Only 5-6% of those who join Boy Scouts will achieve Eagle Scouts. Valparaiso High School student Erik Schultz is eagerly awaiting word on whether his project has landed him in that elite group.
“If you put your mind to it, anything is possible,” Schultz said.
Schultz was an active member of the Cub Scouts, but when it came time to move on to Boy Scouts, he couldn’t find a local troop to join. Until five years ago. In 2014, a friend invited him to check out local Troop 995, and he’s been a member ever since.
The process to become an Eagle Scout is lengthy and exacting, which is why so few actually complete it. It takes determination, strength, and grit. To top it all off, candidates also must earn 21 merit badges, and organize and lead a service project, documenting time and steps along the way. It is a process that is not for the faint of heart.
Schultz began his Eagle Scout journey about 1 ½ years later than most scouts his age, but still had time to reach Life Scout level before submitting his Eagle Scout project. Before starting the project, Schultz first had to get approval from the Scout Troop Committee Chair, Council Approval Representative, Scout Unit Leader, and Beneficiary.
“I had to work efficiently and work in a quick manner,” Schultz said. “I wanted to show that you can join Boy Scouts at any age and still achieve Eagle Scout.”
Schultz’s Eagle Scout project was to build dog training texture stations and stair ramps to donate to Lakeshore Paws. Many animals that come to Lakeshore Paws have only lived outside and do not know how to react to different floor textures, like tile, wood, or carpet. The training texture stations will allow the volunteers at Lakeshore Paws to acclimate the dogs to those textures while the stair ramps also teach the dogs how to climb up and down stairs. This all will help the dogs so that they can go to, and stay in, happy new forever homes.
The idea for this project actually came from Audrey Rodriguez, volunteer at Lakeshore PAWS. Rodriquez mentioned the need for these stations to Schultz's mom, Mary Beth, who then passed the information on to her son. Schultz expanded on the idea and realized it would make a great service for his Eagle Scout project.
Schultz created a proposal for the project, which was then approved by the Scouts. Schultz was able to attain monetary support from Airport Road Dental Associates in Portage - Drs. Steven Holm and David Guzek to purchase the materials for stations. All that was left was to build the project. His father cut the wood, per Scout rules, and Schultz then led a team of fellow Scouts in assembling and painting the stations. Finally, Schultz presented the stations to Lakeshore Paws, who were more than happy to receive them.
Leadership is a common theme that runs through Schultz’s life. He is active with the Life Teen youth group at St. Paul Catholic Church, which has given him the opportunity to mentor younger kids in the program. It even took him to Kansas where he attended a leadership conference and enjoyed mingling with other like-minded teens.
“I liked meeting kids my own age from all over the states,” he said.
When he’s not leading his peers, Schultz likes to spend time fishing and boating with his family or watching sports. Schultz also plays trumpet with the band and jazz band at VHS. Not one to be idle, Schultz took initiative in 2018 to join and play with the Valparaiso University Community Band.
In addition, Schultz also managed the VHS JV baseball team.
“It was something different to do, and I think the people were really friendly,” he said.
Now a senior, Schultz is looking to the future and eagerly waiting for the approval of his Eagle Scout project. He hopes to attend either Purdue University or Ball State to achieve a Business Marketing Degree.
“I would encourage young boys to join the Scouts and see all that they have to offer,” he said.