“I was running late for class and he called [and] told me what was up,” Hipolito said. “I flipped out and dropped my phone and it shattered in front of me. I scrambled to put it back together and called him back to get all the details. It was really cool!”
Forty-six days later, Ruben Hipolito was sitting in the anterior prep room waiting with six of his Boy Scout-affiliated peers to be invited into the Oval Office to meet President Barack Obama with the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) Report to the Nation. The following 10 minutes with the leader of the free world was not just the culmination of the 46 hectic days of preparation, but the reward for a lifetime of achievement and service from ever-humble Hipolito.
Six other scouts joined Hipolito in the nation’s capitol to represent the Boy Scouts of America and its other youth-oriented branches, the Sea Scouts and Venturing, as well as the elementary-age Cub Scouts. Among them was Douglas Buck, a 10-year-old Cub Scout from Wilmington, DE who earned the Cub Scout Honor Medal by aiding his third-grade teacher when she collapsed, mobilizing his class to call 911 and retrieving the school nurse. These youth represented the best that the Boy Scouts have to offer.
The Scouts came from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Alabama, Missouri and California, but they forged quick bonds in light of the fortuitous fraternity.
“It was really neat how it was just the seven of us, but despite our age range, we were pretty much like brothers and sisters after a few days,” Hipolito said.
The Scouts were entrusted with the Report to the Nation, a leather-bound account of the Boy Scouts of America’s activities and accomplishments over the past year. Because the BSA is congressionally chartered, it is required that the report is delivered annually to various government bodies, including the president; additionally, the president has historically pledged to be the BSA’s honorary president for his term.
The Scout delegation’s ultimate purpose on the trip was to present the report to President Obama and Congress. However, their five-day expedition traversed the District of Columbia to visit national landmarks and meet national dignitaries. They visited NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico and attended a non-denominational worship service at the Washington National Cathedral. Unfortunately, classes at UC Irvine didn’t wait for Hipolito to return.
“Sunday night, when we got back to the hotel, I had to do my physics homework before I went to sleep. I was up until about two in the morning,” Hipolito said, laughing. “Thank God for the three-hour time difference because it was due at midnight, Pacific Time.”
Tuesday dawned for the exhausted but thrilled delegation as the most important of their trip had come: a tour of the Secret Service and the Supreme Court followed by a meeting with President Obama.
The delegation saw two of the White House’s six floors before entering the Oval Office.
“It was a lot smaller than I thought it was going to be,” Hipolito said. “We shook his hand and took individual photos. Of course, we gave him the report, but we gave him a Scouting basketball signed by all of us, an honorary Boy Scout card … and last we gave him an eagle statue, and that’s what I presented to him.”
Although President Obama had barely 10 minutes to spare for the delegation, he discussed the importance of the scouting movement and how great it is to develop young leaders such as those in the delegation.
“As we were walking down the hall to the exit [of the White House], the First Lady walked in, so we got to sit there and talk to her for 10 minutes. One of our guys, an Eagle Scout, had the nerve to ask if he could hug the First Lady. So she hugged him and then she hugged us all,” Hipolito said, grinning.
Wednesday was the last day of the trip, but not the last for the delegation. Hipolito presented the report to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, who was excited to hear that Hipolito hailed from her home state of California, and each scout broke off to meet with his or her state representative.
Hipolito is the oldest of seven children and moved to Midway City, a small residential and commercial islet wedged between Westminster and Huntington Beach, at age 5 with parents Ed Hipolito, who runs a composite shop for Boeing, and Victoria Hipolito, a homemaker.
Hipolito vividly remembers the day Scouting entered his life. One day, when Hipolito was in first grade, a representative from the Boy Scouts came in to class and explained the program’s benefits.
“He had such an enthusiasm and energy; I still remember how cool he was with the kids. I immediately wanted to join scouting,” said Hipolito .
Hipolito immediately asked his father to sign him up for Boy Scouts and began as a Tiger Cub at age 6. By age 10, when boys graduate from elementary school to middle school and simultaneously graduate from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts, Hipolito entered Troop 1134 in Huntington Beach and immersed himself in campouts and troop events.
