle Scout Review Committee comprised of representatives from their troop and the Laurel Highlands Council, which covers the Greater Pittsburgh area. “It is a very formal process which I believe is so important these days,” Goetz said. “It is a real maturing process.”

Tharun Sunthar, a 16-year-old junior at North Allegheny in Goetz’s troop, recently completed his Eagle Scout project. A Scout since second grade, he worked with the Blueberry Hill Retirement Village to create a curriculum for Android and Apple devices addressing issues of concern for senior citizens and developed a training session for them.

“These guides covered cybersecurity, how to call and video chat, take pictures, and use social media apps. Along with fellow Scouts and friends, I conducted workshops to teach residents using rotating stations to cover each topic,” Tharun said.

He explained that while weighing options for his Eagle project, assisting senior citizens rose to the top. “I realized that senior citizens were severely neglected technologically, especially during the pandemic. Because they were a neglected group, I wanted to create a solution to this widespread issue,” he said. “I have a passion for technology, and I like helping people with technology.”

He recruited 10 others to help train the 30-plus seniors. “The project was very successful, and we were able to successfully teach and solve many of residents’ individual issues and struggles,” Tharun said.

In regards to this project, Goetz said that it was a great pairing of Tharun’s own skills and helping the community. “This project seemed to speak to him as a way to integrate his love of technology while bridging a generational gap using modern devices and platforms,” Goetz said. “Young people can take for granted how tech-enabled our world is today, but this shows great maturity and perspective to understand the needs of an older generation. To give back and teach and share to make their experience better is quite impressive.”

Paul Wain, Scoutmaster for Troop 329, who achieved Eagle rank himself, said that the achievement stays with you forever. “I earned mine 39 years ago, and the boost of confidence is a real bonus. Plus, employers like seeing the rank on resumes,” he said. Troop 329 meets at Memorial Park Church in McCandless.

Because of the amount of time and skills needed for the Eagle project, Wain said that it has to be one that the Scout wants to achieve. “If they are going to earn the Eagle rank, it has to be their initiative. It can’t be driven by anyone else,” he explained.

“There is a commonality with the Scouts that they think, ‘This project is much bigger than I thought it would be,’” he added.

In February 2019, Scouting was expanded to include young women. Troop 9329, which also meets at Memorial Park Church, was founded in October 2020. Scoutmaster Julie Yacoviello has 12 girls in her troop and oversaw the Eagle Scout achievement of her daughter, Anna, last October. Anna was the first female not only in her troop, but in the Seneca District, to earn Eagle Scout rank.

“Scouting is for all youth, and it is so important that it is available to our young women,” said Yacoviello. Anna joined another troop as soon as Scouting was open to young women and began the process toward earning her Eagle rank. Since she had less time than her male counterparts to complete her merit badges and project, she had to really focus. “She was very driven to achieve this goal,” Yacoviello said.

But while the Eagle project is important, Yacoviello feels that Scouting is much more. “It is the Scouting journey that develops a Scout. The project they complete is more of a culmination of that journey. The journey to Eagle requires immense hard work, dedication, and service to others,” she said.

“When a Scout earns their Eagle rank, they have put into practice the ideals of Scouting,” she continued. “These ideals have instilled confidence and character, serving as the building blocks of leadership, service, and community.”

For more information on Eagle Scouts and the Boy Scouts of America, visit

Eagle Scout Project Evolves into Nonprofit

When Tharun Sunthar finished his Eagle Scout project, it was so well received that he knew he wanted to do more. For his project, Tharun designed a curriculum and manuals to assist senior citizens in learning more about technology. With the help of other Scouts, Tharun then led a workshop for citizens from Blueberry Retirement Village.

“They really enjoyed it and were very thankful for the information,” he said.

Tharun knew firsthand how challenging technology can be for this demographic from his own family, who was trying to keep in touch with his grandparents in India during the pandemic.

“They struggle with technology, from contacting us with apps such as Zoom to figuring out if a phone call is a scam or truly their service provider,” he said of his grandparents. “This was a huge motivator for me to start Digital Literacy for Seniors (DLS), to not only guide my own grandparents but also other senior citizens in the community facing the same issues.”

Tharun decided to continue offering the workshops for senior groups and with the help of his father formed the nonprofit DLS. Through the organization, Tharun hopes to continue to educate seniors. “I plan to cross the digital literacy divide among seniors, ultimately teaching people as I can. I want to shape lives by making technology a helpful resource instead of a source of fear,” he said.

Tharun is offering training sessions to senior citizen retirement villages and centers, community groups and libraries. Senior citizen groups of any kind are welcome to reach out to to arrange for Tharun to speak with their organization.

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