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|August 4, 2000|
Eagles in the troop
Sriharsha Mandava wants to be a business entrepreneur. Vinay Shah is going to study bioengineering and genetics. Aditya Rajpal knows he still has time to choose a career. These are the three teenagers who were recently installed in the Eagle Scout Rank, the highest honour in the Boy Scouts of America.
Rajpal and Mandava, both of Troy, Michigan, and Shah of Poughkeepsie, received the honours in ceremonies in their cities. All three will be 12th grade students in September.
"This rank sums up all my experiences and work I have put in," said Rajpal, who has been a Boy Scout since he was in the second grade and became a member for the "fun," "friends" and "learning".
"I feel proud and I feel like I can do anything as long as I put my mind to it," said Mandava. He joined the Boy Scouts in fourth grade because he wanted to "go camping, canoeing and shoot archery".
"When I first heard of the Eagle Rank, I never thought I would be able to make it. I thought very few people would make it," said Shah, who was a Boy Scout in the first grade and was excited about the craft projects and small hikes.
"Achieving this rank made me realise that if I set my goals and have a plan, I can achieve it. So I think that I can use this as an example for myself to achieve other bigger goals later in life," he says.
Boy Scouts range in age between 11 and 17. They join the junior Tiger Scouts before graduating to the bigger rank. To achieve the Eagle Scout, a member must earn at least 21 merit badges out of the 100 available and have finished a community project.
Mandava is a student at Troy High School and his project was collecting foreign-language books for the Detroit Public Library's International Language Collection. He got 135 books in 12 languages. He is a member of the National Honour Society, plays football and takes part in track and field events.
Shah enlisted the assistance of 30 people to build a storage shed for his local Hindu temple. Shah, who studies at Spackenhill High School, will soon be secretary of the Teen Group at the temple.
Rajpal wanted to build shelves for the science department of his school International Academy and collected cans to raise $ 300 with 10 other Scouts. He also plays the tabla and the saxophone for the school band and is stage manager for the school's drama club.
But the three say that while honours are gratifying, they joined the Scouts for the values they incorporate into their lifestyle.
"The elements of the Scout Law can make almost anyone a better person. Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. These elements will always show through with time in Scouts. It's a way of life," Rajpal said.
"They taught me to have pride, morals and other values," said Mandava.
And for Shah, being a Scout has reinforced values, but has also given him the "ability to communicate with people, work as a team and handle difficult situations".
Being children of immigrants allows them to bring cultural diversity, but organisations like these teach them about American history and culture. For instance, the survival skills that the Pilgrims and the Red Indians needed. They say they treasure the experiences they have accumulated.
Their parents Swarn and Anita Rajpal, Shailesh and Nayana Shah and Prasad and Aruna Mandava immigrated from India in the early eighties.
"I participated in a challenging backpacking trek in New Mexico for two weeks in the mountains. More than 50 miles were covered in the forests, deserts, and meadows far from all civilization," said Rajpal.
Mandava remembers "building a tent out of the snow to sleep in to win a polar bear badge." And Shah remembers "camping in the middle of winter when it was almost negative 15 degrees F outside and it was snowing at the same time." All wish to be role models to inspire other youngsters to join the Boy Scouts.
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