Local Eagles fly

Two local young men earn the highest rank in scouting

By Elianne Frenkel-Popell, Portola Valley/Woodside BSA Troop 64

At twilight one crisp evening, Portola Valley witnessed an unusual sight: a gathering of 17 Eagles — some of whom started their journeys as far away as Japan and the Philippines, and others who were born right here in the Bay Area. These Eagles gathered at Troop 64's Eagle Court of Honor to welcome and honor Gregory Barth and Jeffrey Frenkel-Popell as they joined them as Eagle Scouts, the highest rank in scouting.

Among the 12 points of the scout law is that a scout must be "Friendly." Gregory has been living up to that code since he started in scouting as a cub scout. When he heard that his friend from Woodside was having trouble finding a troop to join, he immediately extended to Jeffrey an invitation to join his troop in Portola Valley, first as a Webelo and then as a scout.

For the next nine years, under the leadership of their scoutmasters Kirt Williams and Lance Vaughn, the two boys and their fellow Falcon patrol learned how to "Be Prepared" for all sorts of emergencies, and how to set up a camp and cook for themselves and their fellow scouts. They had a chance to be "Brave" as they rappelled into a cave, explored caverns and other wilderness locations in all kinds of weather, and slept in an ice cave they dug for themselves.

Over the years, scouting taught the boys leadership and speaking skills as they held different positions in the troop. At age 11, Jeffrey played his trombone at the Eagle Court of Honor for the outgoing troop bugler. He took over the role of bugler, demonstrating that he was "Trustworthy" by playing at almost every Eagle Court of Honor for the next seven years.

Music was a key component of Jeff's culminating Eagle Leadership and Service Project. This project is an opportunity for each scout to exercise his skills as he organizes and leads volunteers in a project that helps others.

Jeffrey chose to help the Peninsula Volunteers' Crane Place Apartments' elderly residents by bringing together musicians and other volunteers to present two concerts of classical and jazz music. He also led his troop in a CD collection drive so that they could create and donate a permanent music lending library (including a music player) for the residents to continue to enjoy.

Greg chose to focus on the opposite end of the age spectrum when he chose his Eagle project, which was to rebuild the wooden stairs on either side of the large double sliding board at the Ladera Community Church Preschool — the very slide he had played on in his own preschool years.

Greg recruited fellow scouts, high school friends, and parents to help in the project. He was mentored in the design and construction techniques by Troop 64 parent Phil Bourgeois. Greg was "Thrifty" and was able to bring his project in under budget, so he donated the extra funds he had raised to the preschool.

Portola Valley/Woodside Boy Scout Troop 64 has always been welcoming and inclusive, and emphasized that scouts must strive to be "Kind." The Boy Scouts of America has for years provided one of the nation's foremost youth programs for character development and values-based leadership training, and as of Feb.1 of this year, welcomes all kids from the ages of 7 to 17 to join as cub scouts or part of Scouts BSA, where boys and girls can try to earn all of the ranks up to Eagle.

Any interested parent with a child that age should check out Troop 64's website at for more information on summer camp and upcoming ceremonies, and to learn how to get involved.

The Merit Badge Program offers opportunities for scouts to learn life skills, how to be good citizens, and explore diverse fields. To earn the rank of Eagle, scouts must earn 21 merit badges, but both boys kept going, earning more merit badges. So when they became Eagle Scouts, Greg was awarded a Bronze Palm and Jeff a Gold Palm.

Greg is now a freshman studying at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and Jeff is traveling around Latin America during a gap year before starting college in the fall. But as all the older Eagle Scouts who attended Troop 64's Eagle Court of Honor will tell you, once an Eagle Scout, always an Eagle Scout.

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