Young achiever leads exciting life of adventure, has the accolades to prove it

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LIBERTY, Mo. -- About a month ago in our weekly Reaching 4 Excellence young achiever segment we introduced you to an Overland Park teenager who is one of America's most celebrated and honored Girl Scouts of 2014. This week we feature a Boy Scout who is getting national acclaim for one of the rarest achievements in scouting.

Austin Van Black leads a life of adventure -- the adventure of discovery. Doing new things, gaining new knowledge, learning new skills. Austin took aim at trap shooting when he got a Boy Scout merit badge in shotgun shooting. He joined his high school shooting team and they did very well.

"I attended the state competition for the last three years and this year we got third in the state and I'm proud of that," said Austin.

The Boy Scout merit badges on Austin's sash represent the amazing array of experiences he has had that have profoundly shaped his life. They are also evidence of one of Scouting's truly extraordinary achievements.

"Believe it or not," said Austin with a laugh, "I used to be kind of a slacker in Scouts."

Austin sure made up for that slow start. An Eagle Scout, Austin has earned 140 merit badges -- every one of the regular ones and four special vintage ones offered only during the Boy Scout centennial.

"I just worked all these years to get one by one and suddenly I have all of them," said Austin. Austin is just the second Boy Scout ever to accomplish that astonishing feat.

"Some people, they play sports, like football or baseball," said Austin. "I don't play sports as much. I do Scouts. It's just who I am."

The Boy Scout Austin has become is a talented and reliable leader and mentor of peers and younger Scouts and now is as an assistant scoutmaster for his troop in Liberty. Austin's rightly proud of getting all those merit badges but he's just as proud of being a powerful role model, teacher and counselor.

"I watched him mature as a young man," said John McBurney, the Boy Scout Chartered Organization Representative for Austin's troop, "and very pleased with the way he always is willing to help the younger Scouts both with their advancement and with their maturing in the troop."

"One of his character traits," said Austin's Scoutmaster Paul Crooks, "is always doing something for somebody else. Whether it's pitching a tent with a new Scout to helping them through home-sickness at summer camp, he's always there."

The drive, determination and knowledge Austin got from Scouts also enabled him to perform at the highest levels in school and the community. The list of his service, accomplishments and awards is very long including being valedictorian of Liberty High School this past spring and recipient of a $100,000 national Buick Achievers Scholarship for college at Mizzou this fall.

"I've always been somebody that goes out and tries to do my best at everything," said Austin. "Each one of these badges, I've learned something from it. It shows I have ambition to do a lot of good." One phenomenal and memorable great Scout.

Scouting has provided great travel experiences for Austin. He's been to national Scout jamborees and other Scout events all of the country and the world jamboree in Sweden.

Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m. and noon.

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