Consider the nervous excitement of a parent awaiting the results of their child’s Eagle Scout board of review — that final step on the trail to Scouting’s highest rank.
Now double it.
That was the scenario on Nov. 17, 2021, for Laurence and Shannon Stewart. There they sat, anxiously awaiting news from not one board of review but two.
Their daughter, Ellie, and son, Van, were in separate rooms answering questions from volunteers and professionals about their Scouting experience. For these teenagers from the Cascade Pacific Council, it was the toughest job interview they’ve ever faced.
“We were both nervous and excited,” Laurence says. “We knew both the kids had completed all the requirements and were well prepared, but there was still a little bit of that ‘what if’ question.”
Like, what if they hadn’t done enough to prepare? Laurence and Shannon figured that their Scouts’ time in the program and past boards of review had prepared them better than any last-minute cram session could. But that didn’t stop them from offering a few pieces of advice the night before.
“We coached them on the basics that that already knew,” Laurence says. “But it made us feel better to reiterate things like making eye contact, speaking with a smile, and using proper grammar and complete sentences.”
In what felt like a lifetime but was really about 30 minutes, Ellie and Van emerged. And they had good news: Each had passed their board and was officially an Eagle Scout.
“We were so proud,” Laurence says. “Hearing they both passed was validation that all their hard work and dedication paid off. We were — still are — elated and proud parents of Eagle Scouts.”
So that’s how their Eagle Scout journey ended, but it’s really just the beginning for Ellie and Van.
Ellie, 18, is planning to attend college and become a surgeon. And Van, 16, wants to be a dentist. Each says they wouldn’t have that drive, that dedication, that commitment to helping others without their time in Scouting.
But to understand just how much Scouting has meant to the Stewart family, we need to go back to the beginning.
The eager tagalong
It was the week before Van started first grade. At a back-to-school event at Chinook Elementary in Vancouver, Wash., the Stewarts met Duncan McKellar, then the Cubmaster of Pack 608 (and now Scoutmaster of Van’s Troop 479).
“Duncan and I chatted a bit about the program and the pack,” Laurence says. “This brought back a lot of fond memories for me, which I thought Van would enjoy experiencing himself.”
Laurence was a Cub Scout as a boy. He earned his Arrow of Light and crossed over into Boy Scouts, stopping after reaching the Life rank. So he knew firsthand the value that Scouting would bring not just to Van but to the whole family.
Back then, Van’s older sister, Ellie, wasn’t eligible to join Scouting. But that didn’t stop her.
“Pack 608 unofficially did a lot of family Scouting,” Laurence says.
Most of the boys in the pack had sisters. Rather than forcing families to exclude their daughters, Pack 608 welcomed them.
So Ellie was there for every step of Van’s Cub Scout journey — Raingutter Regatta, Pinewood Derby, food drives, popcorn sales, Christmas tree recycling and more.
“She worked alongside Van, completing every requirement to rank up,” Laurence says. “Sadly, she did not get any of the credit.”
But both siblings got something out of the experience, even if it wasn’t something shiny for their belt. They got adventure, new skills, character development, leadership practice and citizenship.
“All throughout Cub Scouts, she went on all the hikes, campouts, events and meetings,” Van says of his sister. “She was probably more qualified to earn the Arrow of Light than some other kids.”
When Van crossed over into Troop 479, Ellie still wanted to be involved but wasn’t able to go on campouts and high-adventure trips with her younger brother.
And then February 2019 finally arrived. Ellie joined the newly formed Troop 5479 and started writing her own Scouting story.
“I saw all of the cool adventures that my brother got to go on,” she says. “I have always been outdoorsy and loved the idea of having a group of people to go on campouts, hikes and other activities with.”
Like her brother, she flourished in the program. And sometimes, like when both of their troops went to Lost Lake Summer Camp in Alaska, they even got to go on adventures together.
“We have always done stuff together outside, including camping, skiing and snowboarding, dirt biking, fishing, mountain biking,” Van says. “This was just another thing she could also do.”
And yes, a sibling rivalry did rear up at times. Like at a Scout event when they got to see who was better at throwing tomahawks.
“I am, by the way,” Ellie says.
The boards of review
After completing their Eagle projects (Van built a buddy bench at his former elementary school, and Ellie created a mural on Interstate 5), there was just one obstacle between the siblings and the Eagle Scout Award: the board of review.
Ellie prepared by meeting with her Eagle advisor.
“We went over all of the things I needed to bring and some of the questions that I should be prepared to answer,” Ellie says.
Van prepared by spending about a month reflecting on his Scouting journey. He thought about his project, the Scout Oath and Scout Law, how he showed his duty to God “and some other stuff that they might ask during my board.”
“I was really nervous the day of my board,” Van says. “But once we got to the place and were waiting to go in, I got less nervous and felt more confident.”
As everyone mingled after the successful boards of review, a Scouter approached Laurence. He told Laurence that Ellie and Van “both truly represent what Scouting is about.”
“As their parents, we see this each and every day, both in and out of Scouting,” Laurence says. “But it means a great deal to know that others recognize their dedication to Scouting and living the Scouting life.”
The Stewarts have taken their Scouting journey together. So it’s only fitting that Ellie and Van would have a joint Eagle court of honor, which Laurence and Shannon are planning for the spring of 2022.
“It will be pretty special to have both Ellie and Van publicly recognized together, surrounded by their family, their Scouting family, all their friends, community members and community leaders,” Shannon says.
Van is excited to get the Eagle patch, pin and Palms for which he’s worked so hard.
“Having that Eagle patch visible is something that I’ve wanted since I joined,” he says.
Ellie is eager to get her patch, but she’s excited for another reason, too.
“The after party,” she says. “My troop always has awesome after parties with food and dessert, and it’s going to be especially fun when it’s for my court of honor.”
The family togetherness
Scouting has helped each member of the Stewart family experience things they would not have otherwise done.
“It gave our family opportunities to share experiences such as volunteering, community service, hiking, backpacking and the adventure of a lifetime — going to Alaska,” Laurence says.
“We also experienced working together during our Christmas tree fundraiser,” Shannon says. “While this was a great time commitment and often not ‘fun’ standing outside in the cold and rain, it gave us an opportunity to be together and depend on each other. As a parent of two teens, these moments are priceless.”