When Ryan Niederschulte was asked to step forward during the County Legislature's July 28 meeting, his appearance sparked murmurs befitting the entry of a surprise witness in a classic Perry Mason episode. Perhaps, it is only fitting that the setting was the Eastern Jackson County Courthouse's legislative chamber, which also doubles as a courtroom.
Among the oohs and awes, one Legislator asked, "How old is he?"
Another guessed, "Only 12, maybe."
County Legislator Bob Spence (6th District) let out a "wow" as he observed in amazement, "Look at all of those merit badges."
Ryan was called before the Legislature so that Jackson County could pass Resolution No. 18573 formally congratulating him for recently achieving the highest rank attainable in Scouting. While any boy becoming an Eagle Scout would naturally have to be young, few are this young.
According to the Boy Scouts of America, the average new Eagle Scout is 17, a young man who within a year or two will be graduating from high school. At just 13, Ryan will in a few days begin the seventh grade at Grain Valley South Middle School.
Jackson County Executive Mike Sanders also applauded Ryan's achievement.
"Resolutions honoring the achievements of our young people are among the best parts of being a county official," County Executive Sanders said. "Only one in about 14 Boy Scouts ever become an Eagle Scout, so every Eagle Scout is pretty exceptional.
"For Ryan to reach that rank so young is exceedingly rare."
From Cub Scout To Eagle In 7 Years
Ryan, son of Larry and Nancy Niederschulte, joined Cub Scout Pack 306 in 2007. Now with Grain Valley Boy Scout Troop 310, he has held several leadership positions, including Patrol Scribe, Troop Librarian and Den Chief.
"I've never seen anybody go from Cub Scout to Eagle Scout so quickly," stated County Legislative Chairman Scott Burnett (1st District).
Since becoming a Troop 310 member Ryan has earned the God and Church Religious Award, the BSA Kayaking Award, the World Conservation Award, the Recruiter Strip and 90 merit badges. While attending the Boy Scout summer camping program at H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation the last two years, Ryan became the only scout in his session to complete all six handicraft merit badges and was recognized by camp staff as the Piercing Arrow Camper of the session.
Ryan has also volunteered more than 57 hours for Harvester's, the Community Blood Center, Scouting for Food and the Blue Springs Christian Church, where he packed school lunches.
For his Eagle Scout project, he planned and then directed the construction of bluebird nesting boxes to be installed at Blue Springs Lake.
After Legislator Dan Tarwater (4th District) read the resolution, Ryan had just a few words to say: "I'd like to thank my parents for helping me."
IN RARE COMPANY
The qualifications for becoming an Eagle Scout are daunting:
Rising through the ranks, starting as a "Tenderfoot"
Earning 21 merit badges in areas ranging from "Lifesaving" to "Citizenship in the World"
Developing a service project
Being in a troop leadership position for a minimum of six months
Undergoing an Eagle Scout Board of Review
Now that he is an Eagle Scout, Ryan Niederschulte finds himself in rare company. The 13-year-old Grain Valley seventh grader is among the less than 7 percent of Boy Scouts who achieve the highest rank attainable in Scouting.
Eagle Scouts have a record of going on to soar later in life.
Several have risen through the ranks in the military to become admirals and generals. Dozens more have been elected governors and Congressmen. One served in the Oval Office -- President Gerald Ford -- while another, Stephen Breyer, has been a Supreme Court justice since 1994.
None flew higher -- literally -- than the Eagle Scouts who became Apollo astronauts. Of the 12 men who walked on the moon, 11 were Eagle Scouts, including the first, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong.