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Merit badge goal leads to Eagle

Bram and his parents Janell and Tanner Lovelace are all involved in Scouting. Bram’s Court of Honor ceremony was held at Duke Chapel.
Bram and his parents Janell and Tanner Lovelace are all involved in Scouting. Bram’s Court of Honor ceremony was held at Duke Chapel. Photo courtesy Jonathan Danforth

When 15-year-old Bram Lovelace was in the fourth grade, a program at a Lowe’s store caught his eye. Kids could earn patches by building things. This is fun, he said. I want to do more of this.

“If you’re a Boy Scout, you can get all kinds of badges,” his dad told him.

And that was it. Bram joined the Boy Scouts and started earning merit badges. He got them in textiles and weather, in computers and dentistry, in genealogy and salesmanship; and, yes, he definitely got them in leatherworking, camping and first aid. All told, he ended up with 47 by the time he became an Eagle Scout in an Oct. 6 ceremony at Duke University Chapel, where his family belongs to the congregation.

The requirement for Eagle is 21.

“If there was a merit badge college, I would sign up for it,” Bram said. “I took most of the opportunities I could to get merit badges. I went to summer camps, not just to get merit badges, but also for the fun. I also got merit badges other places, like at Jamboree.”

Bram heard his troop, Durham’s Boy Scout Troop 451, was planning a trip through the contiguous United States – importantly, he learned that Eagle Scouts got a seat. He had almost as many merit badges as there were states on the trip, so he decided to go for Eagle.

More than badges

It takes more than a sash full of merit badges, though, Bram said. Scouts must progress through a number of other ranks first. There’s a required project and potential Eagles must meet with a board of review. And, importantly, they must internalize the principles of Scouting.

“You have to show that you can follow the Scout Oath and Law and do that in your daily life,” Bram said.

For his project, he built a medieval trebuchet, or catapult, for Durham’s South Regional Library. Bram spoke with the teen and children’s librarians, who both said they wanted something that would teach physics and history, but in the real world rather than on a computer screen. The trebuchet was their idea, so Bram found plans for one that could be disassembled for storage. He built it in January.

“He’s used to having random medieval garb and fencing stuff around the house,” his mother, Janell Lovelace, said. She and Bram’s dad were in a medieval re-enactment society before their son was born.

Medieval history is cool, sure, Bram says, but he also likes the physics aspect of the project. He has other interests, too, like robotics: he does CAD (computer-aided design) for a School of Science and Math robotics team.

Life skills

Beyond merit badges and projects, there’s a practical benefit to becoming an Eagle Scout. Janell Lovelace sits on boards of review, she said, made up of three adults who ask these teens questions about themselves.

“I have to think that Scouts who have gone through that process are going to be better and more comfortable at getting a job interview or a college scholarship interview,” she said. “There’s some real skills you learn.”

“I feel like I have to be more careful about how I act, which I think is a good thing,” Bram said.

The cross-country trip that inspired this Durham teen to go for Eagle fell through – at least on the troop level – so he and his mom took it instead. They traveled across the U.S., visiting Yosemite and Yellowstone but not making it to Glacier or the Florida Keys. Those were a little too far out of the way if they were going to make all 48.

“He earned it,” Janell said of their journey. “We decided we could make it happen.”

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