More than 70 people gathered last week at Dixon Elementary School to celebrate the promotion of Brookfield teenager Jonathan Schmit, who has Down syndrome, to the rank of Eagle Scout.
Jonathan, 16, began scouting with the Boy Scouts of America as a Cub Scout when he was 8. The troop was led by Jonathan's father, Brian Schmit, in the family's house.
"Lesson One was don't jump on the couch," Jonathan's mother, Michelle Schmit, said in a phone interview before the ceremony.
Jonathan said after the ceremony that it took him about a year to feel like he knew the other Scouts and was a part of the troop. When he began Scouting, he did not expect to continue long enough to become an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in Boy Scouts. It was a year later, when he discovered his grandfather's Eagle Scout pin in a drawer at home, that he was inspired to continue.
Jonathan's troop, which started as eight Cub Scouts, is now down to five Boy Scouts, including two of Jonathan's closest friends: Tyler Gray-Hoehn and Aaron Bauer, both 15. Gray-Hoehn and Bauer have known Jonathan since kindergarten, which the three attended at Dixon Elementary.
"Jonathan's always been motivated. He's a leader," Gray-Hoehn said.
Gray-Hoehn and Bauer described the community service project Jonathan organized as part of his promotion to Eagle Scout: elevated gardens outside Dixon Elementary so that students with disabilities who were unable to go to the school's rooftop greenhouse could still participate in class activities. Jonathan managed to get the help of about 20 people for his project, including Scouts who had stopped attending meetings years earlier, according to Gray-Hoehn.
Bob Agnew, Jonathan's grandfather, as well as Jonathan's father, the troop's current master, led much of Friday evening's ceremony. Among those in attendance were Jonathan's elementary, middle and high school teachers, as well as Jonathan's three younger siblings.
Jonathan's elementary schoolteacher, Anita Lange, described him as "a wonderful student to have in class." In addition to Scouting, Jonathan is heavily involved in student council at Brookfield Central High School and manages the school's basketball and football teams, said Lange and her colleagues. Jonathan also competes athletically; he won fourth in basketball skills in the 2008 Special Olympics Wisconsin State Indoor Sports Tournament.
Jonathan's promotion to Eagle Scout coincided with another Scouting event for the Schmit family: Jonathan's youngest sibling, Timmy, 6, attended his first Cub Scout meeting a week earlier. Michelle Schmit said her husband would be stepping down as master of Jonathan's troop to lead Timmy's troop. She hopes that Jonathan will serve as a role model for her younger children.
Jonathan said after the ceremony that he plans to take a short break from Scouting this summer. He already has collected 36 merit badges, and he hopes to collect more upon his return to Scouting in the fall.
As an Eagle Scout, Jonathan joins the ranks of astronaut Neil Armstrong, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer and director Steven Spielberg.