Boy Scouts’ Leaders Reflect on the Journey of Nine Graduating Eagle Scouts
The Panther Patrol, with leader Helene Tripodis, as cub scouts at Marengo Elementary School. Courtesy photo

Troop 7 Scoutmaster FJ Pratt became emotional while recalling his fondest memories of the group of graduating South Pasadena High School seniors he affectionately referred to as “a nine-headed beast.” 

“In a Troop, it’s special if you have one or two Eagle Scouts,” Pratt explained. “But I could tell early on that these kids were special. Sure enough, all nine earned the rank of Eagle.”

To Helene Tripodis,  who led six of the boys when they were the Panther Patrol – the group of cub scouts were all enrolled at Marengo Elementary – the most astonishing part of their journey is just how close they still remain.

“Although they’ve done a number of remarkable things  in the community, and taken some incredible trips together, I think their friendships are the most important thing these kids will take from their time as scouts,” Tripodis said.

“No matter how many different directions they went in as they grew up, they would always come together for Troop 7.”

Attaining the rank of Eagle Scout requires plenty more than earning 22 merit badges, which is no small challenge in and of itself. Scouts must also complete Eagle projects that require loads of paper work and countless hours of labor to realize. Meanwhile, they must be able to manage their time as they face increasing academic and extracurricular demands. In other words, easy and fun are not always the adjectives used to described the Eagle Scout process. These nine boys, however, never wavered.

Some remember a backpacking trip to Philmont Scout Ranch in northern New Mexico as their favorite experience. Others say Wilderness Survival Night, back in the 5th grade.

Pratt tends toward Tripodis’s way of thinking.

“It’s funny,” he said. “The practical boy scouts skills – the camping and cooking and knot tying – I speak from experience, you forget those things.

“But you always remember the friendships. Those are what are pretty spectacular.”

Ashton Carless

Ashton Carless, a member of South Pasadena Boy Scout Troop 7, received his Eagle Scout Award on September 19, 2017. Carless began his scouting career in the first grade with South Pasadena Cub Scout Den 7, where he earned the Arrow of Light. As a Boy Scout, Carless held several leadership positions including Senior Patrol Leader, a position he held for a year. He has earned a total of 27 Merit Badges, with his favorite being First Aid. Ashton says that the First Aid Merit Badge is useful because, “if I was in a situation where I had to act, I feel like I would be able to help.” For his Eagle Project, Ashton designed and built a “Buddy Bench” for the Monterey Hills Elementary School playground. Children use the bench when looking for friends to play with. In his presentation of the bench to the school, Carless described it as “a place on your playground where you can find a friend and be a friend, an opportunity to be kind to others and receive kindness from others.” A senior at South Pasadena High School, Carless serves as the Design Editor of Tiger Newspaper. He also served as this year’s Vice President of the SPASM YMCA Youth and Government Program. He will be attending The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City in the fall. Carless would like to express his thanks to the adult leaders and committee members of Troop 7, especially Scoutmaster F.J. Pratt for his unwavering support and encouragement during his scouting journey. Carless is the son of Matt and Andrea Carless. His brother Jake is a freshman at South Pasadena High School, and a Star Scout in Troop 7.

Cole Elsner

Cole Elsner, a senior at South Pasadena High School, earned the rank of Eagle Scout on January 16, 2018.  Elsner began his Scouting career in first grade as a Tiger Cub in Pack 7 South Pasadena, along with a group of friends from Marengo Elementary School who continued together in Scouting as the “Panther Patrol” in Troop 7 South Pasadena. In Troop 7, Elsner earned 25 merit badges and served in a variety of leadership roles, including patrol leader, senior patrol leader, and Leave No Trace guide on a memorable backpacking trip with the Panther Patrol to Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, in the summer of 2017.  For his Eagle Project, Elsner worked with the Angel’s Flight Shelter for Runaway and Homeless Youth near Downtown Los Angeles to landscape and build redwood benches for a quiet area that may be used by shelter residents.  Outside of Scouting and school, Elsner has earned a Black Belt in Kenpo Karate, was a four-year member of the South Pasadena San Marino YMCA’s Youth and Government Program, and also spends his free time playing electric guitar. Elsner plans to study neuroscience at UCLA starting in the fall of 2018.  Elsner wishes to give special thanks to Helene Tripodis, den leader from Pack 7; F.J. Pratt, Scoutmaster of Troop 7; his friends from the Panther Patrol; and his parents, whose support made it possible for him to earn the rank of Eagle Scout.

