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New Eagle initiated by old hand

WORTHINGTON -- Honor, loyalty, courage and service.

When David Sorensen received his Eagle Scout merit badge in a traditional Boy Scout Court of Honor ceremony last week at the "Scout shack" in Chautauqua Park, he pledged to strive for those four qualities.

The most intimidating part of achieving the highest rank conferred by Boy Scouts of America, however, might have been the knowledge that, from now on, Sorensen would be a walking example of the kind of behavior people expect of an Eagle Scout.

"You are a marked man," assured James Harris, Troop 121 Scoutmaster. "The Eagle Scout rank and badge are the reward for work you've done, but they set you up for a standard you have to maintain for the rest of your life."

Indeed, only a fraction of those nationally who enroll as Boy Scouts in fifth grade manage to become Eagle Scouts by age 18. Pat Morphew, representing Troop 121's sponsoring organization, the Noon Kiwanis Club, detailed what becomes of every 100 boys who start the program.

"Six of 100 Scouts will become pastors, one-half will serve in the military, at least one will save another person's life, 17 will become adult leaders -- and four of the 100 will achieve the rank of Eagle Scout," said Morphew.

Harris, a general surgeon at Avera Worthington Specialty Clinics for 28 years, has led Troop 121 since 1988 and was a Scout himself as a boy. Nevertheless, he did not achieve the Eagle Scout rank, so had high praise for the efforts put forth by Sorensen to seal the deal.

"I was too busy having fun," chuckled Harris. Harris' father became an Eagle Scout in 1927 and the red, white and blue badge -- representing courage, loyalty and honor, respectively -- was one of the "few things he kept until the day he died."

It was the youngest of Harris' three sons, Andrew, who followed in his grandfather's footsteps in becoming an Eagle Scout several years ago, although Andrew's two older brothers benefited from the many years they, too, spent in Boy Scouts.

"David (Sorensen) is the ninth Eagle Scout I've initiated in my 19 years as scoutmaster here," explained Harris.

On his journey to becoming an Eagle Scout, the 16-year-old Sorensen, son of Maureen and Grant Sorensen, completed a qualifying service project (painting the flagpole and fixing the sign in front of St. Mary's School) and earned badges in environmental science, personal management, citizenship, history, astronomy, geology and more.

The latter few badges were earned with instruction and assistance from local fossil specialist David B. Jones. Jones has received commendation for his paleontology work from Western Illinois University, among other institutions, and has supported area scouting efforts since a neighbor boy became interested in his fossil research in 1969.

"There's no way we can say enough about what David Jones has done for this organization," praised Harris. Sorensen invited Jones, a Troop 121 committee member, to speak at his Eagle Scout ceremony and publicly thanked Jones for teaching him "all about geology."

Jones, who for years has spent nine weeks of each summer -- including 2008 -- teaching his specialties to thousands of Boy Scouts at Lewis & Clark Scout Camp near Yankton, S.D., expressed his positive impressions of scouting.

"The middle name of this organization is 'teamwork,' and it's the three-way combination of effort between Scouts, adult leaders and parents that make it a success," advised Jones. "Being involved with Boy Scouts is better for me than anything I could get from a doctor's office or a drugstore.

"There's something in this organization for everyone," added Jones.

During the ceremony, Sorensen's fellow scouts, brother Matthew Sorensen and Aaron Grafing, lit a series of white candles and recited the Scout oath, which includes the point that "an Eagle Scout is courteous to others regardless of age or position."

Before the assembled guests gathered to participate in the Scout benediction and enjoy refreshments, a poignant moment occurred when Troop 134's committee chair Jacoba Nagel spoke about the hope parents share that scouting will help their boys grow in many ways.

Nagel's adult son, Carl, attained the Eagle Scout rank several years ago, and Nagel read a poem containing specific references for those with youths involved in Boy Scouts.

Recited Nagel, "Where has my baby boy gone? He went to be a Boy Scout, and he grew to be a man."

For more about Boy Scouts programs in Worthington, contact Maureen Sorensen at, or look for an informational flyer to be distributed to upper elementary students in schools this fall.