ST. PAUL, Minn. - Aaron Yang takes following in his father's footsteps to a whole new level.
The 19-year-old from St. Paul recently became an Eagle Scout - 27 years after his father, Xia Yang, became the first Hmong Eagle Scout in St. Paul's Northern Star Council.
That makes Aaron a first in his own right: the Hmong community's first second-generation Eagle Scout.
Reaching the highest rank in the Boy Scouts of American is no easy task. Only about 5 percent of all Boy Scouts take the time (as much as four to five years) and fulfill the requirements to get to that level.
Both Yangs were willing to go the distance, but for different reasons.
Xia joined the Boy Scouts right after he immigrated to the U.S. at age 13. Scouting helped him adjust to life in his new country. It also helped him learn about himself.
"I needed to find who I am; I needed to know what I wanted; I needed to simply find myself," he said, "and scouting helped provide me the opportunity to do that."
For Aaron, the Boy Scouts helped him learn about others. "It really opened up my eyes to real-world situations and how people communicate with each other," he said. "It educates you to some extent to real-world stuff instead of just class stuff."
Aaron entered Boy Scouts as soon as he was old enough and has been a Scout ever since. He bounced from troop to troop, but when it came time for him to become an Eagle Scout, he returned to where his dad started, Troop 184.
Being a Scout hasn't always been easy for Aaron, though. When he was younger, people used to bully him.
"My classmates would always make fun of me for going door-to-door selling popcorn," Aaron said. "But then, as you grow older, people start to respect you more."
To gain Eagle ranking, Aaron had to earn 21 merit badges and complete a community project.
"In high school, I was at the point where I was arguing with myself whether or not I should actually earn it because I had so much schoolwork," he said.
Eventually, he decided that becoming an Eagle Scout was worth it. But he and his dad both admit it wasn't easy.
"When your son is a Scout, you are a leader, a volunteer leader," Xia said. "Having been through scouting, and now as a parent, I realize how difficult it is - it's really hard to find time to go and volunteer the way I want to."
Xia and Aaron said scouting has changed their lives for the better.
"Scouting teaches moral values and moral principles," Xia said. "Being an Eagle Scout means you respect other people and you respect nature and you are reverent toward God, respect other people's religions."