Standing next to the bleachers he helped build, James Hightower III recited the Scout Oath: “On my honor I will do my best, to do my duty to God and my country, and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight.”
His father, James Hightower II, tells TODAY’S TMJ4’s Jesse Ritka how much being in The Boy Scouts means to his family, “We believe in scouting. Where else can a young man, at the age of 10 or 11 start a oath by saying ‘on my honor’? It starts with saying ‘on my honor’ and those are very powerful words and words to live by.”
They’re words that the Glen Hills seventh-grader takes seriously. James joined the Boy Scouts when he was 8 years old and now he is the youngest African-American Eagle Scout in the country. An accomplishment the now 12-year-old is proud of.
“It’s awesome, it’s… I’ve impressed myself,” he said.
His mother Lucretia knew her son could accomplish anything he set his mind to, but she is impressed as well, “To know that he can kind of set that bar and achieved that goal and can be inspiring for others is awesome and to be the youngest African-American is indescribable, I’m still in awe.”
But it didn’t come without hard work, “I had to make a lot of sacrifices,” James said. “I couldn’t play video games because I focused on Boy Scouts.”
His sacrifices paid off, he earned the highest honor of Eagle Scout in two and a half years. “Once he sets a goal, he just goes for it,” James’ dad explains. But this honor is still remarkable to the Hightower family, “That really hasn’t sunk in because I still see my son, I still see a 12-year-old young man.”
But 12-year-old James did what only 7 percent of Boy Scouts do, five years younger than the average Eagle Scout. And he earned more than double the number of merit badges required of the rank, so many he can barely keep track of them all.
And after seeing the poor condition of the baseball benches at Kletzsch Park, James decided rebuilding them would be his Eagle Scout service project, “I did some fundraisers and me and my troop did all six bleachers.”
James’ father was impressed with his son’s drive, “He just took charge and went right to work. I’ll never forget the look in his eye, that he was a little nervous. He probably thought it was a little overwhelming but we just did it one day at a time.”
James can come back and see his handy work anytime. “A lot of times I see my friends over here and I say that I built them and then they just laugh and just chuckle,” he said. But scouting is a serious subject to James, he plans to use his experience to help others reach their goals. “When the times get hard to keep going… because in the end, it will really pay off,” he explains.
But James isn’t done setting his own goals, “He wants to already start earning more merit badges; his goal is to earn all 126 by his 18th birthday,” his mother said.
Then it will be time for him to start thinking about his career. He wants to be an attorney, which of course, was sparked by one of his merit badges.