Family boasts four Eagle Scouts
Becoming an Eagle scout is never an easy task.The process takes years of dedication and the final project requires planning and leadership skills, as well as a knack for recruiting volunteers. Many of the young men who attain the Eagle scout rank do so with the encouragement of a mentor – often a parent, scoutmaster or older brother – someone who understands the value of demonstrating one’s commitment to community service by completing an Eagle project.Mark Ochoa, who attained the rank of Eagle scout earlier this year, understands this well, for he had three such mentors. As the youngest member of the Ochoa family, Mark, 16, is following in the footsteps of his father Larry and his two older brothers, Mike, 22, and Ryan, 20, all of whom are also Eagle scouts.Is it rare to have a family with four Eagle scouts in it? According to Nevada Area Council Eagle Scout Liaison Russ Cafferata, it’s not that uncommon, although it does take a family that’s especially dedicated.”Especially dedicated” may be the perfect way to characterize the Ochoas. All three of the Ochoa boys were born and raised in Truckee, and scouting has been a part of their life since they were young.Looking back on his own experience in the Boy Scouts, Larry attributes his dedication to the activities his troop was involved in and the fact that all of his friends were involved in the troop.”I think, and it holds true even today, whether a boy stays in scouting is dependent on how active the troop is. The troop that I grew up with was very active… Plus you’re in it with all your buddies.”Larry’s enthusiasm for scouting and his desire to spend time with his sons led him to become the scoutmaster for Truckee Boy Scout Troop 267. Through Larry’s tenure as scoutmaster, Troop 267 has seen a higher than average number of scouts attain the Eagle rank, including all three of Larry’s sons.Nationally, somewhere between two and four percent of boy scouts attain the rank of Eagle. In Truckee, however, Ochoa estimates that around 12 to 15 percent of scouts become Eagle scouts; and this year, five young men from the troop have successfully completed Eagle projects – a troop record.”I really stress to the boys what obtaining Eagle rank means and what it really can do for you in the long run,” Larry said. “What it really says about a scout who obtains the rank of Eagle is that that person does show dedication, can plan and carry out a significant project, and carry it through to the end.”Those kind of numbers are not lost on the local community.”I think the Town of Truckee needs to know how fortunate they are to have people like Larry raising kids in this community,” said Diana Richardson, who is involved with the Truckee Optimist Club that sponsors Troop 267.After 11 years of service, Larry plans to step down as scoutmaster on Jan. 1, 2004.”I think I’ve done my time for the boys in this community. I can’t really say if a goal of mine was to have all three of my sons attain the rank of Eagle, though all three have attained the rank of Eagle scout. To me it’s just time to move on… But I’m still going to be in the background as one of the parents involved in the troop,” Larry said.Mark Ochoa may be the most recent Eagle scout in the Ochoa family, but he’s known that he would attain that rank ever since he saw his older brother Mike do so.”When I was growing up, all the stuff that they told me they did in scouts always sounded like so much fun, and I wanted to see what it was like … And once Michael got Eagle scout I knew I had to as well,” Mark said.Mark’s Eagle project involved redirecting sections of the interpretive trail at the Donner Camp Memorial Picnic Area off Highway 89 in order to bring the trail up to the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Before Mark’s project, sections of the trail were at a 10 percent grade – too steep for wheelchair users, strollers and people who have difficulty walking. From Aug. 1, 2002, to June 25, 2003, Mark planned his project, recruited volunteers to help with the work, and served as the team leader responsible for seeing the trail upgraded to meet universal accessibility standards.According to Mark’s older brother Ryan, “The way the Eagle scout leadership project is set up is: You pick a project and you plan it all out. You estimate the tools, the cost, the people you’re going to need; and you get help in doing it. It puts you in a leadership role, it’s not just you going out and doing everything.”Ryan, who volunteered as a member of Mark’s Eagle project team, still remembers what it takes to complete a project of that magnitude. Ryan also completed his Eagle project at the Donner Camp Memorial Picnic Area, extending the wooden boardwalks from 114 to 208 feet in order to deal with spring runoff that used to flood portions of the trail.In a family like the Ochoas, helping out seems to come naturally. Whenever one of the brothers needed volunteers for his Eagle project, the other two were there, a fact that doesn’t surprise Mike, the eldest brother, at all. “Me and my brothers and dad were always hard working and we usually go for stuff like that, so it doesn’t surprise me that we’re all Eagle scouts,” Mike said. Tahoe Donner residents have Mike to thank for painting and replacing broken fire hydrant marker poles in the subdivision for his Eagle project.According to Larry, scouts in the Truckee area usually have a wide range of projects to choose from. The U.S. Forest Service, the Truckee Donner Recreation & Park District and a number of other groups often suggest projects that potential Eagle scouts can take on. The typical Eagle project involves between 150-400 man-hours of work.While the rewards of completing an Eagle project and earning the rank of Eagle scout are well known in the business world and everywhere else leadership qualities are valued, Larry is quite satisfied with the rewards of being a scoutmaster as well.”The experiences that I gained from these scouts is being able to see them grow – develop from an 11-year-old kid that’s wet behind the ears and doesn’t know anything about the outdoors up until the age of 18. That’s probably the most significant part about being a scoutmaster,” Larry said.And as if having four Eagle scouts in one family wasn’t enough, the Ochoa men may soon all share the bond of serving as firefighters in the area as well.Currently, Larry is a fire captain/Paramedic with the Truckee Fire Protection District, Mike is a firefighter with the North Tahoe Fire Protection District, and last summer Ryan worked as a wildland firefighter for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Which leaves only Mark, who is already enthusiastic about the chance to follow in his family member’s footsteps once again.
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