It’s the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.
Yet UCI undergraduate Ruben Hipolito can be forgiven if he wasn’t quite prepared for last month’s phone call from Boy Scouts of America headquarters saying he’d been chosen from among 3.5 million scouts nationwide to represent the organization before the U.S. president and Congress.
“I was so surprised I dropped the phone and it shattered in front of me,” Hipolito says. “I had to put the parts together and call them back.”
Hipolito, assistant scoutmaster of Huntington Beach Troop 1134, learned that he and five other distinguished scouts will meet with President Barack Obama and Congress in early March to deliver the Boy Scouts’ Report to the Nation, an annual summary of scouting’s accomplishments. Hipolito will represent the nation’s Sea Scouts, a coed nautical program for 14- to 21-year-olds. “It’s scouting on sailboats,” he says.
When Hipolito is summoned to the Oval Office, he’ll be prepared.
“I have no idea what I’m going to say yet, but I’m going to practice,” he says. He’ll forego his traditional Sea Scout uniform – a modified version of U.S. Navy whites – for a formal one custom-made for the occasion.
Hipolito, a 20-year-old Midway City resident, has moved swiftly through the ranks of scouting, becoming an Eagle Scout at age 12 – five years before most garner the required 21 merit badges. He has also earned the top Sea Scout rank of quartermaster and the Venturing Silver Award – the highest honor bestowed in the scouts’ adventure program for older youths.
“It’s like the Triple Crown of scouting – they’re the highest awards a youth can earn. It’s extremely rare for someone to have all three,” says retired Navy Capt. Richard Cuciti, commodore of the Orange County Sea Scout Squadron, who nominated Hipolito for the national delegation.
Hipolito was Santa Ana Scout of the Year in 2005 and 2006, Los Angeles County Scout of the Year in 2005 and Orange County Scout of the Year in 2006. The scholarships are awarded by the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
He has 67 merit badges, another rare achievement, and boasts three Eagle Silver Palm Awards – one for every 15 extra badges.
“If it wasn’t for scouting, I would not have had direction or known what I wanted to do,” Hipolito says. “Scouting has exposed me to hiking, archery, motorboating, chemistry, farm mechanics – all kinds of things. That’s how I fell in love with sailing.”
He has honed his seamanship skills through the UCI Campus Recreation sailing program and shown other scouts the ropes as boatswain, the top-ranking Sea Scout ship’s officer.
“Ruben is very motivated and very smart. He learned the ideals of scouting and put them into play by helping younger scouts grow and mature,” Cuciti says.
The eldest of eight children, Hipolito says all of his siblings except one – a 3-year-old – are in scouting. He loves kids and hopes to attend medical school and become a pediatrician after getting his bachelor’s in biological sciences and Spanish.
“There’s no stopping that young man when he sets his sights on a goal,” Cuciti says. “He’s got a great life ahead of him.”