Tom Gilbert has found himself among the elite ranks in the Boy Scouts of America. He is a part of the 4 percent of Scouts who achieved the rank of Eagle Scout and received the Vigil Honor from the Order of the Arrow – the highest honor the Order of the Arrow can bestow upon its members.
A Scout who wants to earn Eagle Scout needs to obtain at least 21 merit badges, some of which are mandatory. The necessary badges are: First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World, Communication, Cooking, Personal Fitness, Emergency Preparedness or Lifesaving, Environmental Science or Sustainability, Personal Management, Swimming or Hiking or Cycling, Camping and Family Life.
Of the 35 badges he earned, Citizenship in the Community was Gilbert’s favorite.
“I’m a big politics and government fan,” Gilbert said. “It was cool to learn; I had to send a letter to a congressman. I was 14 when I completed it, and I think it’s a big reason why I’m interested in government and policy. It jump-started my interest.”
In addition to the 21 merit badges a Scout needs to complete a project for the community when applying for the rank of Eagle Scout.
Gilbert added a 144 square-foot paver area, including two stone columns and a bench, at the Gloucester County Police Academy. The bench is inscribed with the academy motto “Education, Knowledge, Training.”
“I did it because my dad’s involved, he works for the county and used to be a state trooper,” Gilbert said. “I’m involved with the township’s police explorers, and I wanted to give back to law enforcement and recognize the officers who were killed in the line of duty.”
When completing the Eagle Scout project, Scouts are to solicit donations from the community – Gilbert kept it as local as he could noting Fazzio Concrete and Peter Lumber were two big supporters. EP Henry donated the pavers for the project.
Gilbert started Boy Scouts in 2012 at the age of 11, and said he joined because a friend was involved and he wanted to spend time with him. The past seven years have been filled with lessons learned and memories for Gilbert. One of his favorite memories was a trip to the Florida Keys in 2017.
“We did a bunch of kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding,” he recalled. “It was cool, it was a new experience.”
The biggest lesson Gilbert took from Scouts was perseverance. When he started Scouts, he wasn’t sure of the leadership opportunities that were at his fingertips.
“It’s good that I didn’t lose out when I was younger before I learned about the new opportunities,” he added.
Gilbert intends to put his Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation and Citizenship in the World badges to work next year as a freshman at Rutgers New Brunswick where he intends to study environmental policy.