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Church’s Eagle Scouts soar into history

 
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7:00 A.M. EST December 10, 2010 | DALLAS (UMNS)

Young Eagles: Twelve Boy Scouts at St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas earn scouting’s highest rank at the same time. UMNS photos by Wallace Faggett.
Young Eagles: Twelve Boy Scouts at St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church in Dallas earn scouting’s highest rank at the same time. UMNS photos by Wallace Faggett.
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Twenty-one-year-old Terrence Juan Cochran’s pride was apparent as he looked at the 12 African-American teens making history for Troop 914, the Boy Scouts of America and St. Luke “Community” United Methodist Church.

“I never imagined we would get to this point,” said Cochran, a Troop 914 Eagle Scout since 2005, as he viewed the boys, their church mentors and family members gathered at the ceremony in which the 12 joined Scouting’s elite.

The ceremony marked the second time ever this many African-American Boy Scouts were bestowed the Eagle Scout rank at one time, according to the Boy Scouts of America National Council.

“I have always been proud of myself for achieving this great honor, but now I am even more proud of [Troop] 914 for everything we have all accomplished together,” said Cochran.

Just five years ago, he and Janson Ford became Troop 914’s first Eagle Scouts. Ford, at school in New Orleans, was unable to attend the historic event Nov. 6.

The Rev. Tyrone D. Gordon, senior pastor, said this is a milestone in one of the church’s most important missions.

During the Court of Honor, (from left) Walter Munnings, Jordan McRae and Malcolm Luster give the Scout sign.
During the Court of Honor, (from left) Walter Munnings, Jordan McRae and Malcolm Luster give the Scout sign.
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“Scouting is an outreach ministry of the men of St. Luke ‘Community’ United Methodist Church that is more important now than ever before,” Gordon said.

“There are more men in prison than in college,” he said. “And when you look at the fact that millions of those men in prison are African American, we believe Scouting is an opportunity for our church to instill Christian values in young men.”

A rare distinction

Becoming an Eagle Scout requires 21 mandatory merit badges, community service, troop leadership and a service project.

The Scout must successfully complete this work prior to his 18th birthday to become an Eagle, something achieved by just 2 percent of Scouts worldwide.

The dozen new Troop 914 Eagle Scouts are: Davion West, 13; Dillon Kennedy, 13; Darrell Forest, 15; Lapone Finley, 15; Hunter Kennedy, 15; Walter Munnings, 15; Jordan McRae, 16; Matthew Lloyd, 16; Malcolm Luster, 16; William Edwards, 16; Martin Grey-Blake, 18; and Donald Erick Thomas, 18.  

Earnest Lloyd places the Eagle pin on the pocket of his son, Matthew Lloyd.
Earnest Lloyd places the Eagle pin on the pocket of his son, Matthew Lloyd.
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“This is an extraordinary accomplishment for any troop: 12 Eagle Scouts,” said Larry W. Coppock, national director of Scouting Ministries for The United Methodist Church in Nashville.

“For all 12 to be from one ethnic group is noteworthy, and very rare indeed.”

A church commitment

He heaped praise not just on the boys, but also on the church and its successful outreach.

“What a testament to the troop’s sponsor, St. Luke ‘Community’ United Methodist Church, as well as the parents and leaders who provided inspiration and support,” Coppock said.

“This also underscores the efforts of our Office of Scouting Ministry, General Commission on United Methodist Men, to promote Scouting as an intentional outreach ministry to local churches. St. Luke continues to be a leader in ministry to youth through Scouting.”

Veteran Eagle Scout Cochran praised Allen Avery, head Scoutmaster and founder; and Scoutmasters SanSalvador Edwards and Keith Kennedy.

“When we started this troop in 1996 we had six Scouts, two tents, and one piece of outdoor cooking equipment. And now Troop 914 has 12 new Eagle Scouts, 40 Eagle Scouts in total, and 60 Scouts in the troop overall,” Cochran said.

New Eagle Scout William Edwards places the Eagle father’s pin on the shirt of his dad, Assistant Scoutmaster San Salvador Edwards, as mother Vanessa Williams watches.
New Eagle Scout William Edwards places the Eagle father’s pin on the shirt of his dad, Assistant Scoutmaster San Salvador Edwards, as mother Vanessa Williams watches.
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“I love that our troop has overcome so many obstacles, traveled to so many places, seen so many things, met so many great people, and accomplished so much, because many people never thought that an African-American troop could do all of these things.

“Another thing I love about our troop is that we are a color-blind troop. We accept boys of any race…boys of different ages, political views, backgrounds, lifestyles and more. None of that matters because we are all men.” Cochran said.

Family connection

Scoutmaster Kennedy had extra reason to celebrate. Two of the 12 new Eagles are his own sons, Dillon and Hunter.

The scope of his sons’ projects demonstrates the efforts of the new Eagles in general.

Eighth-grader Dillon’s registered 70 people as bone marrow and organ donors.

Tenth-grader Hunter collected approximately 1,000 items from which to make 200 “Kids Kits for Haiti,” gallon-size zip-locked bags that each contained a small ball, fruit rollups, a teddy bear and a coloring book.

The Scoutmaster also thanked his wife, Dr. Lisa Taylor-Kennedy, for her efforts and encouragement toward the landmark celebration which, by the way, was noted in letters of congratulations from President Barack Obama and members of his cabinet, as well as Vice President Joe Biden, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and dignitaries worldwide.

New Eagle Scout Walter Munnings (center) shares a joyful moment with Scoutmaster Keith Kennedy (left) and Texas Sen. Royce West.
New Eagle Scout Walter Munnings (center) shares a joyful moment with Scoutmaster Keith Kennedy (left) and Texas Sen. Royce West.

Kennedy said this is a big step toward lives of success.

“I know that by being an Eagle Scout, it will follow [these young men] for the rest of their lives,” he said. “They become great leaders. Scouting is an opportunity to grow as a man.”

Cochran, the “old man” among Troop 914’s Eagles, revisited the historic nature of the accomplishment.

“In case you haven’t noticed, we are breaking barriers,” he said. “Our gender, ethnicity, and age range all put together, is an endangered status, if you know what I mean.

“And we are going against all the odds. Only 2 percent of Scouts become Eagle, but at the rate we’re going, 100 percent of Troop 914 Scouts at St. Luke are becoming Eagle. …

“We are brothers bonded together forever.”

*Stovall is a freelance writer in Dallas.

News media contact: Tim Tanton and Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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