While only a small number of scouts attain the rank of Eagle Scout, three recent graduates who have done so all hail from the same small corner of Surry County, the Siloam township.
Samuel George, Carson Wilkins and Hugh Atkinson are among what the National Eagle Scout Association estimates as only 5 percent of all Boy Scouts to reach the highest level of scouting.
Siloam has a population of about 1,200 within about 20 square miles located at the southeastern end of the county.
That’s a pretty good concentration from one neighborhood of young people entering the adult world having already demonstrated the ability to accomplish adult-sized projects and a willingness to contribute to their community.
“It’s odd to me that there happen to be three of us graduating at the same time,” said Atkinson, a graduate of Surry Central High School. “I know a lot who have earned their Eagle Scout in the county, but I’m happy to know there are three from the community who have achieved that.”
Wilkins, who graduated from East Surry High School, agreed that the trend was notable.
“We have people from Pilot Mountain getting their Eagle Scout every year,” he said. For three to come out of Siloam, “is truly remarkable.”
The trio of now 18-year-olds each earned their Eagle Scout at different times.
George, who is also an East Surry graduate, was awarded the rank in February 2014, when he was only 15 years old.
“It was not easy,” he said. For his project, the key component in what is a lengthy process, George built and installed a flight of stairs leading to the attic in his church.
Two or three people had fallen from the existing stairway at First United Methodist Church.
With the help of his Troop 545 scout master, Donnie Diamott, a local contractor and a team of fellow scouts, George organized and led the project.
“I lived on a farm and knew how to work a hammer, but never anything that complex,” he said of the experience. The most challenging aspect was the paperwork involved with the Eagle Scout application.
“I was tempted to quit,” he said, but he didn’t. “I stuck with it and did my presentation.”
Wilkins had joined the scouting program as a 5-year-old, and kept his eye on becoming an Eagle Scout.
“It was a really good life goal for me to accomplish,” he said, which he did in March after completing a project of adding and renovating a campsite at Armfield Civic Center.
“The scouts really didn’t have a place to camp out,” in that area, Wilkins said. So he led a team that replaced the picnic tables, raised a flag pole and added a mini-camping area complete with a fire pit and lantern post.
The site also provided a location for local scouts to perform flag retirement ceremonies.
Assisted by scouts, Wilkins said “leading them to complete the project, that was an interesting task, trying to put thoughts into words like ‘this goes there, that goes there.”
Atkinson earned the rank in February 2015, having organized a project that raised a flag pole at his high school’s baseball field.
When the national anthem was played before sporting events, “someone was out there holding the flag,” which Atkinson found unsuitable.
When the pole was installed in time for the next baseball season, “pride is not a strong enough word,” he said.
“Being out there to see that 30-foot flagpole and to honor my country in that way was awesome.”
Atkinson had also “always wanted to be an Eagle Scout,” he said. “In all honesty, it sounded cool,” when he was younger.
“Once I was into scouting and learned more about what it meant,” he met actual Eagle Scouts who became his role models.
“I wanted to be like them.”
As the three young men transition to adulthood, each reflected on how their scouting experiences have positioned them.
“Scouting has given me tools to do things like an Eagle Scout project in the future,” said Atkinson. “It’s given me a set of character traits to live my life by.”
He has already left town to begin a summer internship with U.S. Fifth District Rep. Virginia Foxx and will attend George Washington University in the fall to study political science.
“I have no idea what my life would be like without scouts, but I feel it would be drastically different than it is today,” he said.
George, who will study mechanical engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte on an Army ROTC scholarship, said “Boy Scouts prepared me a lot more than I thought it would. The Eagle Scout has helped me tremendously.”
It helped him get a job, and with college applications.
But beyond that, “It’s continually helping me to overcome different things and set me apart from other people,” he said.
Wilkins is headed for Western Carolina University to earn a master’s degree in psychology.
“I think it really helped me learn responsibility for being a leader, all the work it takes, the dedication,” he said of earning the Eagle Scout rank. “It felt like a long road. I think it’ll make me strive to complete more goals and be a leader in those goals.”
Reach Terri Flagg at 415-4734.