Photo by Nancy Forrest
A Court of Honor ceremony was held Wednesday at the Atascadero Elks Lodge to honor 23 Eagle Scouts and one Silver Award recipient for their outstanding achievements in scouting. Pictured from left, Harley Miller and Jack Jones of Paso Robles Elks Lodge No. 2364, Eagle Scouts Jacob Miller, William Hix and Justin Gilman, Silver Award recipient Rebekkah Rennegarbe, Eagle Scouts Michael Pietsch, Jonathon "Tyler" O'Grady and Matthew Poulin and Floyd Lowe and Lance Erickson of Atascadero Elks Lodge No. 2733.
Twenty-three Eagle Scout award recipients and one Silver Award recipient were recognized during a Court of Honor ceremony and annual award dinner Wednesday in Atascadero.
The Atascadero Elks Lodge No. 2733 and Paso Robles Elks Lodge No. 2364 sponsored the awards ceremony and presented each recipient with a wooden plaque to honor his or her outstanding achievement in receiving the highest award in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts.
Each award recipient was also presented commendations from Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee, State Senator Abel Maldonado and United States Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, as well as commendations from the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors.
The Eagle Scout recipients are Carter Collins, William Hix, Cory Miller and Jonathon “Tyler” O’Grady, Troop 60; Kevin Alexander, Kyle Alexander, Patrick McCaghren, Bryce Richardson, Nathan Whitacre, Troop 101; Gregory Livengood, Troop 111; Kameron MacKenzie and Matthew Poulin, Troop 150; Drew Bentz, Justin Gilman, William Wolff, Troop 155; James Mallet, Troop 176; Steven DeCou, Barrett Pepe and Michael Pietsch, Troop 266; and Jacob Miller, Malcolm Pickett, Michael Savage and Schuyler Siemens, Troop 434.
The Silver Award recipient was Rebekkah Rennegarbe, Troop 736.
Hix, son of David and Jeanne Hix of Paso Robles, said his final project involved removing decomposed granite, adding gravel and renovating the planters at Lewis Middle School in Paso Robles, trimming the tree within the planter and installing a bench for students to sit on during recess and lunchtime. He said it took him a year and a half to fulfill all of the Eagle Scout requirements. He earned 27 merit badges and noted that earning the lifesaving merit badge was his favorite.
Hix’s older brother, Wyatt, received the Eagle Scout award in 2004 and was in attendance to see his brother receive the same honor.
O’Grady, son of Jenny O’Grady of Paso Robles, said his final project involved landscaping the campus at Trinity Lutheran School in Paso Robles. He said it took him two years to fulfill all of the Eagle Scout requirements. He earned 27 merit badges, noting that earning the rifle shooting merit badge was his favorite. O’Grady will join the United States Marine Corps after high school graduation this spring.
“I think all of the merit badges help me equally,” he said.
Poulin, son of Ron and Susan Poulin of Atascadero, said it took him three years to fulfill all of the Eagle Scout requirements. He has earned 30 merit badges, noting that earning the lifesaving merit badge was his favorite.
“My final project involved installing horseshoe pits at Atascadero High School, which required a lot of hours of work and help of more than 15 volunteers,” he said. “The materials were all donated. It was a big project with a lot of concrete.”
Poulin has been offered several scholarships and admittance from colleges. He said he hasn’t yet decided a course of study but will likely focus on the sciences.
Gilman, son of Vikki and Heath Gilman of Atascadero, said his final project involved installing a trailhead at De Anza Trail. He earned 25 merit badges, noting that earning the swimming merit badge was his favorite.
Pietsch, son of Melody and John Pietsch of Atascadero, said his final project involved landscaping and renovations at Cornerstone Community Church of Atascadero. He said it took him six to nine months to fulfill all of the Eagle Scout requirements. He earned 21 merit badges, noting that earning the entrepreneurship merit badge was his favorite. He plans to study business administration in college.
“Scouting is a wonderful program,” Melody said. “Earning the Eagle Scout award requires a lot of time and effort. I am amazed at how much determination it takes to get there.”
