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Oak Hills boy earns Eagle Scout at 13

by: Jessie Kirk, T.J. LaGrow was honored Monday at a ceremony Monday night for reaching the highest achievement in Boy Scouts.

T.J. LaGrow is a little ahead of the curve.

The Oak Hills seventh-grader became a black belt in Taekwondo when he was 8, is currently enrolled in three high school classes, and this week he earned the rank of Eagle through Boy Scouts.

An Eagle Scout is a performance-based achievement and is the highest award one can earn in Boy Scouts. It's typically one of the last things a boy does in his scouting career, but for LaGrow, it was simply the next item on his to-do list of accomplishments.

'It was just a thing I wanted to do,' he said.

Inspired by his Taekwondo instructor, who also was a Boy Scout who earned his Eagle at a young age, LaGrow set out to finish his before his 14th birthday.

'I wanted to get it as soon as possible,' LaGrow said. 'I was shooting for 13 because that's very young - it's pretty hard to do this.'

His family knew that if that was what he wanted, he would get there.

'T.J. is very motivated,' said his father, Daniel. 'He likes finishing things.'

Only two percent of Boy Scouts ever make it to the Eagle rank. When LaGrow earned Boy Scout's top honor at Troop 728's Court of Honor ceremony Monday night, he joined the 1.7 million Boy Scouts who have earned their Eagle since its inception in 1911.

'He's a great Scout - he's very ambitious,' said the Troop Committee's Chairman Tom Holt. 'He's one of the youngest Eagles we've had in quite some time. He was just determined to get out and do it.'

Becoming an Eagle

To earn an Eagle, a boy must earn 21 merit badges, take part in a Scoutmaster conference, organize and execute a major community service project and complete an Eagle Scout board of review. Each requirement has specific regulations and an amount of time associated with it. To earn an Eagle at 13, each task must be completed in the minimum amount of time possible.

'An Eagle Scout is an amazing accomplishment for an 18-year-old boy,' Daniel LaGrow said.

During his journey to become an Eagle, LaGrow wrote a regular newsletter, learned about stocks and investing, took a 50-mile bike ride and ultimately organized a major coat drive for Transition Projects Inc., an organization that helps people transition from homelessness to housing.

The community service project part of the requirement is designed to teach the boys how to be a leader. The project isn't about doing all the work; it's about organizing a project and leading it to fruition.

'You have to think on your feet,' LaGrow said of the leadership experience. 'Anything that goes wrong, you have to fix it.'

LaGrow and his team collected 185 coats, many donated from Oak Hills neighbors, through a three-day coat drive in November, just in time for the coldest winter months.

The project was the biggest event LaGrow had ever led, but community service is nothing new to the scout - his troop rakes leaves at Oak Hills Church, has done plantings at Oak Hills Elementary and regularly performs flag ceremonies at places like local retirement homes and at the state capitol.

Troop 728 Scoutmaster John Andersen said that service, mentoring and working together are some of the most important lessons of being a Boy Scout.

'Boy Scouting is really about service…. When it's done in its purest sense, it involves mentoring - giving to someone younger with no apparent reward - but doing it out of love and out of commitment and passion,' Andersen said. '…It is a real unusual thing to see a boy like T.J. at his age who already grasps the concept.'

Next steps

Between scouting, martial arts, football and school, LaGrow admittedly doesn't get a lot of downtime, but when he does he enjoys snowboarding and watching TV shows like 'Myth Busters' and 'Survivor Man.'

Despite having already reached the highest level of Boy Scouting, LaGrow said he has no intention of stopping now. He will continue to take a leadership role in his group and hopes to take part in adventure scouting soon. Though the frantic pace should calm down now that the biggest goal is behind him.

'Now I get to just hang out,' he said.

Though, he probably won't hang out. LaGrow goes after what he wants and in the future he is setting his career goals high.

'I'm shooting to work for the company that overthrows Google,' he said.