- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
If there is one personality trait that is evident in Andrew Bonney, it’s that the 13-year-old is driven.
When he puts his mind to something, it’s best to get out of his way.
“He is very persistent,” said his mother, Georgia of her fifth child out of 14. “But in a very optimistic way.”
Andrew, who moved to La Plata a few months ago from the east African country of Tanzania (one of the many locations his father, Philip, a Sub-Saharan Africa foreign area officer with the U.S. Army, has been stationed) earned the rank of Eagle Scout — he built shelves and a locker a chapel on Post Caserma Ederle in Vicenza, Italy — while attaining all 130 Merit Badges of the Boy Scouts of America program.
And he did it in about two and a half years. By the time he was 13. Living mostly in Northern Italy and Africa. Keeping up on his school work. Having two older brothers, John, 18, and Benjamin, 15, (and his father and uncle) who are also Eagle Scouts. And likely he did it with his characteristic excitement.
“It was really fun,” he said. “Doing something in the field was so much cooler ... it’s more fun to see stuff than just reading about it.”
Only 5 percent of Scouts in the country earn the rank of Eagle, and of those less than half of 1 percent score every merit badge, according to information provided by the Boy Scouts of America, National Capital Area Council.
He is the youngest in the council to earn all 130 and the council believes that Andrew is one of the youngest in the nation to ever achieve the feat.
“As Andrew demonstrates, ‘Be Prepared,’ means more than knowing what to do if you get lost in the woods,” said Jeff Agnew, a spokesman for the council.
Because he is home-schooled, and he had all his studies done by the end of the week, Andrew was given “free range” to tackle as many merit badges as he could and in doing so, Georgia believes that he gained maturity and confidence by jumping in and taking control of reaching his goal.
“It forces him to be out there with adults,” she said. “He had to work and develop a huge sense of responsibility.”
It is a time-consuming process. For each badge there are several requirements and a counselor has to be tracked down to teach the subject to the Scout.
Each subject — ranging from insect studies to astronomy, to pottery to Indian lore — probably takes about eight to 10 hours to complete.
On average, Andrew was earning four badges a month, the council estimates.
If he were in the States, Andrew could go online and find a counselor who is signed up through the Boy Scouts of America. Being overseas, Andrew had to look through the Yellow Pages or find someone on the Army base who could help him.
He Skyped with a guy in Utah about railroading.
Recalling it, Andrew gets a vaguely 1,000-yard stare, “Six hours straight ...,” talking about railroads, he said, while Georgia stifles a giggle.
He wrangled family in too. Reluctantly, his oldest sister, Sarah, 19, helped him earn the American heritage badge.
“It was ... OK,” Andrew said diplomatically.
His grandfather, Fred Bonney of Utah, helped him with the truck transportation, plumbing and automotive maintenance badges, while his grandmother in California, Nancy Ypma, who is an IRS agent counseled him through earning the personal management badge and the dog care one.
His dad helped with the pioneering badge and wedged his 6-foot 5-inch frame into a tiny kayak when it came time for Andrew to tackle the kayaking merit badge.
Globetrotting with the family allowed Andrew to earn his hiking badge by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with his father, grandfather, brothers, Benjamin and James, 11, and sister, Elizabeth, 16.
The horseman badge was gained on the beaches of the Indian Ocean and the small boat sailing badge at Lake Garda in Italy.
If he had to choose, the medicine badge was his favorite and the most interesting.
He has a goal of becoming a pediatrician, and shadowing a doctor for hours only stoked the fire.
When it came to the least favorites, it was probably a tie between home repairs and golf.
While golf was one of his least favorite, it was one of Benjamin’s favorites. Benjamin earned 106 badges before he stopped.
“Life got in the way,” he said, taking a break from doing yard work at the family’s La Plata home under the watchful eye of little sister, Abigail, 7. John, 18, like Sarah, is a student at Brigham Young University in Utah. He earned 80 badges before he stopped, Georgia said.
Some guys just burn out, she said and other concerns, like preparing for college, take center stage.
The family — Sarah, John, Elizabeth, Benjamin, Andrew, Eve, 12, James, twins Miriam and Anna, 9, twins Rebekah and Joseph, 8, Abigail, Esther and Peter, both 6 — have several interests.
James and Joseph are also Boy Scouts and if Georgia had to guess, Joseph, could very well be her next Eagle Scout to earn all of the merit badges, while James is much more of a naturalist. The girls, who are old enough, are part of the Young Women program through the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in White Plains.
It is at the church where Andrew is senior patrol leader of Troop 921 and helps out with the Scouting program and continues to strive to earn Scouting honors including the Supernova Award, which focuses on the fields of science, technology, engineering and math and the William T. Hornaday award, which encourages efforts in environmental conservation and protection.
“He came in a couple of months ago with such organization and skills,” said Scoutmaster Rob Walker. “I was in awe of him.”
Andrew sets goals and meets them.
“If I other people can do it,” he said. “I can do it too.”