Miller, son of Bruce and Francis Miller of Templeton, said his final project was installing a jogging path at Vineyard Elementary School in Templeton. He said it took him two years to fulfill all the Eagle Scout requirements. He earned 26 merit badges, noting that earning the small boat sailing merit badge was his favorite.
Rennegarbe, daughter of Debbie Rennegarbe of Atascadero, said it took her a year and a half to fulfill the Silver Award requirements and noted she expects to complete the Gold Award requirements within the next year.
For the Silver Award project, she organized a powder-puff derby, which drew the participation of 25 girls. She has earned 43 merit badges, noting that earning the cookie sales merit badge was her favorite. She plans to study accounting in college.
“For my Gold Award project, I hope to have concrete and a picnic table installed at my former school, San Benito Elementary School, so the students can eat their lunch outside,” she said.
Beth Bean, service unit manager for the Girl Scouts of California’s Central Coast Cuesta del Norte unit, lauded Rennegarbe’s hard work and perseverance as a Girl Scout from kindergarten through high school. Bean also commended her steadfast commitment to community service while earning her Silver Award. The Cuesta del Norte unit includes Girl Scout troops from San Miguel to Santa Margarita.
Tradition of helping youth
Honoring outstanding young people has a long and distinguished tradition among the Fraternal Order of the Elks, which is second only to the federal government in the amount of scholarship funding granted every year throughout the nation.
“We always look forward to this evening,” said Lance Erickson, exalted ruler of the Atascadero Elks Lodge. “It’s usually one of our best.”
The organizers of the event are no strangers to scouting. Floyd Lowe, chairman of the Court of Honor Committee for the Atascadero Elks Lodge for the past 10 years, has two sons who earned Eagle Scout awards and one daughter who earned the Campfire Girls’ highest award.
Lowe said many famous and accomplished women were Girl Scouts during their youth; among them are journalist Katie Couric, music artists Mariah Carey and Dionne Warwick, tennis player Venus Williams, golfer Nancy Lopez, and Senator and presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
“Scouting is very important in the lives of young people,” he said.
Jack Jones, chairman of the Court of Honor Committee for the Paso Robles Elks Lodge for the past three years, has two sons who earned Eagle Scout awards and two daughters who earned Gold Awards, Girl Scouts’ highest award.
Eagle Scouts must earn 11 required merit badges and an additional 10 elective merit badges and complete a final project to qualify for the Boy Scouts’ highest award.
“This event is one of our favorites to organize and sponsor each year,” Jones said. “We sponsor scout troops financially every year when they are doing final projects or when they participate in events like the annual Flag Day celebration. The scouts help with many of the projects we sponsor. Charity for young people is one of the most important areas we budget for every year. We donate the wooden plaques for Gold and Silver Award and Eagle Scout recipients every year and we are proud to do it.”
Ingrid Olsen, an official from the Boy Scouts’ Los Padres District, and First District Supervisor Harry Ovitt, who is an Eagle Scout, were also in attendance for the award ceremony, along with Fifth District Supervisor Jim Patterson and Atascadero Mayor Mike Brennler, to honor the 24 outstanding young people. The Los Padres District includes Boy Scout troops in San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties.
Juergen Smith, of the Boy Scouts’ Monterey Peninsula Council, also attended the event to show his support for one of the Eagle Scout recipients. A four-palm Eagle Scout and former scoutmaster, Smith has been involved with scouting since 1970 and has since become an expert in the use of dogs in search and rescue efforts. Smith now serves as one of five judges on Monterey County’s Eagle Board, which selects Life scouts for candidacy for Eagle Scout.
“Everything I learned in scouting, I am using today,” he said. “Eagle Scouts must earn 21 merit badges but they have 120 merit badges to choose from. Any one of the merit badges can spark an interest in a specific profession and change the direction of a young person’s life and career. It’s really extraordinary the opportunities scouting provides for young people.”
Smith said his proudest moments as a scoutmaster was seeing five of his troop members earn their Eagle Scout award and each going on to become a successful doctor, jet fighter pilot and Navy captain.