In middle school and high school, Andrew Lee got tired of teachers and classmates telling him he “can’t do this and can’t do that.”
So he became a Boy Scout. Then an Eagle Scout.
“Boy Scouts was the first time someone told me what I can do,” he said.
He’s been doing great things ever since. Lee is a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. He’s kind of obsessed with submarines and wants to work on one some day.
“I don’t think I would’ve been able to get in to the academy without Boy Scouts,” Lee said. “Now I want to give back to the Scouts in any way I can.”
Lee was one of four Eagle Scout midshipmen who gave a special tour of the Naval Academy to the Report to the Nation delegates on Sunday.
The weather was rainy and gloomy, but these midshipmen made the day seem bright.
Life of a midshipman
Jacob Broz, president of the National Eagle Scout Association chapter at the U.S. Naval Academy, led the tour. He’s in his final year, with just 88 days left until his commissioning. (But who’s counting?)
Broz took the delegates inside the giant dorm building where 4,500 men and women — from plebes in their first year to “firsties” in their last — live in close comfort.
The dorm is the largest in the country. It might be the tidiest, too.
Broz said the midshipmen must leave their room with the bed made, floor swept, door open at a 90-degree angle and blinds halfway up. To save time, Broz sleeps in a sleeping bag on top of his sheets. In the morning, the sleeping bag gets tucked away, leaving only the pristine sheets in view.
John Ertel, an Eagle Scout and retired Naval Academy physics professor, started the NESA chapter at the academy many years ago. It’s now the country’s largest NESA chapter, but back then it was the first that wasn’t council-based.
I had always heard that one out of every 10 midshipmen at the academy is an Eagle Scout, but Ertel said the actual number is probably even higher — perhaps closer to one in seven.
Why the under-reporting? Because the Eagle Scout data comes from admissions applications. If a 17-year-old applies and is accepted to the Naval Academy when he’s a Life Scout, the academy has no way of knowing whether he later became an Eagle Scout.
Ertel said he has talked to several Eagle Scout midshipmen about the BSA’s plan to offer a Boy Scout-age program to girls — with a path toward Eagle Scout — beginning in 2019.
To put it simply, he said, these Eagle Scouts support the move.
“They believe women who do the same work should get the same recognition,” Ertel said.
Intrigued, I asked some Eagle Scout midshipmen myself.
One said he appreciated the chance to “open up the doors to offer those opportunities” to young women.
Another said that as long as the requirements are just as tough, he’s ready to welcome young women as fellow Eagle Scouts.
A third said it’s “all about equality of opportunities.”
Come to the Naval Academy in 2019
Have you heard about the STEM Merit Badge Jamboree at the Naval Academy? Every year, midshipmen lead 800 Boy Scouts through a weekend of fun, merit badges and learning in Annapolis.
More than 5,000 Scouts apply for the 800 available slots. Space is limited because of the physical space available and the commitment of people and resources, but the academy’s NESA chapter is looking at ways to boost the capacity.
To be among the first to learn about the next STEM Merit Badge Jamboree in 2019, be sure to “like” the U.S. Naval Academy’s NESA Facebook page.
Follow the Report to the Nation
Photos by Michael Roytek and Randy Piland. See more photos here.