By Garrett Estrada
Ely Times Staff Writer
When Brigham Poplin joined the Boy Scouts, there was one merit badge he knew would be more difficult than the rest for him.
“I wasn’t able to swim,” Poplin said.
But swimming was more than just an inability for Poplin. It was a fear.
“I don’t know that he would be swimming today if it were not required for a merit badge,” Poplin’s mother, Heather, said.
Boy Scout Troop 71 honored Poplin on March 5 for completing all the requirements to successfully become an Eagle Scout. The swimming merit badge was just one of many challenges Poplin had to complete in addition to his Eagle Scout project to earn the rare classification. According to Poplin’s scouting “mentor” Todd Brewster, only one or two scouts ascend to Eagle status per year.
“It hasn’t been easy for him. He overcame his fear of swimming. He overcame his fear of public speaking. I’ve seen him grow a lot,” Brewster said.
In his 20 years being involved with the Boy Scouts organization, Brewster said he has seen around 40 boys make it to Eagle Scout, the last one being Poplin’s brother two years ago.
“It means a lot to me. It takes a lot of effort and leadership from those around me,” Poplin said of his accomplishment.
Poplin’s Eagle Scout project involved respectfully retiring American flags through ceremonial burning. His project worked in conjunction with the Elks Lodge to make sure the procedure was done correctly. At the ceremony honoring Poplin, Ken Curto presented the new Eagle Scout with an American flag as a gift from the Elks Lodge.
“He’s really matured a lot,” Brewster said. “Particularly in the last two or three years in scouting he really grew into being comfortable teaching others.”
Poplin’s father Clay said that the goals he had to set for himself to make it to this point was a positive lesson in growing up.
“He was an anxious kid about some things and at times he just needed a push in the right direction and we’ve seen that with him,” he said. “Once you get him going and he accomplishes something he gets to feel good about it instead of letting him shy away from it. It gives a sense of accomplishment and overcoming and I think that is what this award represents.”