Pizza + soft drinks = Eagle Scouts? Scouter’s incredible equation delivers results

You need just three ingredients to guide a Star Scout or Life Scout along the path to Eagle: pizza, soft drinks and conversation.

Bob Czekanski has been there, tried that. And Troop 1 in Bolton, Mass. (part of the Nashua Valley Council) is better for it.

Here’s his secret recipe.

Decelerating toward Eagle

Guys in Troop 1 used to zoom through the ranks from Scout to First Class. Achieving Star took little longer, and Life took longer still.

Then things really slowed down.

“Getting Scouts to identify an Eagle project, obtain those last few merit badges and take a position of responsibility became very difficult,” Czekanski says. “It seemed there was nothing we could do to motivate those Scouts.”

Then Czekanski and his fellow leaders tried something new. A group of adults met a group of Star and Life Scouts at a pizza restaurant. While everyone enjoyed soft drinks and slices, the group discussed what being an Eagle Scout really means.

It worked. An impressive 90 percent of Troop 1 Scouts who attended one or more of Czekanski’s sessions went on to achieve Scouting’s highest honor.

Best part is, these simple steps are easily replicable by any troop with a pizza restaurant in their city or town.

“We’ve developed a simple program that has proved to be a powerful incentive for Scouts to achieve Eagle rank,” Czekanski says. “At one time, we had difficulty persuading Scouts to focus on Eagle. Now the motivation is there and our efforts have shifted to guiding them through the process.”

Scenes from a pizza restaurant

It’s a Sunday evening in late Spring. Czekanski has pushed together a couple of tables at a local pizza and sandwich shop.

There are seats for 11: six Scouts and five adults.

The six Scouts show up and take a seat. Their parents are there, too, but on the other side of restaurant — too far away to participate in the discussion.

The adults are as follows: Czekanski, the troop committee member who organized the event; Troop 1’s Scoutmaster; and three adult guests.

Those guests — John, Bill and Frank — are men in their late 20s and early 30s. All three are Eagle Scouts, and two earned Eagle in Troop 1.

They were invited to discuss how achieving Eagle affected their lives after Scouting.

“When everybody is seated and we place our order with the waiter, we go around the table and introduce ourselves,” Czekanski says. “The boys are polite and quiet and wearing their full Scout uniforms.”

Questions and answers

Czekanski and the Scoutmaster get the conversation started by asking the Eagle Scout guests some questions:

  • Has achieving Eagle done anything for you after you left Scouts?
  • Does anybody who was not a Scout care whether you are an Eagle Scout?

John was interviewing for a job, and the interviewer’s cousin was an Eagle Scout. This led to a great discussion that landed John the job.

Bill said skills polished during his Eagle project — managing other people, making a public presentation, creating a budget — are skills he uses every day in his career.

Frank was hiring someone at his job and had narrowed it down to two people with excellent work skills and technical knowledge. Frank chose the one who is an Eagle Scout.

At last a breakthrough

Finally, a Scout asked a question.

“After that, we had a difficult time keeping up with all the questions coming from the Scouts,” Czekanski says. “But we did get them all answered. And they were all good questions. Clearly all the boys were engaged in this conversation.”

By the end of the night, plates and glasses were empty. The Scouts were full of ideas and inspiration.

“You could see the engines racing, the wheels turning, inside the boys’ heads,” Czekanski says. “They learned that the Eagle rank was not only how you top off your career in Boy Scouts but a higher platform from which to launch your life when you are older.”

Recap: Steps to success

  1. Invite Star Scout and Life Scouts to meet at a local sandwich/pizza shop.
  2. Invite two to four Eagle Scouts, preferably over the age of 28, to explain what being an Eagle Scout means in the workplace and in their personal lives.
    • Why Scouts over 28? They’re more likely to have stories beyond high school and beyond college. This shows them the value of being an Eagle Scout in the larger world.
    • Why not just troop leaders? The words mean more coming from somebody not connected to the troop.
  3. Parents are welcome to sit on the other side of the restaurant, but they shouldn’t participate or hear the discussion.
    • Why? Parents might try to take over the meeting. Scouts might be hesitant to ask real questions if their parents are there.
  4. Note that this meeting isn’t the time to discuss specific Eagle requirements. That’s a later discussion for the Scout and his Eagle advisor. This pizza dinner is about motivation.
  5. Don’t discuss Eagle projects or how to pick one. That’s not what this meeting is for either.
  6. The Scoutmaster and the troop Eagle advisor (or some other member of the troop committee) should participate in the meeting but not dominate the conversation. They should ask leading questions.
  7. If possible, use your troop budget to pay for the pizza and soft drinks.

Final words from Czekanski:

“The stories Scouts hear leave an indelible impression upon them,” he says. “The Scouts learn that Eagle rank is not something they leave behind when they leave Scouting. It is something they take with them wherever they go and is respected in all places. It is what they can do today that will give them a better tomorrow. And that is all the motivation they need.”

8 Comments

  1. What a great idea! Thanks for sharing.

    A key point is to select the Eagle examples who are in their mid- to late-20s or early 30s. Boys of near-Eagle age see these people as near-peers (so they can relate to their experiences) and also persons of authority deserving respect (they have been there and done that, and the Scouts can see themselves in those actions).

    As the Eagle examples get older, I find that they are considered by most youth as increasingly irrelevant and annoying. (We don’t understand their world, they think.) As a near-senior-citizen, I find that I am mostly irrelevant in the eyes of mid-teens. Too bad, but the point is to pick Eagle examples most likely to influence the near-Eagles.

    Deliver the message with the most effective method!

  2. I know a Scoutmaster who did something along these pizza lines but pizza was for all at their troop meetings. Troop attending meetings was going down and it wasn’t because they didn’t have funds. Decided to put the funds to use to serve pizza at troop meetings and attendance numbers went up monthly. What was once headed toward folding is now a thriving and active troop once more

  3. What an incredibly outstanding idea! After reading it, I’m not the least bit surprised this worked as well as it did. Scouts are sometimes much more attentive to their peers than they are to us adults. In my troop recently, our SPL was conducting some training with the PLC and he invited three former SPL’s to come and speak about their experiences leading the Troop. What they had to say was truly inspiring, and just like the Scouts in this story, all of the Scouts on the PLC were attentive and engaged. Situations like these are a great reminder to me of how capable young people are. They need us adults a lot less than we sometimes think they do!

  4. What a fantastic idea. Our Troop is only about 10 years old, but I still know a few of the original adults. Hopefully we can find some Eagles who are at least out of college.

  5. Bravo! Being an Eagle Advisor is a really tough job at times when doing the job alone. I think that is just the right number of adults and Scouts to sit down to chat.

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