I vividly recall Matt Mitchell’s first visit to Troop 53 when he was a second-year Webelos Scout. I was helping with a relay game for our visitors – a game planned without any alternate plans for a Scout who might not be able to see detail – and as I was worrying whether we’d be able to successfully include Matt, this 10 year-old not only helped organize a couple of easy modifications, but kept the game fun for everyone else with his wisecracks, can-do attitude, and contagious smile. Needless to say, we’ve never “worried” about Matt’s disability in the several years since – we just make sure he’s in a position to use his exceptional abilities to help us all.
Matt’s ability to organize his thoughts and explain complex ideas were put to the test last Thursday evening, January 23, as he successfully passed his Eagle Scout Board of Review and – for about 9 minutes – was the newest Eagle Scout in the world.
Matt’s Scouting progress and his work through the various ranks has been thorough, precise, and timely – and he’s always been able to keep both his school and Scouting commitments in balance. In fact, “committed” and “balanced” are excellent ways to describe Matt Mitchell on any number of levels. I’ve seen him as an exceptional friend and resource for others who might be experiencing difficulties; Matt makes himself available (often sacrificing his own plans) and doesn’t count the cost. In addition, Matt’s maturity and good judgment are evident after a very short time – his balanced responses in a variety of situations always help others keep their focus and move to resolution quickly and effectively. He’s an excellent organizer and leads by his own example; once you’ve been taught how to tie a taut line hitch by Matt Mitchell, you never forget.
Matt’s a junior at the Kansas School for the Blind in Kansas City – he’s also their Student Council President. Although he’ll graduate in May of 2015, he hasn’t decided whether to move directly to college or take a transition year to help make decisions about where to attend and where he’ll focus his academic program. He told the Board of Review that he hopes to work with children with disabilities, possibly as a teacher, possibly as an advisor. Matt’s been on the KSB track team, competes in Forensics, and enjoys goal ball with friends. In the past, he worked part-time at Bradley Animal Hospital exercising and calming pets and serves as a volunteer mentor for young teens at Envision, Inc. in Wichita. He has helped with the Jubilee Kitchen in Lawrence and confesses to contributing to neighborhood noise playing drums in a garage band.
Matt’s been elected or appointed to just about every leadership position in Troop 53, but his “Sheepshank” nickname is most appropriate when he’s teaching a group of our younger Scouts the basics – and a few finer points – of knot tying. I wish you could see the faces of the boys in those sessions – he has their undivided attention while they all have a great time together. Matt knows the position of trust he holds as a member of the youth leadership and he was honored with Order of the Arrow election, currently active as a Brotherhood member of Tamegonit Lodge.
Matt’s a Camp Alexander veteran – navigating “Cardiac Hill” with skill and ease – and has been on staff at the Heart of America Rotary Camp for the past two summers, planning on more. He spent a good deal of time explaining his staff responsibilities at Rotary Camp for the Board of Review members; what an excellent example of servant-leadership – and no doubt the reason that he’s drawn to teaching or advising as a profession.
His Eagle Scout Service Project is collecting good turns right now. The pair of very sturdy tables which are prominent in the outdoor plaza at KSB were very well-received by the staff and students. We encouraged him to have a Braille and lettered plaque prepared so future students and teachers would know that Matt Mitchell “did his best” while he was a student there.
Honored to serve with John Harman, David and Jeanne Williams, and Rich Bailey on Matt’s Board of Review. Special thanks go to Steve Segebrecht as Matt’s Life-to-Eagle mentor – the smile never left Steve’s face as Matt began to describe all that Scouting had given to him. After a long and busy day, we all agreed that hearing Matt’s answers to some complex questions on important topics was exactly the tonic we needed. Many congratulations to my friend, Mr. Matt Mitchell – someday, maybe soon, I’m going to be able to say, “I knew him when … “ and that makes me smile.
Kip Grosshans – Chartered Organization Representative