Thank you to the Shelbyville News for use of this article.
Seventeen-year-old Mikey Lay is just one step away from achieving his lifelong goal to soar at new heights for the rest of his life, heights that thousands have experienced before him by attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.
The honor of Eagle Scout is the highest rank achievable in the youth programming of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
More than two million young men have earned the Eagle rank since its introduction in 1912, according to Boy Scouts of America (BSA). Current statistics documented by BSA, which is defined as one of the largest youth organizations in the United States, show 51,820 scouts earned the Eagle Scout rank in 2014 alone.
So far this year, the Crossroads of America Council headquartered in Indianapolis has 207 scouts who have earned the rank of Eagle Scout, according to Margo Purdy, assistant registrar and Eagle processor for the Council. Twenty-two other scouts are involved in one of the competition stages, well on their way to achieving the rank. Shelby County Boy Scout Troops are included in the Crossroads Council that serves the youth and adult volunteers in 25 counties in central Indiana.
Lay, a member of Troop 203 chartered at St. Joseph Catholic Church, started his journey into scouting when he was in first grade at St. Joseph Catholic School in Shelbyville. When he passed from one grade to the next, Lay also advanced through each stage of Cub Scouts, which paved his way to Boy Scouts.
In Boy Scouts, Lay refined leadership skills when moving through five ranks of advancement along the trail to Eagle – Tenderfoot, Second Class, First Class, Star, Life – each requiring the scout to be proficient in a number of specific skills before moving forward. Skills are acquired through a step-by-step organized approach that involves merit badge work designed so scouts can explore new interests and learn life skills. Lay earned the 21 merit badges required in the quest to the Eagle Scout rank in addition to two others of his choice.
As outlined in the Boy Scout Handbook, a Boy Scout must complete requirements in the area of leadership, service, and outdoor skills, and demonstrate proficiency in these areas while on the trail to Eagle Scout.
They must also plan, develop, and give leadership to others in a service project to benefit an organization other than Boy Scouting in the scout’s community.
Lay chose the Shelbyville Knights of Columbus, Sacred Heart Council #822, for his project.
“I decided to build the playground because I spent a lot of time at the Knights of Columbus with my family while growing up and always wanted a better place to play,” he said.
Smiling at memories, his grandfather, Steve Lancaster, said Mikey and his cousins or friends would run through the hallways of the K of C Hall.
A wooden border secures the play area located behind the building at 413 E. South St. The play set includes a tower, slide, swings and rock climbing wall. Knowing that he is leaving “the kids in the community a safe place to play” was Lay’s favorite part of the project.
The most challenging part, he said, was leading a group of mostly adults “that have much more experience than me.” They used the power tools because BSA policy prohibits use of power tools by scouts younger than 18.
“When projects like this take place, many people want to be in charge at one time, so I will have to be able to take the lead,” he said.
Through the planning phase of his project, Lay said he became comfortable speaking to adults, and business people, especially by phone.
“I learned that many people and businesses in the Shelbyville community are generous in helping their community and also supporting those who are doing good for our community,” he said. “I received special support from the Knights of Columbus, Builders Lumber, and Mathies Landscaping.”
Throughout his scouting years, Lay, an eleventh grader at Shelbyville High School, said he has learned one of the biggest skills needed in adult life – leadership. Scouting, according to Lay, has helped prepare him for his future plans in the military, especially as a leader.
“I plan on going to one of the military academies or Xavier University with a ROTC scholarship” he said. “I plan on joining the Navy or the Army afterwards.”
Being an Eagle Scout is a lifestyle. “In my career, I will be recognized as someone who knows how to plan things out; someone who knows how to survive; someone who can communicate with others and someone who has confidence, and someone with public speaking skills, knowledge of technology, and you make connections,” he said.
Now that the project is completed, Lay’s documented work will be reviewed by the Boy Scouts Council’s advancement committee to insure it merits the stamp of approval for Lay to receive the rank of Eagle Scout. All of this must be completed before he reaches his 18th birthday.
Upon approval, Lay will join his grandfather, Steve Lancaster, and both uncles, Pat and Nick Lancaster, as an Eagle Scout.
Careers in the military are also deeply rooted in Lay’s family. His parents, Jeff Lay and Polly Lancaster, were in the military along with an uncle, a cousin, and grandfather, Steve Lancaster, who retired as a Colonel after 28-plus years service as a U.S. Army Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer.
Photo Caption: Prospective Eagle Scout Mikey Lay, center, worked with his grandfather, Steve Lancaster, left, and Shelbyville High School classmate Landon Watson, right, to install a wooden border to secure a play area located behind the Knights of Columbus building in Shelbyville.