Kiernan O’Neal

Kiernan O’Neal received his Eagle Scout award November 21, 2017 and began his scouting career on January 27, 2014, which was a little later than most as he was 14 at the time. O’Neal has completed his Autism Awareness Bench for South Pasadena Middle School. His Highlight Eagle Scout Project was a colorful park bench that highlights autism awareness – O’Neal’s brother, also a scout in Troop 7, has autism. The bench is located in the SPMS library and provides a spot for respite and socialization. O’Neal has been a Senior Patrol Leader, Quartermaster, and a Bugler. He’s accumulated 25 merit badges. O’Neal graduated with the class of 2018 from South Pasadena High School. Some of O’Neal’s extra-curricular activities include being an opera singer as he has sung in two professional operas while in high school. He is part of his school’s Advanced choir and has been a member of the Young Men’s Ensemble of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus and performed around the world, including Cuba and Australia. He also was on the wrestling team at South Pasadena High School for two years.

Nestore Mastromatteo

A senior at South Pasadena High School, this year Nestore Mastromatteo earned the rank of Eagle Scout. He began his scouting career when he joined the Panther Patrol as a Marengo Elementary Roadrunner. As a scout, Mastromatteo served as patrol leader and captain. He taught younger scouts life, survival and safety skills, attended numerous summer camps and backpacking trips, and volunteered at local schools and homeless shelters. His leadership qualities helped him serve as a cabin leader for the Los Angeles County Outdoor Science School his junior year. Mastromatteo is also a talented musician with a diverse range of musical interests. A member of the high school marching band through his junior year, and currently a member of “The Roomies” Jazz Quartet, Mastromatteo interestingly founded the Kecak Club during his junior year at SPHS. Kecak is Balinese monkey chanting, singing, dancing and drama. The club rehearsed weekly, and, with the help of a local expert, Mastramatteo taught Kecak to students with little musical background. He has also rehearsed, performed and recorded traditional Balinese arrangements for Sanggar Tujunga Gamelan. During his senior year, Mastramatteo participated in Youth and Government. Mastramatteo is the oldest of five, with one sister and three brothers.

Craig Parker

Craig Parker, a member of South Pasadena Boy Scout Troop 7, received his Eagle Scout award on January 16, 2018. Parker started his scouting career in 2006 as a Tiger Cub in Pack 7 at Marengo Elementary School. Parker credits his Den 2 leader, Helene Tripodis, with nurturing his commitment to scouting.  As a Cub Scout, he earned the Arrow of Light and World Conservation awards.  He bridged to Boy Scout Troop 7 March 4, 2011.  Within Troop 7, Parker has held several leadership positions, including Patrol Leader, and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader. Parker has earned 30 merit badges, with his favorite being Whitewater Rafting. Craig thanks his Scoutmaster, F.J. Pratt, for his unwavering support and commitment to the scouts of Troop 7. For Parker’s Eagle Scout project, he built a playhouse for the school-age program of the Child Educational Center (CEC). Parker spent his pre-school years at the CEC’s La Canada site and also attended their after-school program and summer camps. Parker’s strong association with the organization made the Eagle Scout project especially meaningful to him. He designed the playhouse, calculated the material needs, fundraised, negotiated discounts and donations, and supervised a crew of seven fellow scouts to construct the playhouse from the ground up. He is especially grateful to Paul Peterson and Jonas Eneberg, who provided expert oversight and taught Parker and his crew how to build a house from scratch. Parker, a senior at South Pasadena High School, is a member of the SPHS Varsity Soccer Team. He is a National Merit Commended Scholar. Craig Parker is the son of Scott and Dianne Parker.

Owen Pratt

Owen Pratt, a member of Troop 7 in South Pasadena, received his Eagle Scout Award on June 10th, 2017 in a ceremony held at the South Pasadena War Memorial Building.   Owen joined Cub Scout Pack 516 in second grade, becoming a member of Boy Scout Troop 7 in 2011.  During the course of his scouting career, Owen earned a total of 36 merit badges.  Only 21 are required for the rank of Eagle.  During his time, Owen held several leadership positions with the troop: scribe, quartermaster and patrol leader.  For two summers, Owen worked as a Staff Counselor in the Handicraft Department at Forrest Lawn Scout Reservation.  For Owen’s Eagle Scout project, he led a group of Scouts from his troop in building three compost bins for the South Pasadena Community Garden.  This project kicked off other Scouts from neighboring Troops to lend support to the Community Garden. Owen comes from a Scouting family.  His father, F.J. Pratt, is an Eagle Scout, and currently the Scoutmaster of Troop 7.  Owen’s grandfather, Fred Pratt, was a dedicated BSA Council Member in San Francisco for over twenty years, culminating in earning the highest adult volunteer award, the Silver Beaver.  A senior at South Pasadena High School, Owen has been a four-year member of the Marching Band and Jazz Ensemble.  Owen’s younger brother, George is a Sophomore at the High School, and a Life Scout in Troop 7.  At the Eagle ceremony, Owen was joined by his parents, extended family, fellow troop members and the Mayor of South Pasadena, Michael A. Cacciotti who presented a Certificate of Recognition, congratulating Owen on his outstanding accomplishments in leadership, community service, and personal development while representing the City of South Pasadena.  

