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Sussex Countian
  • Millsboro boy becomes first black Eagle Scout in his troop

  • When Darien Jones became an Eagle Scout earlier this month, he not only achieved the highest ranking available in Boy Scouts, but also blazed the trail for other African-American children in his community who may be interested in joining the organization.
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  • When Darien Jones became an Eagle Scout earlier this month, he not only achieved the highest ranking available in Boy Scouts, but also blazed the trail for other African-American children in his community who may be interested in joining the organization.
    Throughout its 83-year history, Millsboro Troop 89 has never seen one of its black scouts achieve the organization's highest rank – until now.
    Jones said knowing he would become the first African-American in his troop to hold the ranking was a major motivator. However, setting race aside, he's mostly just proud of his accomplishment.
    "Just making the rank of Eagle Scout was the most important thing for me," he said. "It didn't matter if I was the first African-American or not. I made it, and that's what special to me."
    Jones' father, Lanier Bright, shares that sentiment.
    "We were just glad that he made it," Bright said. "Being the first African-American was a bonus, but just making it was sweet. It shows dedication and commitment."
    Jones, an 18-year-old soon-to-be graduate of Sussex Technical High School, held a court of honor to celebrate his accomplishment on April 13 at Grace United Methodist Church in Georgetown.
    For his service project, which must be completed by all scouts who achieve the ranking of Eagle, Jones acquired, painted, and placed about a dozen quarter-mile markers on the 3.1-mile cross country course at his high school. The project was funded entirely by the school.
    Jones first joined Cub Scouts when he was 8 years old and became a Boy Scout at the age of 11. He said throughout that time, he doesn't recall there being any other African-American children in his troop.
    "I don't know why more African-Americans aren't interested in [Boy Scouts]," he said. "For me, it offered a lot of opportunities that I would not have had unless I was a scout."
    These opportunities include summer camp and other camping trips, white water rafting, hiking, and trips to places like Gettysburg, Pa.
    Jones' mother, Catina Bright, said Boy Scouts was "just Darien's interest. It was something he wanted to do, so we pursued that."
    She added that Jones' accomplishment is "honorable" and lets other black children know that they too can become Eagle Scouts.
    "Sometimes people look at certain activities as white activities or black activities," Catina Bright said. "But [Boys Scouts] is open to everyone who is willing to participate."
    Darwin Hall, the family coordinator for Troop 89, said he's hoping Jones' achievement will not only attract African-American and Hispanic children, but also their parents.
    "Unfortunately, we don't have any African-American or Hispanic leaders," Hall said. "Until we get more, it will be difficult to keep these young men in scouts. The kids look up to the adults."
    Page 2 of 2 - Jason Pierce, scout executive and CEO of the Del-Mar-Va Council of the BSA, said it's the organization's goal to serve every youth in every community.
    "We have a dedicated staff and volunteer base that are focused on serving every youth of Scouting age regardless of their cultural or socio-economic status," Pierce said. "While I cannot personally say why each family chooses not to participate in Scouting, I can speak to what we are doing to ensure they have the opportunity."
    Among the Del-Mar-Va Council's efforts, Pierce said, is the Scouting advancement program that teaches the importance of diversity in advancement opportunities such as the American Cultures, American Heritage and Citizenship in the Community merit badges.
    A dearth of African-Americans in the Boy Scouts exists nationlly. According to the Boy Scouts of America National Council, 57,976 children achieved the ranking of Eagle Scout in 2012. Of those, only 886 identified their ethnicity as being African-American.
    There could, however, be more, as roughly 40 percent of those 57,976 children chose not to provide their ethnicity.
    Renee Fairrer, a spokesperson for the BSA, said Jones joins a "very exclusive brotherhood of young men" and a group of "African-American Eagles that have made their mark on the nation and the world."
    These Eagles include Guion "Guy" Bluford Jr., who was a U.S. astronaut and the first African American in space; Albert Belle, a former American Major League Baseball outfielder for the Cleveland Indians, Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles; and Togo West Jr., the former U.S. secretary of Veteran Affairs.
    In addition to Boy Scouts, Jones runs track and cross country at STHS. He plays the b-flat clarinet in the marching, concert, and pep bands, and plays the keyboard in the youth and adult choirs at his church, the Restoration Worship Center in Georgetown. He also works at Wawa in Millsboro.
    Jones will attend Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga. in the fall. He hopes to serve in the military after college and eventually become a general practitioner.

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