MU student to present Boy Scouts national report in Washington

Monday, March 2, 2009 | 4:45 p.m. CST

COLUMBIA — MU sophomore and Eagle Scout Jack O'Neill will present the Boy Scouts of America's annual Report to the Nation this week in Washington, D.C.

The report – presented before members of the U.S. Congress and possibly President Barack Obama – highlights the Boy Scouts' yearly achievements, including advancements in Scouting initiatives that address conservation, healthy living, national service and community involvement, according to a BSA National Council press release.

"It's definitely a privilege and honor to serve," O'Neill said.

O'Neill, along with colleague Amanda Vogt, represent the Greater St. Louis Area Council. This is the first time two youths from the same council were selected as part of the seven-person delegation presenting the report and the first time a national chief out of the St. Louis region has been selected.

In December, O'Neill was elected national chief of the Order of the Arrow, Scouting's national honor society, at a BSA meeting in Dallas. He also serves on the BSA executive board and is a Vigil Honor member.

"I had no idea it was such a big thing," said Susan O'Neill, Jack's mother. "It's still sinking in, how big of an honor this is to be selected for national chief."

O'Neill first got involved with Scouting as a Cub Scout when he was in first grade. From there, he moved up to eventually become a Boy Scout and later an Eagle Scout.

"I knew there were some leadership qualities there," said Dave Schaefer, O'Neill's Scoutmaster. "There were two Scouts within the first month of meeting that I knew would succeed. He was the first of those two."

Schaefer discovered the news of the national chief election through Facebook and immediately shared the news with the rest of O'Neill's troop.

"Everybody at the council was just glowing," Susan O'Neill said.

O'Neill's troop held a small celebration and surprised him with a gift. Schaefer said that despite the "celebrity" attention, O'Neill still spent most of his time with the younger boys of the troop.

"He took the focus off himself to talk to the younger boys," Schaefer said. "He's the perfect role model for the younger guys."

In addition to presenting the report, O'Neill and his six colleagues will meet with members of Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Pentagon and tour other historic sites throughout Washington. O'Neill said he's looking forward to the opportunity to meet dignitaries and different people from all over the country.

"It's really all about the people," said O'Neill.

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