How do you become an Eagle Scout?

Hint: It takes a whole lot of badges.

Liam Waite is on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. — Photo by Michael Cummo

With the beach in the rearview mirror and the classroom approaching fast, summer’s end isn’t the most pleasant time of year for young Islanders. Oak Bluffs teen Liam Waite doesn’t see it that way. By the time the upcoming season peters out, he hopes to join the likes of Steven Spielberg, Walter Cronkite, President Ford, and Neil Armstrong in attaining the Eagle rank, the highest level of advancement in the Boy Scouts of America.

Liam, who will turn 17 on May 28, is a junior at Falmouth Academy. After accumulating badges and experience over six years of scouting, he currently holds the rank of Life Scout. Conquering a very short list will elevate him to Eagle status.

“The last ones [badges] which I need are personal fitness, which I’m almost done with, and a recent addition to the required list — cooking. Aside from those two merit badges, the last thing I need to do is finish up my Eagle project,” he said in a telephone interview with The Times. He said he’ll be conquering the cooking requirement this summer at scout camp in Hidden Valley, N.H.

Accumulating the 21 requisite badges for the rank is no small feat. Neither is the Eagle Scout service project, an endeavor that sums up those badges. It’s the ultimate test of a scout’s leadership skills and his dedication to his community. Liam has chosen to improve trails in the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest as his project.

“I’m going to be creating and designing signs to be put up throughout the State Forest, along the bike trails, in order to provide a better sense of direction as well as a better sense of location. And hopefully they can be incorporated into future maps so people know what trail they’re on.”

Cape and Islands BSA Unit Commissioner John Freeman has watched Liam’s status as a leader grow under the tutelage of Troop 93 Scoutmaster Mike Noel.

“It has been rewarding to watch him mature into a good role model for the younger Scouts,” said Mr. Freeman in an e-mail to The Times. “Liam has served in several leadership positions. He served as the troop’s Senior Patrol Leader [SPL]. The SPL is the boy leader of the troop, and works with the adult leaders to run the troop’s program. He now serves as the Troop Guide. His job is to help the younger Scouts have the best possible Scouting experience.”

According to Mr. Freeman, the rewards of being an Eagle Scout are many, including, of course, the personal satisfaction that comes along each step of the way, and the deep connection formed to the scout’s troop and to his community. In addition, the achievement stands out on a résumé.

“Colleges, employers, and others often place Eagle Scouts at the head of the line when they’re sorting through applicants,” he said.

Fresh from a recent exchange student trip to Germany, where he explored Heidelberg and Munich, Liam is ready to tackle his Eagle project. He’s also been busy rehearsing for Almost Maine, a comedic play that just opened at Falmouth Academy. In this pursuit, Liam seems to break what may be a widely held stereotype of Boy Scouts, let alone Eagle Scouts.

“I’m not the most athletic of people,” he said. “Sports are not my forte. I prefer acting and theater stuff.”

He’s holding off judgment on the cooking stuff.