Hipolito noticed older scouts complaining about difficulties in finishing the requirements for the Eagle Scout rank during high school. Hipolito did what few scouts have done: finish the requirements – including earning the six ranks prior to Eagle and the two six-month leadership stints for those ranks – in three years. Hipolito earned his Eagle Scout rank when he was 12 years old.
“I had never heard of a 12-year-old Eagle Scout. I had always heard the other scouts complain about how they had to deal with it in high school, trying to get the Eagle Project done. I really didn’t want to have any interference with my schoolwork. I was really driven to get it done, so I wouldn’t have to worry about it – and at the same time, it was like, how cool would it be to be a 12-year-old Eagle Scout? I worked really hard and learned a lot of time management skills, and just got it done.”
Most scouts earn the rank at 17 before the timed limit of the 18th birthday. When asked, Hipolito cannot recall another scout in the area that also received their Eagle by the age of 12. During his national ventures, he has only met one other Eagle Scout his age.
In addition to his involvement in Boy Scouts, Hipolito also wrestled varsity his junior and senior years in high school and joined the swim team for one year. Most importantly, Hipolito joined the Sea Scouts, the Boy Scouts of America’s boating and ocean-based organization, and the Venture Scouts, the outdoors-intensive arm of Boy Scouts that is (unlike Boy Scouts and Sea Scouts) co-ed.
Both Sea Scouts and Venture Scouts have rank awards equivalent to Eagle Scout, and both are obtainable until a scout’s 21st birthday. Unsurprisingly, Hipolito earned both, but originally wasn’t planning on earning them so early; unspoken requirements for the Obama Coalition involved Hipolito earning both the Venture Scout Silver Award and the Sea Scout Quartermaster Award before he left for the trip.
“I was just cruising my way along, working on my Quartermaster and Silver at the same time and getting them done sometime before I turned 21,” he said. “And then, I got a phone call saying that I was chosen to go to D.C. to meet with the president. So, they gave me 35 days to do what I had done in two years.”
“I busted my ass for four weeks,” Hipolito said. “I got my Venturing Silver about a week and a half before I left and I got my Quartermaster at 10 p.m. Thursday night before I left.”
Now at UCI, Hipolito is majoring in biology and Spanish, and is currently enrolled in 21 units in order to graduate on time. He hopes to go into medicine but continues to be involved in the scouting world, serving as Assistant Scoutmaster at his troop alma mater, Troop 1134. But that isn’t all for this talented scout. Hipolito has followed up on his high school wrestling career by involving himself in the Filipino Martial Arts class at the Anteater Recreation Center.
As if extra classes, mastery in three arms of the Boy Scouts of America and physical excellence weren’t enough, Hipolito is also a master archer, holding two state records in the 50 meter and 25 meter distances. As a scout, Hipolito met a family in Troop 1134 that was very involved in archery and asked if he wanted to become involved. Hipolito saved up money and bought a compound bow and immersed himself in the sport. Now, Hipolito competes in tournaments for the college circuit, and has faced the best archers in the nation.
If nothing else, Hipolito feels indebted to Boy Scouts for exposing him to hiking, sailing, archery and personal betterment. When asked if he’d participate in the delegation again if asked, he replied:
“Most definitely, without a doubt. I got the sense of investment that our leaders of today have in the youth and future leaders of tomorrow,” Hipolito said. “Every one of those people that I went and spoke to spoke of how wonderful the program, Boy Scouting, is and how it develops such fine leaders. I had no sense of how much they appreciated the program. I had no idea how much it meant to them.”
It’s difficult to comprehend Hipolito’s incredible determination to accomplish his goals and live his complicated lifestyle. To him, however, the task is easy.
“I use the same skills that I learned when I got my Eagle [rank]: it’s just time management. I’ve got my days planned, the little things in between and I have a list of things to do its just making lists and writing everything down. When you have to decide between one thing or another, it’s just pros and cons and deciding which thing’s more important,” Hipolito said.
“If I didn’t have the martial arts and the sailing and the archery, and most definitely working out – those are the only times that I find time to just relax and clear my head – if I didn’t have those, I think I’d go crazy,” Hipolito admits. “That’s why I have so many. If there’s a lack in one, I’ve got another one to keep me sane. It’s just finding that balance between busy-ness and relaxation that you can handle.”
David Lumb is a former boyscout.
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