Oxford senior speaks at Boy Scout’s Distinguished Dinner

Published 10:00 am Sunday, March 26, 2023

Oxford High School senior Keerthin Karthikeyan earned a well-deserved opportunity to serve as the keynote guest speaker at the Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizens Dinner for Northeast Mississippi. 

The event was established to present awards to those who have given back to the community through boy scouts, funding, and service. National awards were given to President of the Community Development Foundation in Tupelo, David Rumbarger and the CEO for the Boys and Girls Club of Northeast Mississippi, Zell Long. Rumbarger received the Silver Buffalo award that’s given out by the organization’s National Court of Honor for outstanding service to youth on a national level. Long received the Whitney M. Young Jr. Service Award. 

Karthikeyan stands with over 100 merit badges and earned his Eagle Scout rank, Boys Scouts highest rank, when he was only 14-years-old. The student started in the local chapters when he was in third grade. Now, he’s garnered the title of Junior Assistant Scout Master for the local Troop 45. 

Email newsletter signup

“Being able to speak at this event was an amazing experience,” Karthikeyan said. “Being only 17-years-old and talking to people who have accomplished so much in their lives was an opportunity I never thought I would have.”

The student has spent many hours earning his merit badges and Eagle Scout title. However, the recognition of his hard work from community members, the state of Mississippi, and even Former President Donald Trump, led to Karthikeyan’s name being inscribed in the congressional record book.

“I think the reason I was chosen for the guest speaker was because the donors want to know how their impacts have affected someone in the scouts, and being someone who has been ingrained in scout activities that not many Boys Scouts get to do was the reason for me being a representative of the Natchez Trace Council and Boy Scouts overall,” Karthikeyan said.

With parents who immigrated from India to the United States 30 years ago and 20 years ago to Oxford, Karthikeyan’s influence to always push hard, do more, and excel in all avenues comes directly from those closest to him. 

“These are several of the things we are very proud of Keerthin,” mother Dr. Premalatha Balachandran, who is a Principal Scientist, NCNPR, School of Pharmacy at the University of Mississippi, said. “He’s put every effort into all of what he’s done and it’s been a dream come true. He’s a very hard worker and dedicated, so we are extremely proud of him.”

During his time in the scouts, Karthikeyan was chosen out of 2.2 million scouts to present the annual “Report to Nation” in 2020 where he met former President Trump, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker, and many other national leaders.

After this, the state senate brought him in to recognize his accomplishments through a resolution presented by Sen. Nicole Boyd. He also developed an “American Flag Retirement Drop Box” for the City of Oxford at the Oxford Police Department building. 

“Everyone thinks that being a boy scout is about being outdoors, building fires, or creating shelter, but at the heart of it all, boy scouts are about helping boys become men and helping men become leaders,” Karthikeyan said. 

Karthikeyan and his family wants to express gratitude towards those mentors who have helped him along this journey. 

Chuck Crouch, who was the Troop 45’s previous scout master and a District Commissioner, who is Keerthin’s mentor, and encouraged and supported Keerthin all through his scout journey,” Balachandran said. “Natchez Trace Council Scout Executives, Mr. Rick Wise and Mr. Owen McCullough, who invited Keerthin as a keynote speaker at the event and gave him this great honor. Also, Greg Burks, President of Renasant Wealth Management in Tupelo gave an excellent introduction to Keerthin before his speech. And, BSA National Commissioner Scott Sorrels whom Karthikeyan met at the event gave him a personal thank you note on his signed patch.”

Now, Karthikeyan is preparing himself for graduation and finding the right college and major.