A Martha’s Vineyard scout soars after a long journey

Linda White attaches the Eagle Scout pin to her son Dylan's uniform. — Photo by Steve Myrick

Before family, friends, and Boy Scouts of America brass, Troop 93 of Oak Bluffs promoted Dylan Rice of Edgartown to Eagle Scout, the highest and most difficult-to-achieve rank in scouting, Monday evening.

The 18-year-old Martha’s Vineyard High School senior earned the rare honor after completing a rigorous set of requirements that took several years to accomplish.

According to the organization, only about five percent of scouts ever reach the lofty goal.

“I didn’t think I was going to get this far,” Mr. Rice said just before receiving his honors. “You need your troop. Leadership and teamwork get you through.”

Troop 93 also honored four other Island scouts at the banquet ceremony in the parish house of the Trinity United Methodist Church. Liam Waite and Peter Tennant, both of Oak Bluffs, earned the rank of second class scout. D.J. Nelson of Edgartown was promoted to Star Scout. Jesse Thomas of Oak Bluffs achieved the rank of Life Scout, one rank below eagle scout.

“I’m very proud of the boys,” scout master Dan Nelson said. “They’ve all worked very hard.”

The troop promotes scouts on the basis of merit badges earned, participation in the troop, and living by scout principles.

Mr. Rice had to earn at least 21 merit badges to make Eagle Scout. Among them were animal science, mammal study, forestry, shooting, and farm mechanics. He also achieved merit badges in citizenship in three contexts — community, nation, and world.

Interested in agriculture and mechanics since he was a boy, Mr. Rice has a work-study job at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport as part of his senior curriculum. He maintains the grounds, and fixes maintenance and safety vehicles.

One of the requirements to become an Eagle Scout is a leadership service project. As his project, Mr. Rice built plant tables, benches, and a new shed for the Edgartown School’s greenhouse. He said he put 113 hours of labor into the project.

“It’s a lot of work, especially the last six months,” his mother, Linda Rice said.

“It’s a long journey,” his father, Gregory Rice said. “It means a lot.”

Both beaming parents participated in the formal ceremony to promote their son to Eagle Scout.

In addition to Mr. Nelson, the scoutmaster, Mike Riley, senior district executive Amy Zahn, assistant scoutmaster Douglas Hathaway, and Cub scoutmaster Ewell Hopkins also participated in the ceremony. The last of 19 candles representing scout principles is traditionally lit by an Eagle Scout. Tad Crawford of West Tisbury, handled that part of the ceremony.

Mr. Riley noted for the group that Dylan Rice joins a fraternity that includes many distinguished Americans, including New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, U.S. Supreme Court justice Stephen Breyer, and Mike Rowe, host of the Discovery Channel program “Dirty Jobs.”

He said Bill Gates Sr. was an Eagle Scout, but his son, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, fell one rank short in his scouting career.

“I guess he got interested in computers,” Mr. Riley said.

In addition to Mr. Crawford, who earned his eagle scout honors in 1960, Mr. Riley noted two other eagle scouts from the Vineyard. James Gaffney, owner of Jim’s Outdoor Power Equipment in Vineyard Haven. was promoted in 1956. Michael Wilson of Oak Bluffs, a member of Post 93 and now a student at University of Colorado, earned his honor in 2007.

Ms. Zahn told a story about the troop’s accomplishments. She recounted annual trips to a Boy Scout jamboree, where the troop participated in a grueling field exercise that required leadership and teamwork. The first trip didn’t work out so well. The troop earned a negative score, announced to great embarrassment during the awards ceremony.

“They were throwing dirt at each other,” Ms. Zahn said. “Very un-scout-like behavior.”

But several years later, Troop 93 earned the grand prize with the highest score among dozens of troops who competed that day. She credited Dylan Rice with part of that accomplishment.

“If there’s one thing I’ve been told again and again, it’s that teamwork and leadership are very important, and being good with these two skills will help you throughout life,” Mr. Rice said in his acceptance speech. “The lesson of becoming an Eagle Scout is to complete what you started.”

Mr. Rice said before the ceremony that he was nervous about giving a speech, but the assembled audience responded to his short, heartfelt address with a standing ovation.