Wearing their scouting uniforms with sashes covered in badges, 140 new Eagle Scouts from across Missouri sat in front of the Missouri Capitol as they were recognized for their achievement.
The 2020 class of Eagle Scouts was recognized Friday at the annual Missouri State Eagle Scout Recognition Day.
Eagle is the highest attainable rank in scouting, earned by only 4 percent of Scouts. To achieve the ranking, Scouts must earn at least 21 merit badges, be a field-tested peer leader in a Scout troop and lead an extensive service project that benefits a community organization.
On their way to becoming Eagle Scouts, the 1,021 Missouri 2020 class of Eagles earned more than 21,442 merit badges, camped more than 20,420 nights and attended more than 142,940 troops meetings. They contributed more than 178,675 hours to service projects and Eagle projects on Missouri communities, according to a news release from the Scouts BSA Great Rivers Council.
Friday's ceremony included speeches from Gov. Mike Parson and Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe.
In his keynote speech, Parson congratulated the Eagle Scouts for earning the ranking and told them the leadership skills they've learned will help them set a positive example for the next generations.
"Each one of you will bear a burden on your shoulders to make sure you keep the American dream alive," he said, standing in between two American flags blowing in the wind.
Parson said he has faith in the Eagle Scouts to use their leadership skills to make this country a better place and set a path for future generations.
"You'll be able to take that and expand to make this state and this country better and make communities and the people around you better," he said. "That's what the American dream is about."
Kehoe, who used to be a Boy Scout, said the scouting program played an important role in his life because it introduced him to new places and experiences outside of the urban core of St. Louis. He said it taught him integrity, responsibility and character-building.
Kehoe thanked the Eagle Scouts for their contributions to their communities.
"Don't ever underestimate how important the role has been in getting through this journey to becoming an Eagle Scout, because it's an incredible accomplishment, and I just want to say I'm in awe," Kehoe said in his speech.
After the speeches, each Eagle Scout was called up individually to receive a plaque and certificate.
In 2019, the Boy Scouts program began allowing girls to join and was renamed Scouts BSA. The Class of 2020 is the first class with female Eagle Scouts. About 15 female Eagle Scouts attended Friday's ceremony.
Paige Brush, of Kirkwood, said she enjoys the scouting program because it's taught her leadership skills, pushed her outside of her comfort zone, and given her high-adventure opportunities such as camping, backpacking and canoeing.
"When someone asks me what rank I am, I feel proud to say I'm an Eagle Scout," Brush said.
Maggie Pennington, of Kirkwood, said scouting has taught her leadership, flexibility, adaptability, quick-thinking and communication skills since she joined in 2019. She said she's proud to have achieved the highest Scout ranking.
"It's kind of surreal to think about because I've worked so hard for it," she said.
Tyler Dettmar, of Columbia, who has been a Scout for 11 years, said he enjoys the character-building and outdoor aspects as well as learning leadership skills and how to be a good example.
He said he's excited to have earned the Eagle Scout ranking and be recognized for his hard work.
"It's been a goal of mine for a long time," Dettmar said. "It just felt really good to finally accomplish that goal and follow my dad's example. It was nice to be able to be with a lot of people that share a similar accomplishment."
Dylan Evans, of St. Joseph, has been a Scout for about 10 years. He said it has taught him leadership and communication skills and given him the opportunity to meet all kinds of people.
"It feels nice to be recognized because it took a long time to get to this very moment," Evans said.
William Sutherlin, of Springfield, who has been a Scout for about 10 years, said he enjoys the outdoor opportunities and learning leadership and teamwork skills.
"Becoming an Eagle Scout is really a good stepping stone in my life," he said. "I think it's a really cool accomplishment."