Jack Renken

Jack Renken, a graduating senior at South Pasadena High School, joined Pack 7, Den 2 in 2006 while attending Marengo Elementary School. In 2011, Renkon earned the Arrow of Light Award, which is the highest honor a Cub Scout can receive. During his scouting career, Renkon earned 27 merit badges. On November 21, 2017 he earned the rank of Eagle Scout. For his Eagle Scout Project, Renkon led a group of Scouts from Troop 7 in the building of a library for Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services in Glendale, CA. Didi Hirsch provides mental health services to children and families at poverty level or below. Renkon and his crew built bookcases and provided educational toys and books in both English and Spanish for the reception area of the Didi Hirsch office. The highlight of Renkon’s scouting experience was last summer when he and Scouts from Troop 7 went on a backpacking trip at Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico where they completed a 45-mile hike over the period of 7 days. Renkon will graduate from South Pasadena High School in 2018 and will attend NYU in the Fall. He will be playing soccer for the NYU Men’s Soccer team. Renkon is an active participant in the athletic program at SPHS. He was a member of the Freshman Football team, Cross Country Team and earned Varsity letters in Baseball, Soccer and Track. Renkon was team captain for the Varsity Soccer Team and Track Team his junior and senior years. 

Jackson Totleben

Jackson Totleben, a graduating senior at South Pasadena High School, celebrated his Eagle Scout Award on Saturday, March 24, 2018 in a ceremony held at South Pasadena Library Community Room. Totleben began his scouting career in the Fall of 2013 when he joined BSA Troop 7. He quickly aspired to advance in rank while earning more than the required merit badges to ultimately sit for his Eagle Board of Review 4 years later and become an Eagle Scout on October 17, 2017. He has held several positions within the troop, Librarian, Quartermaster, Patrol Leader and Assistant Senior Patrol Leader. For his Eagle Scout project, Totleben built 2 raised garden beds in the SPHS garden, specifically, for the special education class to work in. He also surrounded the existing beds with new stepping stones, while providing baby plants and an OSH gift card to help kick off their garden. Totleben’s favorite activities in Scouting have been those that have involved self-improvement, independence, physical fitness and hiking – his ultimate experience having been fortunate to have attended Philmont in the summer of 2017. Totleben has kept a busy schedule throughout high school, playing Football and Baseball for all 4 years.  He is the founder and president of the Grand Tour Auto Club at SPHS, a club for car enthusiasts to share auto news and passions. Totleben’s academic goals will be realized shortly as he chooses which of the Engineering Colleges he will attend in the Fall of 2018 as he pursues his education in Mechanical Engineering.

Nikolas Tripodis

Nikolas “Niko” Tripodis is a senior at South Pasadena High School and a member of Boy Scout Troop 7 in South Pasadena. Tripodis received his Eagle Scout Award on September 19, 2017 at the Greater Los Angeles Area Council. He began scouting as a Tiger Cub in first grade with Pack 7.  As a Webelos, Tripodis earned his Arrow of Light and bridged into Troop 7 in spring, 2011. Tripodis has held leadership positions, including Senior Patrol leader, Patrol Leader, and Scribe. He was voted by his fellow scouts to be Crew Leader for a Philmont Hiking trip and earned an award at Philmont camp. This trip entails many months of rigorous training. Tripodis earned 26 merit badges and camped more than 50 nights as a scout. For his Eagle Project, Tripodis led his fellow scouts in making wooden medical/first aid cabinets for Calvary Church and preschool. Four cabinets for the church and one for the preschool play yard. First aid and medical items were placed inside the compartments once the wooden boxes were made and hung throughout the church. His project has aided Calvary Church for urgent medical needs. At SPHS, Tripodis is involved in jazz band and advanced orchestra; music is his life passion. For the last four years, he’s been on the high school soccer team. Tripodis in the Cuchuk Club and Y&G through the YMCA. Tripodis was joined at his Eagle Scout Award ceremony by the founder of Troop 7, Andrew Kopperud; his Scoutmaster FJ Pratt; family; and friends. Nikolas “Niko” Tripodis is very thankful and grateful for all the people that were a part of his scouting career.

Harry Yadav
Author

Harry Yadav has served as the Editor of the South Pasadena Review since January of 2018. Born and raised in South Pasadena, Harry graduated from South Pasadena High School in 2012, where he played golf and basketball and wrote for the Tiger newspaper. In 2016, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature at The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.

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