A 15-year-old from Huntington Beach has achieved something rare for his age — the highest rank for a Boy Scout.
"It's a tough process, moving up the ranks," said Christopher Edgerly, Bennett Anderson's former troop Scoutmaster in Costa Mesa. "Most Boy Scouts don't become Eagles until they're 17 or 18, if they stay committed. Out of over a million Scouts nationwide, only 4% ever achieve this rank."
In early 2016, when he was in eighth grade, Bennett — now a freshman at Brethren Christian Junior & Senior High School in Huntington Beach — caught wind of a cause he could lend a hand in. Whittier Elementary School in Costa Mesa needed books for its library and classrooms.
In February last year, he reached out to the school staff with what would become his Eagle Scout service project, called "Growing Whittier Elementary School's Library One Book at a Time."
The Eagle project gives Scouts an opportunity to help a school, business or other organization in need and is one of the requirements for the honor.
Over several weeks, Bennett promoted the project, set out donation boxes and organized the items he collected.
By April, he had gathered about 1,900 new and gently used books for Whittier Elementary. His original goal was about 200.
In addition to that project, Bennett, as is required of all Eagle Scout candidates, had to achieve at least 21 merit badges in activities ranging from outdoor skills such as camping to life skills such as personal fitness, financial management and emergency preparedness.
Bennett has been part of the Boy Scouts organization since first grade. He moved up the ranks from Cub Scout to Boy Scout Troop 339, which meets weekly at Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Costa Mesa.
Scouting runs in the family. Bennett's grandfather was involved in the group, and his father, Eric, was a Scoutmaster.
"What I love about this [organization] is that it teaches you to be a part of your community, to help people in need and to do the right thing," Bennett said. "I always liked volunteering for community service projects."
"I gave a presentation at the school [in April 2016], and it was surreal," he said. "When you see all those filled boxes in front of you and all the kids looking at you, excited to have new books, you think about the impact you made on this community … just from a little act of kindness and giving your time."
Edgerly called Bennett "an exceptional Boy Scout and a dedicated young man."
"For him to achieve such a project at his age is a great accomplishment," Edgerly said. "He's always been the strong and quiet type, not trying to draw attention to himself, and it's good to see that in kids."
Bennett's Eagle Scout ceremony will be held April 30 in Costa Mesa.
As an Eagle, he has opportunities for academic scholarships and becoming a Scout leader. He is now a member of the Order of the Arrow, the national honor society for the Boy Scouts of America.
He said he hopes to carry his community service skills with him forever and teach them to his 8-year-old brother, Keaton, a Cub Scout.
"He's very determined, but also the kindest soul," said Bennett's mother, Carrie Anderson, a regular troop volunteer. "For us, being in the Scouts is one of the neatest things … they learn valuable life skills by experienced trainers, and then they go camping in the woods and it's the best time. They really do work."
Bennett enjoys volunteering, including spending time at the Huntington Beach Senior Center. He also enjoys distance running, track and field, acting and making Lego stop-motion films. He hopes to study film and photography in college.
"The Boy Scouts have taught me to care more about people and not be so self-centered," he said. "It's great to see the impact of going out of yourself and doing service for someone else. The smallest act of kindness can go really far."