Local youth reaches pinnacle of Boy Scouts


Eighteen-year-old Matthew Rennekamp stood proudly at attention as his mother, Heather Rennekamp, pinned a medal to his Boy Scout uniform.

That officially marked him as one of the few Scouts to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

“I’m proud and a bit relieved that we’re finally able to do it,” Heather said of her son’s earning of rank.

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The ceremony recently was conducted at St. Ambrose Catholic Church in Seymour.

Matthew, who lives in Seymour, has four brothers and a sister, but Heather said Scouts didn’t appeal to them like it did to Matthew.

“They had other activities, but this was his,” Heather said of her son.

In the 109 history of Boys Scouts, 2.3 million young men have earned the Eagle Scout rank, according to the Boys Scouts of America.

While that may seem like a lot, that’s just 7 percent of all Boy Scouts who ever reach the pinnacle of Scouting.

“It’s a commitment, no different than getting A’s in academics or lettering in sports. They have to be committed to it,” said Jim Clark, who is an assistant scoutmaster with Troop 526 at St. Ambrose.

There are numerous actions that must be completed for a Scout to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

First, the Scout must progress through the ranks, from tenderfoot to second class and first class and then star and life.

The Scout also must earn 21 merit badges, including first aid, citizenship in the community, citizenship in the nation, citizenship in the world, communications, environmental science, personal fitness, camping, family life, personal management, emergency preparedness or lifesaving and cycling, hiking or swimming.

Beyond the ranks and merit badges, the Eagle Scout candidate also must serve six months in a troop leadership position and take part in a scoutmaster conference and an Eagle Scout board of review.

Lastly, the Scout must “give leadership to a service project for any religious organization or any school or community,” according to the Boy Scouts of America website.

Matthew initially had several service project ideas, but none of them were viable for various reasons.

He didn’t give up, however, instead trying again and again to find a suitable service project until he settled on organizing a library system for the Freeman Army Airfield Museum, located at Freeman Field.

“(Eagle Scout) Tim Molinari did the project for the Tuskegee Airmen, and that was in my mind when I was thinking of a project,” Matthew said.

“We took a backroom and shelves and we took it all into the project and made a library in the central room,” he said.

Matthew said the project involved installing record-keeping programs for the library, and then taking the time to enter all of the information for books and other items housed in the library.

The end system is a project that will allow visitors to the museum’s library to check out books and other items related to the history of the World War II-era airbase.

The museum has received many donated books and other items over the years, and Matthew catalogued everything.

Any duplicated items were donated to the Jackson County Public Library in Seymour, while others were sold, he said.

The project wound up being something that really helped the museum.

“We’re very proud of the achievement and the work he did for us,” said Bonnye Good, a local Cubmaster who also is involved with the museum.

Heather said she is proud of the journey that took her son from a Cub Scout with “more parental involvement” to a Boy Scout and letting him grow and “become more independent.”

Clark said the community service projects and everything else leading up to a Scout earning the Eagle Scout rank is focused on training them to be leaders and teaching them to adapt to new situations by drawing upon their Scouting experiences.

“What we are doing with Scouting is preparing these young men — and soon women — for college, corporate and academic life,” he said.

Some Eagle Scouts have been able to obtain lucrative jobs in leadership positions, not because they are Eagle Scouts, but because of the values instilled in them corresponding with the values that corporations are searching for in candidates.

“It’s these leadership, academic and life skills that set them ahead of peers,” Clark said.

In addition to Matthew receiving his pin, he also presented a pin to his mother and father, John Rennekamp, during the ceremony.

Eagle Scout Alex Sandlin also received a mentorship award for helping Rennekamp obtain the rank of Eagle Scout.

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