Ketchikan High School Class of 2021 graduate Robert Cope-Powell set a goal to obtain one rank in the Boy Scouts of America program each year.
This year, he reached that goal, obtaining the highest BSA rank — Eagle Scout — after completing the task of designing and completing a community project to earn the distinguished rank.
Online BSA information states that the Eagle Scout rank is the highest rank that a scout can achieve in the program, and that an estimated 2.25 million scouts have reached the rank since the program began in 1912. Several requirements must be met in order to earn the rank, including designing, funding and producing a project that benefits your community.
Cope-Powell, a member of the local Troop 4, spoke with the Daily News via phone on Tuesday morning about his project: organizing and designing a virtual show of live performers mimicking the style of Ketchikan's beloved Monthly Grind, which hasn't taken place since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. The show was played on KRBD and also made available to residents at the Ketchikan Pioneer Home this fall.
Cope-Powell has been involved in the Boy Scouts of America program since third or fourth grade, when he was a bear rank scout.
"And I pretty much continued it up until my 18th birthday, and climbing on past it," he said, noting that he is starting his college education this year.
His parents were the first to encourage Cope-Powell to set his sights on becoming an Eagle Scout.
"And then after I got to the second or third rank up, I would say second class or first class, I promised myself a rank a year," he explained. "And I started going a rank a year, which requires merit badges. ... And after I got the star rank, which is the third to last rank — it goes in order of scout, tenderfoot, second class, first class, star, life and eagle — after I was star, I realized, 'I can do this, I can push myself to get it.'"
Cope-Powell continued, "And then I got the life (rank) the next year. And then senior year came up and I had to kind of rush to the end. And that summer, I had to rush and had to get my eagle paperwork and everything in."
For his Eagle Scout project, Cope-Powell had considered designing a bench for the community, as well as organizing volunteer projects, but ultimately settled on organizing and filming a virtual musical performance.
"I like to call it a virtual grind, because that's what I used to base off of the project, is how it was organized," he explained. "The grind organizers helped me a lot for this. I organized a show that was going to be put onto the Pioneer Home and then onto KRBD."
Cope-Powell, who had experience in Kayhi's band during his school career, said he had participated in the Monthly Grind in years past and enjoyed the experience.
Developing the plans for the project took a lot of organization to recruit performers, find a space to record the pieces and learn how to put it all together.
"But, I put together a show and I got the performers together," Cope-Powell said. "They were very, very kind and came in on Wednesdays in, I believe it was March or May of this past year."
With Felix Wong working as Cope-Powell's cameraman and the Creek Street Cabaret secured as the studio, all the performers independently filmed their pieces.
The virtual grind cast included Kayhi student Robert Yarobe; the trio of Kayhi graduates Henry Clark, Phillip Smith and Sarah Short; Cope-Powell's father, Sean Powell; local storyteller Jack Finnegan; and the Creek Street Cabaret's owner, Karl Richey.
Cope-Powell remarked that the most difficult part of creating the final product was getting everything lined up for the virtual grind, and "just trying to get everything to just go the best they could."
"And sometimes, there were plans that just kind of got tossed out the window," he added.
"I had to make sure people were available the days they were, just getting everything kind of worked together, I would say is the hardest part," he said. "It was definitely a far cry from the other ideas I had."
Cope-Powell officially received his rank this past Sunday during an event at Holy Name Catholic Church.
Reflecting on the journey to his new badge, Cope-Powell emphasized that his achievement was bigger than his new title.
"The rank itself is a very hard push," he commented. "But I'd say the experiences you get along the way is honestly what makes it a good thing in general. Like, the training that you get not only in the basics of how to live a life — like financials, social, just basic outdoors skills — also can help in further situations."
The experiences he collected while he passed through the scout ranks continue to affect his life moving forward.
"I will say this with experience, pushing through college, you find yourself sometimes just stuck," Cope-Powell explained. "But I've found that relying on my experiences and being like 'OK, I can do this,' and relating it to an experience I had, helps me think 'Yeah, I've done stuff this hard before I can push through.'"
He continued, "And the skills that the badge gives is not just intrinsically tied to the badge. It's also like how you put that badge together — did you get the merit badges, you got the basic required merit badges, but what other merit badges did you get? Like, what other experiences did you have that you can use in your life in general?"