Hugh Stephens joined an elite group of young men recently when he received the rank of Eagle Scout during a Court of Honor ceremony at Lanier United Methodist Church.
While only about 4 percent of those who enter the Boy Scouts nationwide earn the ranking, the sixth and final in the program, those percentages don’t apply to the Stephens household.
For the local family, the percentage of young men becoming Eagle Scouts is 100.
Stephens was preceded by his two older brothers — Michael, who earned the achievement in 1996, and Justin, in 2008.
In addition, their father, Mike, earned the prestigious rank in 1978.
Daniel Victorio, a Boy Scouts of America district executive, said the family’s feat is to be commended.
“That’s definitely an exception to the rule,” Victorio said. “That is a very rare thing for a whole family to have all the men be Eagle Scouts.”
But for the Stephens family, scouting is just a way of life. Even the women take part.
Mom Debbie Stephens said she did “the motherly thing” when the boys were young by attending Cub Scout meetings and other events.
“I’m just very, very proud of all of them,” she said. “We give God all the glory for everything he’s done for our family.”
Joan Stephens, Mike’s mother, also attended her grandson’s Eagle Scout Court of Honor ceremony Saturday.
She said having four descendants earn the rank is “really an honor.”
“They’re all very special to me,” she said before recalling how having Michael and his brother, Marty, who didn’t reach Eagle, in Boy Scouting wasn’t always a pleasure.
“I remember all those dirty clothes after camping trips,” she joked. “They’d come back with mountains of wet, soggy, dirty clothes for me to wash.”
Debbie Stephens said as her boys grew older, she let their father take over in the scouting activities, while she took the reins of helping the family’s lone daughter, Victoria, with her passion for competitive tennis.
“I have an amazing husband who did a great job with the boys,” she said, noting he’s ready for the family’s first grandchild, also named Michael and who will turn 1 next month, to become a Scout.
“We’re preparing him early,” she said.
Victoria Stephens joked that she’s “an honorary Boy Scout.”
“I was so jealous of the Pinewood Derby cars and those little trophies,” she recalled of the program that allows Scouts to build and race wooden model cars. “I wanted to do that so bad.”
While she may not have been able to build a derby car, she did attend Scout meetings with her brothers and assisted the younger two with their respective Eagle Scout projects.
As part of the process of earning the rank, each prospective Eagle Scout, after meeting a lengthy list of other requirements, must also organize and lead a community service project.
Hugh Stephens’ project consisted of three community coat drives.
The effort collected about 250 coats and jackets for those in need through There’s Hope Ministries, a part of First Redeemer Church in south Forsyth.
His older brothers’ projects included installing signs at the city of Grayson, near Lawrenceville, and lighting and landscaping around a flag pole in Mandeville, La.
Like many who earn the Eagle ranking, the three older Stephens men have all also participated in military service.
Their father is a veteran of the U.S. Navy and their oldest brother, Michael, is an Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq between 1997-2006.
While Justin Stephens is still a student at North Georgia College & State University in Dahlonega, he is a commissioned cadet in the school’s ROTC program, as well as a member of the Georgia National Guard.
Hugh Stephens said his father and brothers have always inspired him.
“I’ve always had a lot to live up to,” he said. “But I knew becoming an Eagle Scout would be fun and a great experience.”
A 2011 graduate of South Forsyth High School, he will follow in their footsteps in August.
That’s when he begins classes at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, where he’ll take part in the ROTC program.
Like their mother, Victoria Stephens said she’s proud of the men in her family.
“I like to brag about them all being in the military and all being Eagle Scouts,” she said.
Victorio, the Boy Scout executive, said the family definitely has bragging rights.
“The number of boys who achieve the Eagle rank is low because it’s a hard thing to do,” he said. “It’s supposed to be low because it’s something special.”
Asked what it means to have all three sons achieve the ranking, Mike Stephens quoted his youngest.
“In order to be an Eagle, you go before a board of men in your community and they ask you a lot of questions,” he recalled. “They asked Hugh to sum up Scouting in one word. He said ‘essential.’ And I don’t think I could put it any better.”