n a historic ceremony Tuesday on the grounds of St. Michael Lutheran Church, Troop 158 held an Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony that celebrated the conclusion of the Trail to Eagle for siblings Fitz and Jack Cooper by officially elevating them to Eagle rank, the highest recognition in scouting.
Troop 158 Scoutmaster Al Cooper delivered the Eagle charge to his son and daughter.
The occasion was considered historic because Jack Cooper became the first female in the Blue Ridge Mountains Council to achieve Eagle rank after scouting’s national executive board in 2017 approved the welcoming of female youth into scouting and thereby changed the organization’s official name from Boy Scout of America (BSA) to Scouts of America. The decision was supported unanimously by the St. Michael Lutheran Church Council.
Moreover, Fitz and Jack Cooper may well be the first pair of siblings to achieve Eagle at the same time in Virginia and perhaps in the whole country.
As Ben Crawford, who has been a scout for 80 years, said to the crowd, to climb the advancement ladder to Eagle requires “years of performance-based achievements. . . . Those who earn Eagle are very special, the top of the top” since only 2.1 percent of the millions of scouts” across the country “achieve Eagle rank.” That “vast majority are nevertheless better persons for their scouting experience.”
To achieve Eagle status requires the earning of 21 merit badges and the completion of a major project that is of benefit to the community and/or a religious institution or church. Fitz’s project was the establishment of a 30-foot raised strawberry garden for Micah’s Garden at St. Michael. Micah’s Garden grows fresh produce for the Micah’s Caring Initiative, which focuses on feeding and clothing the community’s most vulnerable members.
Jack’s project was the construction of an expansion for a Blacksburg United Methodist Church preschool, which had to close because of the pandemic and needed to expand the outdoor playground center to reopen.
Special thanks were noted to Patricia Hutchinson and Boomer, Mike and Lyn Lenahan, and Linda and Peter Skornia for their financial support of the Coopers’ Eagle projects.
Jack Cooper is a founding member of Troop 158G and a member of the inaugural class of female Eagle scouts. She attended the 2017 Norwegian National Scout Jamboree and completed the 2021 Blue Ridge Mountains Council staff training program. She has served the troop as patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, and senior patrol leader.
Among his leadership roles, Fitz Cooper has served the troop as historian, patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader, and senior patrol leader. He attended the 2017 National Scout Jamboree and completed National Youth Leadership Training in 2018 and the 2019 National Advanced Youth Leadership Experience.
Noah Provenzano, a member of Troop 158, served as the ceremony’s emcee. It began with the presentation of the colors and an invocation by the Rev. Michelle Stramiello, pastor of St. Michael. Troop Scoutmaster Korey Mercier delivered the welcome speech.
Former troop advancement chair Dan Provenzano presented the Eagle awards to the Cooper siblings, who then made a few brief remarks with special attention paid to their parents, Al and Kristie Cooper, for their unwavering support on the scouts’ long and difficult journey. The duo also presented pins to their mentors with Jack singling out her mom.
Pastor Stramiello closed the ceremony with a benediction, which was followed by the retiring of the colors.