PUNXSUTAWNEY — When one of his close friends dropped out of Boy Scouts of America a few years ago, Christopher Mitchell didn't know if he would reach his Eagle Scout Court of Honor Ceremony.
Through perseverance and honor, Mitchell, a Punxsutawney Area High School senior, became one of more than two million young men to achieve the highest rank attainable in the boy scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America Sunday afternoon amongst family, friends, fellow scouts and local dignitaries at the Woodland Avenue United Methodist Church.
"It means quite a lot to me. I've put in a lot of effort over the years," Mitchell said upon receiving his Eagle Scout medal and badge Sunday. "I've watched a lot of older scouts achieve this rank before me, and I hoped to make it as far as they did. I'm glad that I finally did."
Mitchell, a son of Ed and Sue Mitchell, looked up to the Boy Scout of America Troop 245's elder scouts, and they played a big part in his earning an Eagle Scout ranking Sunday.
"I hoped to make it this far. I didn't know if I would or not," Mitchell said. "The older scouts helped me out and got me most of the ranks I needed."
Local dignitaries honored Mitchell with special commendations. Paul Corbin, chairman of Jefferson County Commissioners; Carl Gotwald Sr., Jefferson County sheriff; and state Rep. Sam Smith, speaker of the Pennsylvania House, each were in attendance to provide Mitchell with certificates from their respective positions in the community.
Mitchell also received certificates from the national chief scout executive, state Sen. Joe Scarnati, Gov. Tom Corbett and the office of Vice-President Joe Biden, each of whom could not attend the ceremony.
Mitchell's path toward becoming an Eagle Scout started in 2003. His trail toward earning Eagle Scout status went from Tenderfoot in May 2005, Second Class in September 2005, First Class in June 2006, Star in April 2008 and Life in July 2010. He was also an Order of the Arrow member since 2006.
During his time with Boy Scouts, one of Mitchell's major contributions to the community was when he helped install a swing set at Camp Friendship in Reynoldsville.
Of the 120 merit badges available, 21 must be earned to qualify for Eagle Scout. Mitchell achieved 27 badges, and among his favorites that he acquired, the wilderness survival badge came with a memorable story.
When he and a couple other scouts created a shelter out of tree limbs and twine, they had to sleep under it overnight at a camp near Indiana to acquire the wilderness survival badge. They even created a special awning to cover the shelter, and Mitchell was on the positive end of a rainy night.
"The other two slept inside, and I slept toward the outside of it," Mitchell said. "Well, it down poured that night, and they got completely drenched, and I was somehow dry. It just really shocked me."
Upon graduation from high school, Mitchell has plans to join the Marines. He said that he will be able to use many of the leadership skills he gained through Boy Scouts in the Marines.
"You have to actually put in the effort to get this far. There are a couple that are going to fall short because they didn't do anything in their earlier years. That's when you really need to put (the effort) in before you run out of time," Mitchell said. "I'm definitely glad I put in the effort to achieve this. It's definitely worth it."