Written by Don Ratzlaff Wednesday, 23 May 2007 09:11
|Travis Riesen: “As a young child, it’s more of an organization that does a lot of fun activities,” he added. “But when you’re older you see how all of these activities really help you.”Don ratzlaff / Free Press. Click image to enlarge
Travis Riesen experienced two graduation ceremonies of sorts this weekend.
On Sunday he walked across the stage in Brown Gymnasium to receive his diploma as a Hillsboro High School graduate.
A day earlier, during a smaller but equally festive gathering at Trinity Mennonite Church, Riesen received his formal “diploma” as an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts organization.
“It’s such a great organization, and such an accomplishment to get through it at the highest rank,” he said.
The accomplishment is so rare, in fact, that fewer than 2 percent of boys who enter the Scouting program ever make it to Eagle rank.
Which makes Riesen’s accomplishment all the more unusual. He is the third member among a group of five boys who started the local Scouting program together as first-graders and have now achieved Eagle within the past year.
Jon Crouse was inducted last fall and Zach Luthi followed a month ago. A third troop-mate, Ryan Janzen, achieved Eagle Scout a couple of years earlier.
“The four of us just kind of pushed through together,” Riesen said. The fourth member of the original group, Jimmy Clark, currently is working on his Eagle rank.
Working his way from Tiger Cub, to Cub Scout and then formally into Boy Scouts, Riesen said he was encouraged by fellow Scouts and family members to see the program through to completion.
“The one thing people tell always tell you about Eagle is that on job applications, there’s nothing better you can have on there,” Riesen said. “Achieving Eagle Scout forces you to do so many things that prepare you for what’s going to happen the rest of your life.”
In addition to earning merit badges in a series of prescribed areas, the most challenging component of the Eagle requirements is the successful completion of an Eagle project.
“You have to come up with the idea, plan it out, get funds for it, put it together—the whole process,” Riesen said. “It can’t be to benefit the Boy Scouts organization. It has to benefit the community in some way.”
Riesen chose to create a roll-away batting cage for the high school and city baseball programs—an endeavor he has participated in himself.
Riesen designed the project on computerized drafting equipment in the high school technology department, then successfully solicited the $1,500 needed to build it from the Lions Club, Kiwanis Club, American Legion and the Hillsboro Recreation Commission.
As part of the project, he also had to recruit and manage volunteers to help with construction. He found that resource at Hillsboro Industries, where his father, Arlen, has worked for almost two decades.
Once the design was approved and materials identified, the cage was built and completed during one December weekend with the help of his father’s coworkers.
The 18-foot-by-14-foot-by-10-foot cage required a police escort to transport from Hillsboro Industries to Memorial Field because it took up two lanes of traffic.
Riesen attached the net about a month ago, just in time for his Trojan teammates and him to make use of it this season.
“It works pretty good,” he said.
Riesen is grateful now for the many prods from family and fellow Scouts to move ahead with the Eagle Scout program. In hindsight, he said the value of the program is well worth the effort.
“You will not see the value (of Scouting) as a younger child until you’ve been through it and you look back and see what it’s done for you,” he said.
“You form all these relationships—like the four of us guys that have been through this together. We’ve known each other all of our lives and have been the best of friends throughout all of Scouting.
“As a young child, it’s more of an organization that does a lot of fun activities,” he added. “But when you’re older you see how all of these activities really help you.”
This fall, Riesen will move on to Hesston College, where he plans to play baseball and prepare for a career in youth ministry. But he doesn’t think his Scouting experiences are over just yet.
“I’d love to be a Scout master at some point,” he said. “Even in college, I hope to stay involved with the local troop.”