Staff Report

Benjamin Watkins, an eighth-grader at Solvang School, earned his Eagle rank in February after completing his Eagle project to create emergency “shelter in place” kits at Ballard School.

Ben attended Ballard School from kindergarten through sixth grade.

A member of Troop 41 chartered to the Santa Ynez Presbyterian Church, Ben has been a particularly active Scout to achieve the top rank at such a young age.

Compiling the kits was a learning experience in project management, including fundraising and budgeting. Members of his troop helped him pack and deliver the kits over Christmas break in 2017, when schools were closed due to the smoke hazard caused by the Thomas Fire.

“It was weird that we were packing air masks for the Ballard kids to use in an emergency, while we were having to wear air masks. It made us all realize how important these kits are,” he said.

The scoutmaster for Troop 41, who is also Ben’s dad, David Watkins, said that Ben has been focused on Scouting since joining as a Cub Scout in second grade. Last summer he attended the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia after touring Washington, D.C., and historic sites on the East Coast with a contingent from the Central Coast.

Ben was elected a patrol leader for the trip, even though he was one of the youngest attending. He is also a member of the Order of the Arrow, an honor society among Scouts.

He has earned 38 merit badges, learning skills from archery to welding. They also include one of the rarer badges, for bugling. Ben has been the bugler for Troop 41 since joining.

Ben’s Eagle Court of Honor took place May 12 at the Santa Ynez Valley Presbyterian Church. For more information, call David Watkins at 805-886-7580.