and reaches the Eagle Scout rank!
Like most teenagers, Marshall Watts was looking forward to his 18th birthday.
But this year, Oct. 21 came with a deadline for a Boy Scout who had set his mind on achieving a rarely achieved goal.
Watts didn’t just want to make Eagle rank — he wanted to earn all 121 possible merit badges, 100 more than needed for advancement.
Official rules say that merit badges and advancement of rank may be earned until a Scout’s 18th birthday, so time was running out.
He earned most of his badges by participating in weekly meetings with Troop 1 and attending summer and winter camp Scouting programs. Beginning last summer, Watts said he had earned a little more than 60 badges and had almost decided that was good enough.
“Fortunately, my parents encouraged me,” he said.
That, coupled with favorite quotes from his role model, Gen. George S. Patton, began to inspire him.
“I kept thinking about the one, ‘Accept the challenges so you can feel the exhilaration of victory,’” he said.
“With eight weeks left, I had 33 badges left to complete. I had a whole list made and I divided up the merit badges. My goal was to finish four per week,” he explained.
During this time, Watts also had to complete his Eagle Scout project which involved helping to refurbish grave sites at Port Hudson National Cemetery.
“Patton said, ‘Pressure makes diamonds,’ ” said Watts.
A couple of badges, Aviation, American Business and Entrepreneurship sparked hobby and future career interests. Watts needs five more solo hours to finish his pilot’s license and upon completing the Entrepreneurship badge, he started a profitable pressure washing business. He is also in the final stages of starting his latest business venture, producing biodiesel fuel.
Scout officials say that attaining the rank of Eagle Scout is laudable, but earning all of the 121 possible merit badges makes him unique among his south Louisiana peers.
“Most Scouts who have earned their Eagle rank do so with a lot of prodding from their parents and Scout leaders and even then only earn the minimum 21 required badges plus a few other fun ones,” said Joe Farlow, director of programs for the Boy Scouts Istrouma Area Council. “He definitely overachieved.”
According to National Boy Scout statistics, only 4 percent of all Boy Scouts who participate in the program attain the rank of Eagle Scout, a number that has increased during the past few years.
Farlow said he thinks that Watts’ achievement is a first for this area.
None of the area Scout leaders were aware of a similar feat, “and there are people who have worked here for over 20 years,” Farlow said.
Watts said he decided he wanted to earn all the merit badges years ago after seeing an older Scout with a sash full. “At that time there were only 119.”
Throughout his high school career, in addition to Scouting, Watts has been a member of the football, soccer, tennis and track teams and participated in concert and jazz band.
“The discipline that this young man had to focus on completing the badge requirements is commendable,” Farlow said. “Some of the badge requirements take a couple of hours work; some take weeks and some take months.”
“Merit badges offer a variety of subject matter and career fields. He probably achieved much more than a normal high school education,” Farlow said.
Watts birthday also proved especially memorable.
A mayor’s proclamation decreed the day as “Marshall Henry Hays Watts’s day” in Baton Rouge. His family and friends attended a ceremony at First Presbyterian Church honoring him for achieving one of Boys Scouts highest ranks, Eagle Scout, and for the incredible feat of earning 121 merit badges.
Watts said he advises Scouts to continue to pursue as many badges as possible. “Everybody shoots for Eagle, but I think they should set higher goals.”
WOW! What an impressive accomplishment! This young man will go far in whatever career he chooses. Many of those merit badges are very hard to earn... believe me, I know. Seeing this makes me wish I would've stuck it out all the way to Eagle.